Resources: Organising a Zoom Webinar – Three key learning points

Elsie LIM
Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning

Elsie shares three lessons she learned running a large scale webinar on Zoom as a novice.

Photo courtesy of Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

The Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning (CDTL) recently organised the e-Learning Symposium 2020 titled “Teaching in the Time of COVID-19: Taking Stock and Planning Ahead” on behalf of the Office of the Senior Deputy President and Provost (SDPPVO). Most of us were new to Zoom webinars and had to master it within a short time in order to host the symposium. Here are three key points that we are sharing, which might be of particular interest to colleagues and students interested in using Zoom webinars.

Allocate sufficient time to get to know the Zoom webinar interface and plan before the event

Apply for a Zoom webinar license

First, you need to know the expected attendance numbers for your webinar in order to get the appropriate license. If your participants are going to be NUS staff and students, you can write to the CIT Help Desk for Zoom Conferencing for the license. In NUS, webinar licenses are available for 500 and 1000 participants. You can consult CIT if your webinar is expected to have more than 1,000 participants.
Familiarise yourself with the different roles and features in Zoom webinars

Learn about the different roles available on the Zoom webinar and its various features from online resources, such as Zoom video tutorials.
Have an alternative host

The webinar’s host has multiple tasks, such as scheduling the webinar, inviting panelists, providing the webinar link to attendees, managing webinar controls, and more. It is therefore important to have an alternative host in case of unexpected circumstances. Both the host and alternative host should be familiar with the flow of the event, so that the latter can stand in if needed.
Decide on the webinar settings

Before scheduling a Zoom webinar, there are decisions to be made, for example, whether to:

  • enable videos of the host and panelists when they join the webinar,
  • enable the question-and-answer (Q&A) feature,
  • allow practice sessions,
  • record the webinar automatically

The settings also include the Panelists function, where permissions are assigned to key persons with speaking roles in the webinar, such as session Chair(s), panelists, panel moderators, and the emcee. Panelists will receive a webinar link unique for their use from the dry run to the actual event. The webinar’s host will assign the permission and invite panelists. If the panelists need to use features beyond the standard ones, the host can promote them to co-host when they join the webinar. As co-hosts cannot be assigned ahead of time, the host should keep a look out when the panelists join the webinar so that they can be assigned accordingly.
Organise dry run sessions

To ensure smooth running of the event, organising dry run sessions for all key stakeholders is very important. This is especially if the event has a Q&A segment. Arrange for colleagues to play the role of attendees and ask questions at a fast and furious pace during the dry run’s Q&A. This will give the panel moderator a feel of the Q&A interface and they will be better prepared for the actual event. As there is a possibility that there may be very few questions during the actual Q&A, it is useful to have some questions prepared beforehand.

Prepare for the unexpected and maintain close communication during the event


Maintaining communication among all key players is important during the event. The webinar’s chat function can be used for such communication when the event goes “live”. WhatsApp can be another back channel for communication.

Once the webinar is broadcast, the event is “live”. All key players have to stay calm and be prepared to take impromptu action should anything unexpected occurs, e.g. the video cannot play during screen-sharing, a panelist gets cut off mid-sentence due to internet connectivity issues, and more.

Before the event goes “live”, the host should ensure that all key players are in the webinar’s “Invite Panelist” section. If the practice session has been enabled, key players can use that session to do one final testing without participants hearing or seeing them.

If there are multiple sessions within a webinar, move the questions raised at the end of each session into the “Dismissed” tab so that the next session can start on a clean slate.

Generate report(s) after the event


For follow-up purposes, the host should generate a Q&A report after the event. If questions have been moved to the “Dismissed” tab during the event, the host/alternative host should move them back to the “Open” tab so that the Q&A report includes these questions.

There are a few report options available: “Registration”, “Attendee”, “Performance”, “Q&A”, and “Poll” reports. You will be able to access these reports an hour or so after the end of the webinar.


Conclusion

Using Zoom webinars to host a large event can be daunting initially for a novice. However, with supportive team members, and armed with determination and a positive attitude, it can be done.

Elsie LIM is Senior Manager at the Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning (CDTL). She assists the Director with general administration of the Centre and also coordinates the organising of conferences/symposiums.

Elsie can be reached at cdtlime@nus.edu.sg.