Zoom: Hosting a Virtual Event

Setting up and running an online event is easier now thanks to Zoom! Virtual events, whether public or private, require careful consideration and preparation, so this guide will walk you through some considerations and best practices for running yours. 

Zoom Webinar

Visit our article on Zoom Webinars to learn about the difference between Zoom meetings and webinars, how to acquire a webinar license, and other important information about Zoom webinars.

Event Roles for Zoom Meetings and Webinars

A successful virtual event requires teamwork and planning! Your speakers and production team will need to be adequately prepared for their roles, which means they’ll need to get familiar with the tools and tricks of Zoom needed to fulfill those roles. Below are descriptions of the various roles in Zoom.


The host creates the meeting/webinar, sends invites, and typically leads the meeting or webinar. They can assign alternative hosts and co-hosts to assist with speaking, presenting, and moderating the event.
They have control over most technical aspects of the meeting, so should familiarize themselves with the host functions in Zoom.
Assign to: Host or lead moderator

Alternative Host
They start and host the meeting when the host cannot, and they have host controls in the meeting/webinar.
They cannot create meetings on behalf of the host. To do that, the host needs to grant them scheduling privileges.
Assign to: Moderator or assistant

They have host controls and can assign other co-hosts and panelists.
Event moderators should be assigned this role, which will enable them to assist with:
  • Managing participants/attendees.
  • Managing the chat window.
  • Assisting panelists and the host.
  • Handling the technical aspects of Zoom.
For small events, at least one moderator is recommended. For large events, at least two to three moderators are recommended.
In Meetings, guest presenters would typically be assigned this role.
Assign to: Moderators and guest presenters

(Webinar Only)
In Webinars, guest presenters should be assigned this role.
They can share their audio/video and screen-share if allowed by the host and co-hosts.
They don't have host controls.
Assign to: Guest presenters

This is the default role in meetings for people who join. They can share their audio/video, screen-share, and use the chat unless those permissions are removed by the host or co-hosts.
Assign to: Event attendees

(Webinar Only)
This is the default role in webinars for people who join. They can only ask questions in the chat or Q&A, and raise their hands if those functions are permitted.
Assign to: Event attendees


Event Formats and Considerations

Below are considerations for additional features you may want for your event. Common features for virtual events include:

Q&A (Webinar Only)
  • A Q&A is a special feature within Zoom webinars, but as a common event feature it can still be done in meetings, it just requires more coordination and has a less formal appearance when compared to webinars.
Polling (Meetings and Webinars)
Post Survey (Meetings)
Post Attendee URL (Webinars)
Breakout Rooms (Meetings Only)
Closed captioning
Branding (Webinar Only)

  Consent to Record

Emerson follows the Massachusetts two-party consent law on recording. This means that anyone joining a recorded Zoom meeting hosted by an Emerson account will get a notice that the meeting is being recorded, and they will be asked if they consent to being recorded. 

Visit our guide on Recording for more info.


Closed Captioning and Live Transcription

Visit our article on Zoom Live Transcription to review options for providing closed captions for your event.


Pre-Meeting Security Tools

Require registration (Meetings and Webinars)
This requires your participants/attendees to register for your event ahead of time. Registration is recommended if you want to limit attendance to only people you know, or if you want information on attendees, such as name, email, and other user-specified information. There are two kinds of registration:
Auto Approval
Registrants will be automatically approved to attend.
Manual Approval
Registrants will need to be individually approved to attend.

*Note: Attendees can only register for your webinar while you have the webinar license. Due to limited availability, we may not be able to let you hold onto a webinar license between the day you create the webinar and the day your webinar happens. In this case, your attendees wouldn't be able to register for your event until the day of the webinar, so we recommend booking a webinar license in advance as soon as possible.

If you're unable to use Zoom Registration due to this, we recommend using another platform for your attendees to register through, such as EventBrite, Ticket Tailor, or other event registration platform software.

Generate Meeting ID Automatically
This will generate a random ID for your meeting or webinar, and is highly recommended as a security precaution.
Require Meeting Passcode
This setting is on by default. The passcode will be embedded in your meeting/webinar's link. People joining will not have to enter the passcode unless you remove it from the link.
Turn Off Video
For best practice, have video for both the host and participant turned off. Video can be turned on after they join the meeting.

This won’t prevent participants from turning on their video in meetings at first. To do that, use the Stop Video feature when they turn on their video. Once that's done, they'll need to request to turn on their video.

Disable Join Before Host (Meetings Only)
We recommend disabling the Enable Join Before Host setting. This allows participants to join the meeting and interact with each other using their audio/video before the host joins. Only limited functions are available here (e.g., Screen-sharing cannot be done without the host) and the host has no control over this space until they join, which leaves this open to security hazards.
Enable Mute Participants on Entry (Meetings Only)
Participant's microphones will be muted upon joining the meeting.
Enable Waiting Room (Meetings Only)
Participants will be placed in the waiting room upon joining the meeting. The waiting room doesn't offer any interactivity capability with anyone. The participants will have to be admitted into the meeting from the waiting room one-by-one. This setting can be turned on during the meeting as well.
Only Authenticated Users Can Join
By default, this setting is turned on for all Emerson users. When enabled, participants can only join if they sign into their Zoom accounts. This can be refined to only allow Emerson Zoom users as well.
Alternative Hosts
Allows a team member to start and host your Zoom event if the host cannot. For Emerson events, the alternative host must have an Emerson account.


In-Meeting Security Tools

Remove Participants
Go to the Participants tab and to the participant you wish to remove, click More and select Remove to dismiss them from the meeting or webinar.
Mute all participants
Go to the Participants tab and select Mute All, and uncheck the option to allow them to unmute themselves. This will prevent participants from unmuting their mic without the host's permission.
Promote your speakers and moderators
Assign them to be co-host and panelists as needed. Go to Manage Participants, and next to their name click More, and select Make Co-Host. This will allow them to help manage the event.
Chat Settings
In the Chat window, click the three dots at the bottom right, and select Host Only. This disables participant's ability to message each other, so all chat messages will only be sent to the host, co-hosts, and panelists.
Security Button
You can find shortcuts to a variety of security settings here, such as:
Screen share
This toggles the participant's ability to share their screens.
This toggles the Chat function to be on or off.
Rename themselves
This toggles participant's ability to rename themselves.
Lock meeting
This prevents any more people from joining the meeting.
Remove participants
This shows the full list of participants and the ability to remove them instantly.

  Security Tip

You can also remove participants from the Gallery View, where you can quickly identify a malicious actor and remove them.

Spotlight Video
Shows the video of a chosen speaker. Go to the participant's video, the three dots in the blue square at the top right, and select Spotlight Video. To spotlight that video for everyone, select Spotlight for Everyone.

Practice Session

Having a practice session of the virtual event can greatly improve quality and flow, both of which are important for keeping the viewer's attention. A good practice session includes:

  • Everyone involved in running the event.
  • An established agenda for everyone to follow.
  • A 'fake' attendee to demo what the viewers will see for the event.
  • A full test of any special functions you may need, such as recording, live-streaming, and closed captioning.
  • Enable Practice Session in Webinar


Backup Plans 

Plan for things to go wrong! Have a contingency for each of these scenarios:

  • Speaker/presenter gets disconnected and can't rejoin the event
  • To maintain flow, have someone ready to pick up where they left off.
  • Keep backups of presentation media so the host, co-hosts, or panelists can share them.
  • A malicious actor takes over the event.
  • A presenter is experiencing audio/video issues.
  • Recording stops or becomes faulty.
  • The meeting/webinar has accidentally ended.


Start-up Checklist

  • Start early to give your team time to get ready, configure settings, and get last-minute practice.
  • Check your audio/video equipment to verify that it’s working.
  • Check your internet connection to verify that it’s stable and that you have adequate bandwidth.
  • Check the in-meeting security options to make sure they’re set.
  • Promote guest presenters and moderators to their co-host and panelist roles.
  • Address the rules, agenda, and technical notes to the participants at the start of the meeting.
  • Meeting etiquette (keeping mics muted until you need to speak, video off or on, etc).
  • Briefly explain the format and timeline of the event.
  • Let participants know where to direct questions and requests.
  • Designate a technical support moderator for participants to reach out to if they need assistance.

For questions or requests, such as booking a webinar license, please contact media_services@emerson.edu, or call us at 617-824-8676.

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