A lot of people are already familiar with normal Zoom meetings after the COVID-breakout.  This also draws more interests in organizing events online, such as online talks or webinars.  With the Zoom meeting experience it looks quite similar, but in fact it is quite different.  If you go into the settings of the Zoom software or platform, there are more than 100 settings of different attributes, which you might find applicable in different scenarios.  In this article, we'll give some tips and suggestions in organizing an online event using Zoom, not in the setting of a normal casual meetings, but as an online event such as a webinar.  Most of these tips are also applicable using other platforms too.

A basic Zoom account is free which supports up to 100 participants, but max for 40 minutes.  Paid service starting @$150 USD annual is normally the way to go.  If more than 100 participants will be needed, then it is time to consider whether the meeting or the webinar package is suitable.

Theoretically, meetings are more of a private nature, and webinars are normally open to public.  But there are other applications such as trainings and workshops for example, which can be very well covered in Zoom meetings, particularly if online interactions and collaboration is needed.

There are differences between Zoom meeting and webinar.  In brief, participants in Zoom meeting are free to talk in voice by default, but attendees in Zoom webinar don't.  Webinars comes with reminders to participants by email, and Q&A during the online session.  There is an additional role in webinar called 'panelist', which basically is for scenarios with more than 1 speaker.  On the other hand, webinar does not support break-out rooms.  So if break-out session is needed, then meeting is the way to go.

Zoom webinar cannot be ordered alone.  It is an add-on.  It has to be subscribed on top of an initial Zoom meeting package.  Depending on the no. of participants & settings, an online event can be organized using both types of subscriptions, probably with the appropriate and necessary settings.

Below we introduce some tips for organizing online events.

Zoom Meeting Roles Zoom Webinar Roles Actual Roles Needed in Reality
Host
Co-host
Participants
Host
Co-host
Panelist
Attendees
Moderator
Speakers
Technical Setup / Support
Administration
Audience support

 

Role Discrepancies

Roles defined by Zoom focus on the functionality and control of the platform and software.  But for the organizers or users, the real focus should be the audience or the events.  There is a discrepancy and very often this creates a lot of mis-conceptions or problems like:

  • Lack of focus or attentions to the audiences
  • Insensitivity to the necessary etiquette and disciplines
  • Underestimate the complication of online activity, time-critical workload but insufficient team members
  • Matching the right people to the right position (role)
  • More demanding from audience
  • Preparation

Assign the right zoom privileges to the right people.  Make good use of the role of hostco-hosts.

What Co-hosts Can't Do

Co-host can do most of the privileges that the Host can do, except:

  • Assign co-host (unless otherwise configured properly)
  • Schedule / create meeting
  • Start waiting room
  • Start streaming
  • Start break-out rooms
  • End meeting

 

Suggestions for Online Event / Webinar

Unlike normal casual online meetings, an online event or webinar will be much more complicated because of increased uncertainties.

Event Role Suggestions
Moderator Focus on the audiences, the atmosphere and the flow
Control the atmosphere and timing
Be the commander, and delegate as much as possible to others
Decision making on the spot when necessary
Assistant to Moderator Work as assistant to the moderator
Connect with other team members for any ad-hoc issues
Attention to audience requests such as admission, chats, Q&A, collection of questions, etc and response accordingly
Speakers Focus on the part of presentation responsible
Be familiar with the Zoom operation, including screen sharing, microphone settings, use of tools including annotations if necessary
Helpers Divert audience support to helpers because time to handle each case can be significant in the time-critical moment
Prepare written help instructions for common problems to offload the team
Additional support When 3rd party / additional online tools or break-out rooms are used, preparation and additional assistants might be needed

When a team is established, it is also important to:

  1. Get familiar with the Zoom software control they require in their roles, and make sure they have the right privileges
  2. Establish an effective internal communication channel between the team members during the time-critical moments.
Can't See What They See

When you don't see what the audience are seeing, or they don't see what you expect them to see, it is a problem.  But this is a easy-to-solve problem:

Connect A Second device as an ordinary audience

This is a simple solution, but note:

  1. Use an iPad or a tablet so that you can see from a distance
  2. There will be echo problem when 2 devices are connected to zoom at the same time.  See separate article on how to avoid it

Both the moderator and speakers might very well need this.

Do you know how many different screens are there in Zoom meeting or webinar?  See another article:

Number of Screens in Zoom Meeting

Do you know how to avoid echo while 2 devices are connected to Zoom at the same time?  See another article:

How to Avoid Echo in Multiple Connections

 

Make Use of Automation

Instead of spending extra man-power at the time-critical moment, it is possible to arrange self-rotating screens to deliver the necessary information.

Value-add to the Waiting Time

Instead of leaving the participants in the waiting room, wouldn't it be better to arrange some value-add arrangement while they are waiting.  This arrangement will prepare them with the right atmosphere and patience before the event starts, deliver much better user experiences, build the trust & relationships instead of leaving them alone in the waiting room.

  • Count-down to start
  • Background and context of the event
  • Instructions to follow during the event, particularly when actions or interactions are required by the participants
  • The run-down, how to raise questions, ...
  • Requests for actions during and after the event, such as feedbacks, surveys, enrolments or materials download
  • Announcements or promotions of related activities, upcoming events, ... etc

Attentions Necessary on the Zoom software

These are some areas that requires attention:

  • Participants arriving the Waiting Room waiting for Admit, including those arriving late
  • Participants' reactions or expressions by chat or gestures
  • Mute control and passing to speakers
  • Sharing control and passing over to presenters
  • Additional operations such as polls, surveys, Q&A, Jamboards, ... where additional features or 3rd party tools or platforms are used

Particularly in:

  1. How to monitor, which screen should be always on in order to monitor and who works on that?
  2. How to control and apply necessary actions and who can do that?
  3. Do you allow participants to unmute themselves, sharing screen or annotate?

Attentions by the Speakers / Presenters

It is not uncommon to have a few speakers in a single event, and they specialize in the area of their topics but not necessarily familiar with the Zoom software.  The following can be referenced as a check list.

  • Signalling protocol with the host or moderator to start, pause, end or any audience interactions
  • Appearance in front of the camera and necessary settings or touch-ups.  Be reminded to keep appropriate eye-contact with the audiences.
  • Different modes of sharing, e.g. screen, applications, files
  • Some applications including PPT have 2 native screens of display which adds to the complication
  • Handling of additional tools or interactions, such as annotations, polls, surveys, Q&A, Jamboard, ... if they are part of the plan
  • Special requirements - video playing, second camera
  • Stability of internet connection

And last but not least, to see what the audience see if possible.

Advanced Areas

Breakout Rooms

Breakout room feature is available on meeting, but not on webinar in Zoom.  Breakout rooms are good for better interactions and collaborations.

  • Breakout rooms are more complicated to manage.  Users could be getting lost too.
  • Clear instructions before switching.  Include demonstration if necessary.
  • Written brief instructions on the side if available.
  • Moderators in each group who are familiar and understand what to do

Interactions and Collaborations

It is not un-common to use additional tools or platforms for the purpose of interactions, collaborations and engagements.  Examples include JamBoard, Mentimeter, ...

  • Some of these tools require working on a computer instead of mobile devices.
  • Use simple and clear instructions on screen to tell the participants what to do
  • Do a short demonstration to lead the activity if necessary

Live Streaming

Zoom supports live-streaming to YouTube, Facebook, and Workplace on Facebook on paid accounts, but is hidden by default.  To use the live-stream feature, it need to be enabled in the configuration setting.

  • Prepare for additional setup in the live-streaming channel matching Zoom operations
  • Delays typically up to 15-20 seconds is possible, and is normal
  • Monitoring would be necessary.  Note how and where users can feed back in those channels
  • Consider sufficient overall internet connection stability and bandwidth
  • Attention to possible access permissions and admittance for participants

Recording

Local / Cloud Recording is available for Zoom for paid accounts

  • For local recording, make sure computer loading is sufficient
  • For cloud recording, make sure bandwidth is sufficient, and connection is stable