A self-service guide to hosting an online public event

There are many decisions that need to be made when deciding to run an event completely online. The following information is designed to help make these decisions easier.


We generally recommend using Zoom webinars for large-scale events where you need a great degree of control and moderation of audience interaction. Zoom webinars are user-friendly to run, free for University of Melbourne staff and can allow for a high degree of audience participation. Zoom webinars allow multiple presenters to join from remote locations while integrated Q&A, polling and chat features allow for maximising engagement opportunities with an audience.

Setting up a registered webinar allows you to capture audience details in advance while attendees automatically receive a calendar invite and reminders leading up to the start of the event.

  • Designed for presentations or panel discussions where a large audience may be in attendance (such as a lecture or seminar)
  • Audience questions can be moderated through a Q&A feature
  • Requires a separate license to be attached to a users account (via a request to the Staff Services portal)
  • Up to 500 attendees can join a webinar at one time (larger size webinars can be requested in special circumstances via the IT service desk)
  • By default, participants are not able activate their webcam and microphone unless authorised by a meeting host.
  • A Zoom webinar can be setup to allow for attendee registration so that the calendar invite, session link and reminders are automatically sent out to registered attendees

Steps on how to set up the event

Ensure that you practise running your session well in advance in order to become familiar with the systems so you can best self-support your event.

  1. For information on obtaining a license visit the knowledge base article Zoom - Setting up a webinar.
  2. Once your webinar license is allocated to your account, login via the University of Melbourne Zoom portal.
  3. Schedule a test event and add event description, branding, polling, alternative host and presenter emails. Enable the practise session so you can be ready before you broadcast.
  4. Send out the registration link to your attendees.
  5. Prior to your event, rehearse introductions as well as closing remarks.

Tips on lighting, clothes, backgrounds

  • Try not to be positioned with your back to a window, otherwise close any curtains or use another light to illuminate yourself
  • Wear clothes appropriate to the style of session
  • Make sure that you are in a quiet space and away from distractions
  • If you're comfortable showing your home workspace then this should show a clean, uncluttered and professional space. Otherwise, consider using the official University of Melbourne branded virtual backgrounds for Zoom
  • Use the virtual background feature to change the appearance of your location.

General tips


  • The success of a webinar can often be attributed to an effort ratio of 80% pre-production and 20% implementation. The more preparation you put into the organising of the session, the more your work will pay off later on.
  • We recommend that users set up Zoom webinars using the built-in registration feature so that only registered users can join the webinar.
  • If setting up a registered webinar, be sure to add branding elements to the registration page such as a banner, logo and speaker information. A post attendee URL and survey link can also be configured for after the event has finished.
  • If your event will have hundreds of attendees, make sure you have enough support staff to manage Q&A or chat. These staff can be added as panellists but with their audio and video muted they will be only active in the background.

Things that can work

  • Audience interaction through Q&A, chat and polling
  • Workshops and breakout rooms (up to 5 or 6 people can work well)
  • Birds of a feather discussions
  • Trivia quizzes
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Online networking sessions / get to know you

Things to avoid

  • Wall-to-wall live PowerPoint presentations with little to no audience interaction (perhaps replace with pre-recorded videos)
  • Try to avoid participants passively watching live content for extended periods without interaction, think about what you want attendees to take-away from attending
  • If having live presentations, make sure presenters stick to time by using a timer or bell

During the session

  • When switching from practice session to broadcast mode, there can be about a 10-20 second delay before attendees join the webinar. To allow for this it is recommended to hold off on any introductions and show a holding slide before unmuting the audio and video for the introduction.
  • The default view for attendees is active speaker view (voice switched) but they also have the ability to control what they see in their view in view settings.
  • Depending on how you want to manage audience interaction, it can be a good idea to keep the chat channel open for attendees to contact hosts and panelists in case of technical issues that attendees might have. On the other hand if you prefer to keep audience contact to the Q&A, you can set it to ‘No One’ so attendees won’t be able to communicate with panelists. Panelists can chat with each other no matter what that chat setting is set to.
  • It is recommended that the host do a cloud recording and another co-host or panellist make a local recording as a backup.
  • Zoom records audio at a low bit rate resulting in relatively low fidelity quality. To produce a higher quality of audio in the finished recording you can ask panellists to make a local voice memos recording on their own device. The original recorded audio can then replaced with the high quality captured audio (as long as someone is willing to edit it all together).
  • When showing slides on screen during the event, be sure to keep in mind any audience that may be watching the video on-demand at a later time. References to Q&A or housekeeping information related to the webinar may be best kept in the chat section which will not be shown in the recorded video.
  • If you interact with Q&A regularly throughout the webinar then you won't run the risk of running out of time and causing questions to go unanswered.
  • Make sure you rehearse how you plan to end the session. The recommended method is after any closing remarks are made, mute all the panellists video and audio but stay active in the text chat and/or Q&A. This allows for a few more minutes of audience comments or questions as attendees leave the webinar.

After the session

  • It's important to trim the start and end of the recorded video before uploading to your video hosting platform of choice. You may also wish to add a title or end slide to the video.

Support and resources

This page was last updated on 10 Aug 2020.

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