Virtual events

A virtual event is an event or meeting that takes place online rather than in a physical location. These events could take the form of a livestream, a panel discussion, workshop, celebration, ceremony or even a large-scale conference.


There are a number of platforms available to host virtual events. When choosing a platform, it is important to consider your audience and your objectives for the event. SFU IT Services recommends the following platforms:

If using a platform not listed above, please contact IT Services via to help you assess possible privacy or technology concerns.

MECS Virtual can help support your virtual events in Zoom or Hopin. Contact them at

Event timeline

An event timeline outlines roles and responsibilities, including tasks to be completed before and after the event. The following template will help you create a timeline for a virtual event.

Staff and presenter roles

Similar to an in-person event, you will need to assign people to fill several key roles to assist during your virtual event. Roles to consider, depending on the complexity of your event, are: 

  • A/V Lead: Responsible for "running the show", they ensure that technical event components are tested and working. During the event, they share content including powerpoint presentations, music and videos. They also manage presenter and participant video and microphones as needed. Any technical components should be thoroughly tested by the A/V Lead during the tech rehearsal. In Zoom, this person is assigned as the meeting "Host". For events with more complicated transitions or numerous cues, a second A/V Lead is recommended. 
  • Backup A/V Tech: This person is prepared to take over as A/V Lead should the A/V Lead run into a problem, such as connectivity issues. For more complicated events with numerous A/V cues, the Backup A/V Tech will assist with running the A/V transitions and cues. They also monitor the chat feed to respond to technical questions from event participants or presenters and help troubleshoot technical issues as they arise. The Backup A/V Tech should test their technology and audio during the tech rehearsal. In Zoom, this person would be assigned as a "Co-host" or "Alternate Host".
  • Emcee: Welcomes guests, covers announcements and housekeeping rules, and introduces presenters/panelists. In Zoom, this person should be assigned as a "Panelist" or "Co-host". 
  • Presenter/Panelist: People who will be speaking or presenting during the event. In Zoom, this person should be assigned as a "Panelist" with the capability to share their screen and advance their slides, if desired. Alternatively, the A/V Lead can assist with advancing the presenter slides.
  • Q&A/Chat Moderator: This person is responsible for monitoring the chat and Q&A box for questions and monitoring for guests who "raise their hand" to ask live questions during the event. They engage with event participants in the chat box, welcoming them to the event, responding to questions, sharing information, and responding to non-technical questions. If there is a moderated Q&A session, they will either lead the Q&A session or assist with fielding live questions to the moderator, presenter or panelists. In Zoom, this person should be assigned as a "Panelist" or "Co-host".
  • Spotter: The spotter views the event as a guest and will communicate any issues to the A/V lead. 

Presenter and speaker best practices

It is important to ensure all presenters and panelists are well rehearsed and prepared for their role at your virtual event. If your presenters or speakers have never done a virtual event before, they may find challenges with speaking in front of a camera without an audience. To help them prepare, share the tips below with your featured presenters and speakers, so they will understand how to set up their technology, look good on camera and follow virtual event etiquette. A dress rehearsal scheduled a few days before your event will give your speakers, presenters and panelists the opportunity to practice and prepare prior to the event. 

Participant best practices

It is important to help your audience understand how they can have an optimal experience during your virtual event. Create communications before and during the event that help your event attendees participate in the event. Tell you audience how they can engage - what technology they should use, how they can ask questions, etc.

Accessibility, Technology and Privacy

To help your guests participate fully and safely in the event, share accessibility, technology and privacy information. You can use the template below as a guide for what information to highlight to guests to allow for the best event experience. When using the following template, please add or remove information as applicable to your event. 

Zoom Participant Guides

Zoom has several features for participants such as mute/unmute, video, "raise hand" function, polling, chat box, Q&A box, etc. Help guests understand these features, as applicable, to allow for the best event experience and make it easier for them to engage. Encourage your guests to participate by teaching them how to participate. 

Participant engagement

Consider the following ideas to increase engagement and audience participation in your virtual event. 


Polls are a great way to interact with your audience. They can be used in a variety of ways:

  • Break the ice: Ask a question to get things started with a fun question to set the tone for the event
  • Provide insight on topics of interest for your presentation. This allows you to customize your event in real-time based on your audience's interests
  • Get immediate feedback about your meeting or event

Breakout rooms

In Zoom Meeting, you can split your participants into smaller groups, called breakout rooms, for a pre-defined amount of time. Breakout rooms are a great way to incorporate discussion and networking into your virtual event. It allows people to interact with their fellow participants. If possible, it is recommended that you have moderators for each of your breakout rooms.

*Breakout rooms are now available to users who login via a Chrome Book, or Chrome OS.  Breakout rooms are also available to people that use Zoom Rooms, but there are hardware limitation. People that use Zoom Rooms can stay in the main room as an alternative breakout room. (Note: Chrome OS is an operating system and not to be confused with Google Chrome web browser)


In Zoom Meeting, you can enable the whiteboard through screen sharing. This provides a blank space for you or your attendees to draw. This tool can be great for brainstorming ideas or adding to your presentation. "Drawing" or annotations can be used on your shared screen (i.e. a powerpoint presentation) as well as on the whiteboard. You can also use the whiteboard function to break the ice with a game of Pictionary.

Other activities

In addition to the ideas above, you may wish to incorporate some games into your event to increase audience interaction and lighten the mood. These can be used at the beginning of your meeting to set the tone or can be used to break up a longer, content-heavy presentation. 

Scavenger Hunt

Do a virtual scavenger hunt with your attendees to grab audience attention in a fun way. For the scavenger hunt, encourage everyone to use gallery view to see all the other players. To play, pick an item for your attendess to find (e.g. a hat, favourite kitchen utensil) and give them a set amount of time to go find it and bring it back. This activity works great as a way to create a break during a presentation heavy event by encouraging attendees to stand up and move.


Kahoot is a quiz application you can use to create custom quiz games for your audience to play. The host of the game will share their screen so that the participants can see the questions. Participants can play by going to and entering the code for the game. You’ll need to remind participants that they’ll need to see both Zoom (for the questions via shared screen) and Kahoot (to answer the questions) on their screen at the same time.