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Hosting an online conference

Strategies and resources for going virtual with your next learning event, presented in collaboration with CTET.

Form a program committee

Create a designated working group or committee to plan the conference. The committee could be comprised of individuals who have experience with the conference theme or topics, project coordination, and IT/tech support. Other tips:

 

  • Make time to meet regularly and create a committee agenda with the meeting outcomes and action items ahead of time
  • Assign roles and tasks and set deadlines and create timelines for completing tasks leading up to the event date 
  • Create a Google Drive or Dropbox folder that can be accessed by the committee with all the necessary documents for planning the event, such as the conference program, call for proposals, meeting agendas, budgets, important contacts, email templates, task/to-do lists etc.
  • Consider creating a group email for ease and convenience of communication

Freshley, C. (19 January 2018). How to form a committee: 5 essentials. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeczx1JozSA

McCurry, D. (2019). Who sits on a conference organizing committee? https://www.exordo.com/blog/whos-sits-on-a-conference-organizing-committee/

Prep your moderators and presenters

Preparing your moderators and presenters ahead of time is essential to ensuring things run smoothly during the conference. Depending on the length of the virtual conference day and number of sessions, you might want one moderator per session, or one moderator for the whole event. 

  • Put out a call for moderators: individuals in your learning/professional community may volunteer or members of your program committee may choose to also take on this role. Consider the time zones, time commitment, comfortability/familiarity with the tech, preferences for speakers or type of sessions to moderate, and existing responsibilities volunteers may have.
  • Put out a call for proposals for session presenters and session topics, and determine who will review proposals (other potential presenters? program committee members?)
  • Determine moderator responsibilities: starting the session recording, introducing presenters, monitoring the chat for questions, helping with technical issues, etc.
  • Organize an orientation for moderators and presenters prior to the event: practice a dry run of the session. Ensure everyone has the system capabilities and is comfortable navigating the functionalities of the conference tech/meeting tools, that mics, speakers and cameras are working, and can upload their slides, PDFs, other materials. Contact CTET for support with preparing moderators and using RRU's web conferencing tools.
  •  Wait until your program is finalized, including links to accessing sessions, before sending it out. This helps avoid having multiple versions of your program in circulation.  Be sure to check that all the links work correctly and take you to the right space.
  • Communicate your program to your participants at least a week before the event so they can choose which sessions they’d like to attend. Follow up with a reminder email the day before the event. This saves your participants from having to search through their emails for your program. 

Rowe, S. (2020). Prep your next guest speaker with these webinar tips. https://blog.gotomeeting.com/prep-next-guest-speaker-webinar-tips/

Create a program and schedule

The conference program and schedule is the foundation of your event. There are several factors to consider in designing the schedule such as:

  • Timing: Will you plan a half-day, full-day or multi-day event?  Will the conference be single-track or multi-track?
  • Learning outcomes: What do attendees want to know? What are the goals of the conference? How will attendees increase their knowledge with the topics?
  • Content: How will you organize content, e.g. around different topics or themes, structured sessions vs. interactive sessions?
  • Types of sessions: The Association for Learning Technology (ALT) suggests four ideas of different session types: webinars, edit-a-thons, twitter discussions and Q&A.
  • Visibility: Where and how will you share the program and schedule to reach your target audience? (Email, list-servs, Slack channels, social media, blogs, etc.?) 

Kim, S. (2018). 12 tips for building a conference agenda. https://blog.bizzabo.com/tips-for-building-a-conference-agenda

Credits

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

All images used in this guide were retrieved from Pixabay and have a Creative Commons CC0 license.