Advice and Guidance
Advice and Guidance for Online and Hybrid Events.
The information on this page was developed and expanded on with reference to "Tips on running online meetings and events (Version 1.0)" (2020, April 30) by the Digital Curation Centre.
Please note that many of the tools referenced in the article linked above are not supported by ISG and the IS Helpline will not be able to provide assistance with these tools should you opt to use them.
Define what you want to achieve from the event
Considering what type of meeting you need to run, and what your meeting aims to achieve will help you select the appropriate technology.
In order to get the most from your online event or meeting and to select the appropriate platform for it, you first need to understand your objectives:
- Are you just presenting information or do you want to engage the audience in discussion and exercises?
- Will participants from outside the University be attending your event?
Simple presentations and Q&A are often best done on webinar platforms, especially if you expect 50+ attendees as these limit who can speak and share their screen.
Some video conferencing platforms allow you to run polls with larger groups, but if you want to have in-depth discussions with smaller groups, then platforms that allow everyone to share video and audio are best.
We have entered a new era of work related activity where our events and meetings have been moved into the digital arena. With the University provided collaboration tools, we now have the opportunity to meet and collaborate irrespective of location. These tools also make it easy to record sessions and it is with this aspect that these guidelines are most concerned.
- The University provides platforms to make meeting up online easier both to run and to experience.
- There are 5 centrally supported platforms: Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, Collaborate, MS Teams Live Events and Zoom. Microsoft Teams and Teams Live Events are the preferred options for all internal online and hybrid meetings.
- Where staff are engaging with external organisations the University’s Zoom platform may be the preferred option for events or meetings. The University has purchased an enterprise version of Zoom and this should be used by staff if they need to join a Zoom meeting. Please note that Zoom is not recommended for internal meetings (you should use Microsoft Teams) and you should not use other versions of Zoom, such as the free client, when conducting University business.
- Recording events or meetings is possible via these platforms. We don’t normally record physical meetings or events unless it is for a specific purpose and the same should apply to online or hybrid versions. Just because you can record something doesn’t mean you should. However, if there is a good reason to record a meeting, for example to assist with note or minute taking or on occasions when not everyone can attend synchronously and you want others to be able to hear what was said, you can use the record function.
- The organiser must tell everyone in advance of the intention to record the event or meeting and the reason why the recording is necessary. At the start of the event or meeting the convenor should remind everyone of the intention to record, prior to starting the recording.
- The normal retention period for any event or meeting recording is 20 days. Recordings must not be removed from the platform on which they were recorded nor should they be copied and stored elsewhere. You must follow data protection legislation, see the data protection handbook.
- There are some circumstances where recordings may be needed to be retained for a longer period, an example would be an all staff meeting where 20 days may not be sufficient. In these cases, this should be articulated clearly to all participants prior to the event or meeting taking place.
- All organisers of events or meetings must ensure that participants are made aware of the intention to record the event or meeting and, to meet legal requirements, you must also inform participants whether they can opt out or if they have to opt in.
- All organisers of events or meetings must communicate to participants the purpose of the recording, the retention period, and what the recording may, or may not, be used for.
- At the start of the event or meeting, the organiser or convenor must advise participants of the intention to record, prior to the commencement of the recording. The organiser must also advise any ‘late joining’ participants that the event or meeting is being recorded.
- Participants must not make their own recording of a meeting or event, whether that be video and/or audio using the recording option on any of the collaborative tools or using their personal recording device, mobile phone, computer or tablet.
- Participants must not download the event or meeting recording from the collaboration tool or make a copy to store elsewhere.
- The organiser will ensure the recording is deleted in line with the retention scheme.
Where it has been agreed that an event or meeting will be recorded and that the recording will be available publicly, all participants must ensure that they are aware of the terms under which the recording is made available and for what it may or may not be used. These will normally be events or meetings with an external element.
Recording Privacy Notices
You may also want to read through our Recording Online and Digital Events Privacy Notices, and ask your meeting attendees to read them as well.
Example Meeting and Event Types
Below is a list of different types of meetings and events you may be looking to host online. Each section contains some guidance on which platform is best suited to your needs, as well as some guidance on best practices. Please refer to ‘tips and best practice for running online and digital events’ below for further information on how to prepare for your meetings.
As most of us are now working from home, 1:1 meetings with our colleagues and managers have become a regular part of our day to day.
For such internal meetings, platforms such as Microsoft Teams may be most appropriate. Usually, for these types of meetings you will have a simple agenda or some other type of documentation, depending on the topic of your discussion.
If your colleague is not University of Edinburgh staff, you will need to schedule your meeting and add their entire email address as an invitee, to allow them to join.
You may want to interview candidates using an online platform. Ensure you send any documentation and the meeting invite with the relevant joining links well in advance. Consider that interviews can be intense for the candidates, so the more information you provide to your candidate ahead of time the better.
You can use Microsoft Teams for these types of meetings, as the requirements are minimal, all you need is the ability to share a camera and your microphone.
We recommend that you organise separate Teams meetings with each candidate to ensure privacy. Further information on conducting interviews in Teams is available on our Teams FAQs page.
Again, please consider that at the point of interview your candidate may not have access to University of Edinburgh technology, and is therefore considered an external user.
More advice on how best to conduct interviews can be found at Human Resources Guidance on Interviewing.
These may be a committee meeting, a project meeting, or a team meeting (~10-15 attendees).
As with most meeting types, you need to schedule your meeting, send a calendar invite with a link to your virtual meeting, prepare your agenda, and distribute it to your attendees as far ahead of time as possible.
Workshops are medium sized events of ~15-30 participants, with one or more presenters, and they normally involve a level of interaction between presenters and participants, and/or between participants themselves.
For this reason, technology that does not allow for increased participation from attendees may not be the most appropriate. For example, Microsoft Live Events allows for multiple presenters, but does not give participants many options for interaction.
Teams, Zoom and Blackboard Collaborate provide functionality for breakout rooms (you may want attendees to complete group work or to have multiple concurrent discussions before coming together in one stream to report back) and video/microphone sharing, so they are more suited to this meeting format.
If the event involves external participants, it should be noted that Teams and Zoom offer more protection than other platforms.
For these types of events, you may have a number of presenters and wide ranging levels of attendance.
Usually the focus is on the presentation rather than the interaction, so a platform that allows for multiple presenters and a Q&A function, such as Microsoft Teams Live Events, is most appropriate.
Coming Soon - Microsoft Teams webinar, which will be the most appropriate platform for this type of event, without the need for the extensive training needed to use Live Events.
When organising a virtual conference, which may last a day or span over several weeks, there are multiple things you need to consider, particularly if your event is not free to attend. There are usually large numbers of attendees (from the hundreds to the thousands), multiple streams of presentations, different presenters, and may include a mixture of the types of sessions outlined above (including social meetings - so get creative!)
You should pick your technology carefully, in order to facilitate all the types of discussions your community will want to have. A few examples of virtual conferences can be found here:
The most appropriate platform at the University for large scale online events, with feature requirements similiar to those mentioned above, is EventsAir.
EventsAir is a platform designed for large-scale online events, with features such as exhibitor stands / booths, communication and registration management, University branding throughout and multiple webinar sessions running in the same event. For further information about EventsAir, and the significant effort that goes in to using it, see our EventsAir pages.
You may want to schedule social events as breaks from business sessions, ice breakers or as a wrap-up to your conference.
The Turing Way has produced a great guide on bringing your social interactions online which can be accessed here.
Teams is the preferred platform for hosting internal social events, and further guidance on etiquette for socil events on Teams is available at the Teams Guidance Site.
Using Teams or Zoom you can schedule anything from a coffee break to a pictionary session to a cultural tour of Edinburgh!
- If your event isn't free plan your budget and set your fees carefully in advance - ensuring you account for all your costs.
- Consider what types of sessions you want to run - For example, non-teaching lectures and keynote talks, breakout sessions, poster sessions, demonstrations, social events or sponsor presentations.
- Consider if your audience consists of internal, external or a mix of colleagues.
- Pick the technology that facilitates the sessions you want to run - When hosting community events or small project meetings, try to use platforms that are robust enough to handle videos being on all the time. This makes the meeting more engaging.
- We recommend the use of Microsoft Teams or Zoom for your sessions.
- If you can't find what you are looking for there are more tools available that might suite your needs. This guide from the Digital Curation Centre aims to provide you with a quick overview of the key considerations to make when conducting workshops, seminars and meetings online. It is not intended to be an exhaustive guide but will provide a basic level of understanding of various tools to help you get started.
- However, please note that the tools referenced in the resources above are not supported by ISG; the IS Helpline will not be able to provide assistance with these tools should you opt to use them.
- Allow sufficient time for comfort and screen breaks - Particularly if your conference spans over several hours, days or weeks
- Make the information on your conference schedule, as well as how to join and register, available to attendees as far ahead of time as possible, with regular reminders in the lead up to the event.
- If possible, you may want to create a webpage with all relevant information and links to your registration pages (e.g Event Booking at UoE or ePay for paid events) and sessions.
- When scheduling online events that will have participants from many countries, be sure to make clear to participants the time and in which time zone the event will be held. This time zone converter can be useful when planning for different time zones.
- Make sure to send clear and concise joining instructions to participants and encourage them to test the software prior to joining the session to identify any problems. Make sure they receive:
- A link to the platform meeting room
- Link to the agenda/notes for the call
- Prepare instructions for your speakers and ensure they are knowledgeable about the technology you are using - An example on such instructions can be found on the Research Data Alliance website.
- Test out the platform in advance with everyone who is playing a key role in speaking or facilitating the meeting - Ensure everyone’s audio and video is properly configured, test using the chat or Q&A, decide together how you will run the session, etc.
- Define clear roles for session chair or facilitator, tech support and Q&A - It is too much for one person to run all these things. Someone needs to monitor chat to see if anyone has audio issues and help troubleshoot these in real time.
- You may choose to amplify your event using social media - Amplification will help to advertise and disseminate your event, helping it to become more impactful and reach people who may not be able to attend on the day.
- Choose a hashtag prior to the event, advertise it well in advance, ensure it is included in all conference communication.
- Remember to check the hashtag across all common social media platforms to ensure it is not already in use, before circulating it.
- Encourage participants to use the hashtag across all their social media platforms.
- Disseminate the hashtag and relevant conference information on a regular basis in the run up to the event.
- You may find it useful to appoint a social media manager for the event to coordinate social media channels and live tweet or live blog keynotes.
- If you are live tweeting keynotes, be sure to notify the speaker in advance and confirm they are happy to be tweeted.
- After the event, if participants are writing blog posts or conference reports, encourage them to share them using the hashtag.
- Choose a hashtag prior to the event, advertise it well in advance, ensure it is included in all conference communication.
- Prepare and pre-load any presentation slides - or ensure the speakers know how to pass controls between them if all presenting from local devices.
- Ideally prepare a couple of slides with screen grabs on where to mute/unmute and troubleshoot audio settings as people often struggle to find these.
- Webinar participants tend to arrive early - about 5 minutes before the official start! Until you hit broadcast or start the webinar, they will usually be seeing a blank screen and can’t hear you. Be sure to regularly post welcome messages in the chat though stating when the session will start along with links to any shared docs. You can share your screen with an introductory slide stating the key information, too.
- It is best if the session chair or facilitator, along with the presenters can enable video - at least at the start of the meeting so people feel more at ease.
- Begin by explaining how the session will run and where you want people to add questions -Also flag up if they need to select an option such as ‘to everyone’, ‘privately’ when adding a comment, etc. Not all platforms offer all functionality, and that’s a factor to bear in mind. The chat in Microsoft Teams, for instance, is always visible to all attendees.
- It is generally best if people mute when not speaking but they often forget to unmute so watch videos for moving mouths - It is a good idea to share a screenshot pre-meeting showing where the mute button is - it can be hard to spot on some platforms. Most platforms allow the main host to mute participants, so keep an eye on any additional noise that you might need to cut.
- If you are hosting a meeting with multiple participants, the hand-raising feature in many platforms can be useful - This essentially gives the chair a queue which ensures everyone gets a chance to speak and nobody is allowed to dominate. Remind people to put their hand down afterwards. As with face to face meetings, it is important that the moderator keeps to time and ensures everyone has a chance to have their say.
- Remember - a meeting that was scheduled to run for an hour but is done in 15 minutes doesn’t need to keep going for the full hour! - If you get things done earlier than envisaged most people are very happy. Conversely, if the meeting looks likely to run over the time allocated, it is important to check with participants if they are OK to continue for a period of extra time. Make this period of extra time clear and have a cut off point.
- For smaller meetings - where people do not know each other, an icebreaker or set of introductions at the outset can help. The moderator should move through the list of attendees as participants will not know what order to proceed in. Alternatively just try and generate some ad hoc discussion amongst a few people while you’re waiting for the call to start to set everyone at ease. This usually helps to generate higher levels of participation later on.
- For larger groups - you could start a document presession to collect very short bios. Ideally these would include photos, Twitter handles, relevant skills / expertise and something individual that helps to break the ice and build rapport. If your technical solution allows for breakout rooms, you can split attendees in smaller groups for a short period at the start of your event to allow for small group networking. This requires all your attendees to have microphones.
Running a Q&A Session:
- Ideally have one or two people available to moderate questions - On Microsoft Live Events, you have the option to moderate questions before making them public. At the end of the meeting, you can also download the questions raised during your event. If you have a shared agenda and note taking document, you can also ask attendees to ask questions there. This allows them to ask questions anonymously and “vote” for questions by just adding +1 to questions. You will need multiple people to work on this. It is almost impossible to chair, watch the chat window and collate questions and notes alone.
- For Q&A sessions following a presentation, it is a good idea to have 2-3 questions selected before opening it to others just in case there are none or there is a lag time.
- Try to engage the audience during the session by asking questions at the end of each talk, using online polls or opening up chat - Sometimes people are very quiet and it can take a long time for questions to be written out so have enough gap-filling material to hand. As noted above, have a few questions ready to pose in case there is a gap. You can also consider collecting questions from participants ahead of the session via email or google doc so you have some to start with.
- Try to encourage a few people to ask questions orally so it’s more of a discussion, not just chat which can be quite alienating - However, this can be difficult to moderate if you have more than 20 people so bear the size of the group in mind. Ask people to make clear in the chat or by raising their hand if they’d like to ask a question orally so that these can be done systematically by the moderator. Again, a note taker who is looking at the chat box is vital for this.
- Make use of online polling platforms such as Mentimeter to allow audience participation - These can keep the audience engaged and can be quite fun (quiz competition works particularly well). They can also collate results automatically and can be used for analysis afterwards.
- Please note that Mentimeter is not supported by ISG and IS Helpline will not be able to provide assistance with it.
For additional technical support and guidance on large scale and bespoke events please contact Edinburgh First, email@example.com or 0131 652 2189. This includes video conferencing, live streaming and technical assistance with your event.
They are also able to provide conference and events advice and other aspects of Event Management including delegate registration, abstract and financial management.