Planning and running online events

1. Choose your event format

2. Pick the right platform

3. Choose the best time and duration for your event

  • As for ‘physical’ events, check for holidays, other important dates/events that might be clashing with your event.
  • Be aware of zoom fatigue and try not to host events longer than an hour, as it is more difficult to keep audiences engaged online, when there are many distractions at play. One option is to break a long event into a series of shorter sessions over a number of days.
  • Be conscious that people might be home-schooling or have other caring responsibilities when deciding the best time for your event.

4. How will attendees register?

  • Whether your event is for a small group being invited by email, or one where attendees need to register in advance, make sure you keep an up-to-date guest list, the same as you would with a physical event, to get in touch with your attendees before and after the event.
  • Eventbrite can be used for free when your event is also free, and offers an app to connect your event listing to the Zoom event. Find out more here:
  • You can also use a simple Google form to collect attendees’ information before the event.
  • Use the event registration to collect any useful data which could be used for event planning, such as questions to the speakers to be submitted in advance, suggestions for themes, registering interest for breakout sessions.

5. Promotion

  • Promote your event according to your needs, either by emailing a guest list or sharing via social media and other e-marketing channels.
  • Ask partners to share your event info with other stakeholders, if appropriate. You should think carefully about how widely you share the link to your event, for security reasons. You can find tips on safety measures for virtual events here.
  • BCT can help you to promote your event via our social medial channels (Twitter and Linkedin) and on the BCT 5 Minutes Round-up newsletter. E-mail Diana Ruthven if you want us to do this.
  • If the event is linked to a grant and you are using Barrow Cadbury Trust or the Connect Fund name on it, please ensure you use the BCT/CF branding guidelines. E-mail Rosie Mitchell-Hudson for a copy of these.
  • Create a hash tag for the event and encourage attendees to use it on the day – make sure you check it first in case it’s being used for anything inappropriate or counter-productive to your content and strategy.

6. Content planning and pre-event preparation

  • Now that you know what you want to achieve with your event, and what the audiences will take away from it, as well as chosen the best platform to deliver it, you will need to make sure the content is accessible, presented in the most attractive way possible and is engaging.
  • It’s easy to get distracted when you’re participating in something online so you may want to think of ways to keep the audience engaged such as: quizzes, live polling, use of breakout rooms for smaller groups discussions, Q & A sessions, etc.
  • A good tip for successful engagement is ‘breaking ice’ at the start of the event. Think about using break out rooms within your online platform within the first few minutes of your event. Breaking the event into smaller groups and giving participants an ice-breaking question to discuss can really help to maintain engagement and help with making the audience feel at ease with each other. You can find some great virtual icebreakers here.
  • It may also work to have a host – a chair, MC or interviewer rather than just have presentations.
  • Virtual events can present a great opportunity to engage a speaker who would otherwise be difficult to book, as you could pre-record their presentation.
  • It is good practice to brief your speakers beforehand on how to use whatever software you’re using, the chat function, etc. and to tell them about chairing or Q & A arrangements. Most people are competent in using Zoom or Teams, or contributing to webinars now, but that can’t be taken for granted.
  • If your online event is large, consider having someone handling the technology separately, whilst someone else MC’s/hosts. This way the host can really focus on what they are doing, whilst the tech; breakout rooms, recording, polling, chat, and submitted questions should you have them, can be handled separately.
  • Make sure you share the agenda and any other relevant documents/ materials with the participants before the event. Depending on the event, you can post a ‘goodie’ bag to participants, which can be another great way to keep your audience engaged.
  • Ideas for engaging events:

7.      On the day or shortly before

  • Make sure you have a test rehearsal before the event, involving all the speakers and event organisers. If a big group, it might be useful to set up a WhatsApp group so you can easily communicate ‘off-stage’.
  • On the rehearsal, make sure you check all speakers’ sound is working.
  • You might want to use a standard virtual background to make the event look more professional, but be aware that virtual backgrounds can slow down video streaming, and might not be appropriate if people have slow internet connections, so do check before the event.
  • Another useful thing to check on the day is the speakers’ internet connection, and have a plan B in case speakers are not able to participate fully because of IT problems. Make sure speakers know who to talk to if they are having technical difficulties during the event.

8. During the event

  • It might be good to have a holding screen or some music on the background at the start of the event, to avoid awkward silences while you are waiting for participants to arrive.
  • As part of the housekeeping, let participants know who they should contact if they have any technical problems.
  • If you have an event hashtag, remind people to use them on the day.
  • Do explain the etiquette on using chats/ Q&A box. You might want to switch off these functions so people can fully focus on the speakers. Again, if a big event, better to have someone specifically looking after the chat/Q&A, so speakers/ hosts can fully concentrate on their task.
  • If you are recording the event, do notify the participants before you start recording, giving them the option to switch off their camera if they don’t wish to be recorded.
  • If using Zoom, tell participants how to ‘save the chat’ at the end of the event, so they can check all that has been shared after the event, if they wish so.
  • Remember to try and find ways to make your event accessible to all. This includes captioning, making sure the speakers face is well lit and clear, briefing speakers on good presentation protocol, the ability to share info to people offline should they not have access to tech. Some good examples on how to make virtual events accessible here. More good practice on organising accessible events (physical and virtual) here.

9. Post-event

  • Do remember to ask for feedback on the event. You can send a link on the chat at the end of the event, and follow up with an email.
  • If you recorded the event, remember to email attendees a copy of the recording of the event.
  • Make sure to read the feedback and take on board anything which might improve your next online event.