How to Plan a Virtual Event

table with laptop and notepad with the words

By Laura Bowley, Virtual Facilitator and Meeting Producer, NeOlé Inc.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a “production” is the process of making a movie, play or record. Better add “virtual meeting” to the list!

The key word here is “process.” Planning and executing a virtual event is a process. When planning a virtual event, the first step is to identify all the pieces that are part of that process.

NeOlé has worked with clients on all types of events. Many of our clients’ events fall into two categories:

  1. Small conferences that include a high degree of interaction
  2. Facilitated, single or multi-day workshops with lots of ideation and engagement.

In this article, we’ll focus on these types of events.

Identify the Moving Parts

Both types of events have many moving parts, including the following:

  • video conference platform
  • facilitator
  • process or model the facilitator is utilizing
  • co-facilitator
  • MC
  • presenters
  • presenters’ slides
  • panelists
  • moderators
  • audience Q&As to speakers and panelists
  • tech support person(s)
  • agenda
  • digital tools and gadgets (e.g., polls, timers)
  • warm-up activities and energizers
  • online collaboration platforms (e.g., Stormz, Howspace, Mural, Google Docs)
  • chat box or other messaging platform
  • breakout rooms
  • music
  • participants/audience (along with their devices)

While the above is not exhaustive, it’s enough to give you an idea of the number of moving parts that a virtual meeting planner must take into consideration. And, if the client wishes to have their social hour take place on a different platform, then take the above and multiply by two.

Create a Virtual Event Plan

Once you have identified all the moving parts, the next step is to create the plan.

Your starting place for creating the event plan is the agenda. Make sure all the stakeholders who have influence over the agenda have reviewed it. The best way to do this is to meet with them and walk through the agenda step-by-step.

Next, create a spreadsheet or a table in a document. Have a separate page for each day of the event. Put each agenda item in the left-most column, along with the time that the item is scheduled to start and end. Then, add columns to the right for each of the following:

  • The speaker or facilitator for that item
  • The person introducing that item, if applicable
  • The panelists, if applicable, and the name of the moderator
  • How Q&A will be managed
  • What’s happening in the video platform for this item (e.g., breakout rooms, spotlighting, sharing slides) and who is responsible for doing it (e.g., who is setting up the breakout rooms, who is sharing slides, etc.)
  • What other digital platform is being used for this item and what’s happening? Who is doing it?
  • What music is being played, if applicable.
  • Any other instructions (e.g., close breakout rooms after 10 minutes, facilitators to drop into breakout rooms, set timer in breakout rooms, etc.)

You will probably think of some more columns, but the above is a great starting point. Now, fill in each time slot in your spreadsheet.

How to Use Your Plan

Planning your meeting with this level of detail helps you to identify the production team required for your event. Share the plan with team members to make sure each person is on the same page.

Staffing

At a minimum you will need a tech support person (also called a tech host or backend support person) in addition to your facilitator. This person is responsible for onboarding participants and helping with any tech issues.

Depending on the number of participants, you will require one person per 30 people, and possibly two people for the first hour even with that few participants if the tech support person is also a co-facilitator or is doing a little “how to” presentation to participants at the beginning of the meeting.

You will also need someone to set up, monitor and close breakout rooms, and someone to share slides, music, and any digital platforms being used (e.g., a “wheel of fortune,” a timer, a link to a trivia game). If you are using a digital collaboration platform, ideally you will have someone supporting the facilitator and participants to ensure a seamless experience with that.

Meeting Management

Now that you’ve identified your production team, share the plan with them so that everyone is referencing the same instructions. This plan will also form the basis of your “tech run-through,” a pre-event meeting where team members plus the MC, moderator and other key people walk through the agenda step-by-step.

Depending on the nature of the event, we will expand the plan into a “run of show” document that scripts the moderator and other participants. The run of show is also used at the tech run-through; both the plan and the run of show document will be modified because of the tech run-through, when you realize that things don’t always work the way they were envisioned!

Bottom line, successful virtual events require a lot of planning.

For us, a successful event is one where the client’s objectives were met, the meeting was accessible to everyone, even those with bandwidth issues. It’s an event where all participants joined the meeting with few (if any) technical issues, ready to “hit the ground running,” where all speakers, panelists, moderators are well-prepared and felt supported, and where all participants felt engaged and involved. We have more criteria, of course, but we find that the above important measures ensure a seamless and stress-free event, where all involved can focus on the content rather than the glitches.

People who organize virtual meetings for the first time are always surprised by the amount of detail and planning involved to reach this level of success. Having a meeting plan will help focus the detail in one place and ensure nothing is missed.

Leave a Comment

"NeOle's virtual facilitation services were an eye-opening experience for our globally-dispersed organization. The level of engagement and productive work that we accomplished rapidly turned skeptics into rabid fans, which is why we continue to hire Neolé." - J.Vehar, VP Products, Dale Carnegie & Associates
"I have had the pleasure of working with NeOlé in a number of settings over the past de​cade. Their creative and collaborative approach to training, group facilitation and problem solving greatly influenced the work we did with frontline workers across Ontario. I have adopted a number of their strategies into my own work, and never hesitate to call on NeOle to lead a session at our annual event." - P.Cross, Legal Director, Luke's Place
“I loved the use of the interactive technology for real-time engagement. And the facilitators were wonderful, intuitive, intelligent, able to manage group ebs/flows and adjust accordingly.” - Participant in a 3-day training on Leading Innovation
Previous
Next

© 2018 NeOlé

Toronto, ON

​Website Powered by RapidWebLaunch

Sol Santos-Pyne Chief Innovator and Prototype Evaluator. He is always ready to help design, paint, cut and install. Sol will show you what’s possible and will also try the impossible. He is the bravest monkey of all.

Ayla Larzabal Zavitz Artist-in-Residence and Director of the Safety Patrol. She makes sure that everyone is following the rules and having fun at the same time. She is the time-keeper and turn-taking monitor. She helps paint the wood for the monkey bars and will give you great advice on the best accessories.

Beto Santos-Pyne Video Producer and Editor as well as a Reliable Helper during heavy installations. When he is not building intricate systems in Minecraft he is the top ranking swinger on the monkey bars. 

Mateo Larzabal Zavitz is our Media Relations Expert and Installation Helper. Mateo knows what’s cool and what’s not cool. He helps us maintain a realistic outlook on the world and stay up to date on the latest movies and video games.

Matias Larzabal Designer and Lead Installer. Matias has more than 20 years of experience working in construction, 14 years of experience as a dad, 11 years of experience as an uncle, 10 years as a helpful Canadian neighbour and handy-man, and a lifetime of experience as a monkey. Matias is also an artist with a unique upbringing. You can learn more about him and his art on his gallery.

Ginny Santos Monkey Supervisor, Visionary and Managing Director. Ginny is a nutrition coach and entrepreneur who is always looking for ways of involving children in creative thinking and problem solving. You can learn more about Ginny’s other work on NeOle Coaching.

%d bloggers like this: