Event Virtual Meeting Guide [2020]

Guide to Virtual Meetings

Face-to-Face?  Virtual Meeting?  Or Both? 

We all know that a meeting or event is more effective and rewarding when conducted “face-to-face” with people interacting spontaneously during a discussion that is enhanced with non-verbal language delivered through body language, expressions, and gestures. Better business relationships are developed when face-to-face, making it more likely that better decisions will be made quicker. The results of a virtual meeting, although efficient and cost-effective, are just not as productive.

That said it is also undeniable that improvement in virtual meeting technology and the necessity to cut travel costs have moved virtual conferences and webinars into the mainstream.  They are here to stay.  The real advantage of this trend occurs when the hybrid approach is used?  Videotaping or live webcasting of face-to-face conferences for real-time or on-demand viewing by individuals and groups unable to personally attend increases the size of the overall audience, which is a huge benefit.

What exactly is a virtual meeting or event?

A Dictionary defines virtual as “being something in practice even if not in reality or not conforming to the generally accepted definition of the term.”  In other words, a virtual meeting is one that occurs when two or more people or groups of people are connected remotely for a meeting or event rather than personally attending at one meeting site.  The connection of different groups in different locations at the same time is made possible by using high-speed cable, phone lines, satellite or the Internet to transfer images, content and audio beyond the geographic location where the actual event is occurring.

Explanations about the different types of virtual meetings or events can be very confusing because terms describing them are often used interchangeably and inconsistently by event planners as well as those who provide the technical services necessary to produce them.   Additionally, the advancement in audiovisual and communications technology changes with the “speed of light” so it is extremely difficult for anyone who does not specialize in this field to stay current.

Real-time or on-demand viewing

All types of virtual meetings can be transmitted in real time (the same time that it is being produced live) or recorded for later, on-demand viewing after the program concludes.  The type of services you select, however, will determine the cost, the quality of the transmission, and whether the participants will be limited to one-way communication from speakers or performers to the audience or if there will be the capability of two-way interactivity.

Virtual Meeting Types

Type I.  Web conferencing

Web conferencing is an umbrella term used to describe the process of using the Internet and a web browser to connect individuals or groups together from separate geographic areas for educational or training webinars, collaborative online meetings, video conferencing, or live presentations – in real time.

Most online meetings and webinars using the Internet are simple to coordinate and manage – 

Once you become familiar and comfortable with the options available for scheduling and monitoring online meetings and webinars through a service provider, you can coordinate and monitor them independently.  If you are really brave, you may want to try setting up and conducting one on your own without using a service provider.  But keep in mind that there is always a chance of disruption or failure when transferring images and content over the Internet to remote sites, so it is best to wait until you have managed a few virtual meetings with the support of an experienced co-worker or an audio-visual (AV) professional before you try to go it alone.

Complex or sophisticated virtual meetings will require audiovisual and communications specialists –

If filming multiple sessions that are occurring simultaneously at a conference or scheduling a video conference with sophisticated requirements, a professional contractor will be required for the best results.  Portable consoles that contain all the necessary equipment and interfaces for small, informal video conferencing can be used and operated by trained in-house staff.  BUT, remember that this field is highly specialized, and it would be unrealistic and risky for you to try to coordinate any type of virtual meeting that must meet high standards and expectations without the expertise of an audiovisual contractor.  CONSULT WITH THEM EARLY before you choose the site for a live event(s).  Audiovisual requirements will affect your room capacity and set up.

Type II.  Private Wide Area Network (WAN)

Not all virtual meetings occur over the Internet, however.  Many large corporations have established private, Wide Area Networks (WAN) that are connected directly using high-speed cable or telephone lines to their various offices across the city or the nation from each other.  These private WAN’s extend access to documents and records beyond the company’s local area network (LAN) of computers to those in other areas.  WAN’s can also provide videoconferencing capability to those offices with adequate high speed lines to support it.

Type III.  Satellite Broadcasting

Satellite broadcasting is another method of conducting virtual meetings among several different physical sites simultaneously, and it is the most reliable!  Because of the expense of satellite time and the technical staff required, however, satellite broadcasting is usually limited to live, one-way communication from a presenter or a panel of speakers or performers to audiences in other locations.  When planning to broadcast a large event in real time by satellite, it will be necessary to contract with a trusted and reliable audio visual service professional who will guide you in making the best and most cost-effective decisions based on the goals and objectives of your broadcast.  They can contract with you to make all arrangements for you or to guide you through the entire process by recommending the equipment and technical expertise needed, offering satisfactory options if your budget is limited, verifying that adequate high speed connections exist to support media streaming at all points, and to be by your side as a problem solver from start to finish.

Real-time or on-demand –
Presentations from almost any type of virtual meeting can be viewed in real time or recorded for on-demand viewing at a later time.

How to Create Effective Virtual Meeting Checklists

A virtual meeting or event checklist will prove invaluable when you begin contacting on-line service providers, audio visual or communications professionals, and conference centers, universities, hotels or other venue types.  It will help clarify and organize your thoughts so that your initial inquiries or Requests for Proposals will be both informative and direct, giving a clear picture of your needs and helping everyone respond to you more quickly and accurately.   It will also remind you of the multitude of tasks that need to be accomplished before, during and after your meeting or event.

Standard information required will include, of course, the type of virtual meeting you want to host or conduct, the date, time and time zone, the results you hope to achieve, a realistic number of participants who will attend, the level of collaboration required (how many will attend and at what level of participation), and how many physical sites need to be connected.  Your checklist will be a work in progress and should be updated with new or revised tasks as they become apparent.

Your checklist will keep you on track and out of trouble, and it will serve as the catalyst for creating an accurate timeline to keep you and other team members on schedule.  The timeline will vary for each type of virtual meeting since some, such as satellite broadcasting, will require much more advance planning and commitment than an on-line meeting.


Online Meetings

Web-based software makes it easy to set-up and conduct online meetings.  The process is similar to making advance arrangements for a telephone conference call through an Internet service provider.  Charges will be based on the type of services you request for collaborative sessions and if you prefer to have online tech support during the meeting to monitor and troubleshoot.

Software applications for online meetings are typically designed to accommodate up to 25 attendees who can sign-in from separate locations to an “online meeting room.”  Packages for the service will vary, but most will provide capabilities for two-way voice interaction between all participants as they view the same content.  Add-on features allow editing of shared documents or whiteboards from their own desktops or wireless devices for all to see in real time during the online session.  Most online meetings can be recorded for later, on-demand viewing.

An “online meeting room” can be scheduled once a monthly or annual plan is confirmed with a service provider.  It may be possible to arrange one-time-only sessions if you sign up for a monthly plan then deactivate automatic renewals after each session.  Unless you select a plan that guarantees the availability of the meeting room on short notice or whenever you need it, there may be times when a meeting room will not be available on the day and time you want to schedule it.

Cost-effective plans are available for online meetings that can accommodate up to 15 participants.

Online Meeting Advantages –  

  • Cost effective
  • Convenient and easy to set up
  • No long distance travel required
  • No specialized equipment required
  • Can be set-up with little advance notice based on the availability of online meeting room
  • Easy to set-up electronically to host or conduct
  • On-site tech support optional
  • Easy access from most desktops, laptops and some mobile devices
  • Numerous features available to select for the level of collaboration preferred
  • Meetings can be recorded for on-demand viewing

Online Meeting Disadvantages –

  • Internet speed must be adequate on all computers to avoid lag time or distortion
  • The number of participants who can be seen as well as heard will be limited
  • Long distance telephone charges may be incurred if Internet calling unavailable
  • An annual plan necessary to guarantee unlimited access to online meeting rooms
  • Not all web browsers will work the same
  • Materials may not display accurately on all computers
  • Not all applications will accommodate Mac computers or mobile devices

For Online Meeting, You will need to –

  • Make reservations through an online service provider
  • Determine in advance the collaboration tools needed for each session (EX: document-sharing)
  • Make adjustments electronically to add or change features to be used
  • Provide webcam if streaming video from originating location is to be included
  • Provide a link to a web-based application or a software download for all participants
  • Provide telephone or computer microphone for audio input
  • Determine registration, payment and confirmation procedures if not included in package
  • Verify that detailed instructions and contact info for questions are distributed in advance to all participants
  • Develop your own detailed checklist using Planning Helper’s free sample as guideline

Training Webinar

A training webinar is similar to an educational webinar using the Internet, but access will be limited to a smaller number and more features will be available for two-way interaction and document sharing between the instructor and the audience.  Instructors can upload materials in advance for participants to access, and re-usable documents such as exams and evaluation forms can be stored for future sessions.  Interaction through audio conferencing by phone or Internet call is possible as well as full desktop or document sharing, interactive whiteboarding and more.  Keyboard and mouse control can easily be transferred from one instructor to another.  Participants can “chat” or respond to questions using a keyboard.   Most applications provide the capability for post-session evaluations, tests and reports, and sessions can be recorded for on-demand review.

Monthly or annual plans are available on a sliding scale based on the number of participants from 25 to 200.

Training Webinar Advantages –  

  • Convenient and easy
  • Can be set-up with little advance notice based on availability of on-line meeting room
  • Inexpensive based upon number of participants and sites
  • Cost based on sliding scale per number of learners in group plus optional features
  • Choice of various two-way collaborative features available
  • No long distance travel required
  • No specialty equipment required
  • Easy to set-up electronically to host or conduct after initial orientation
  • On-site tech support may not be necessary
  • Invitations, full-service registration and reminders may be automatically generated
  • Pass-control from one trainer to another during session is possible
  • Training materials can be uploaded for advance access by registered participants
  • Reusable documents can be stored for future use
  • Pre-webinar practice sessions may be included in package deal
  • Expands the audience to those who would not attend personally
  • Webinars can be recorded for viewing on-demand for those unable to participate in real time

Training Webinar Disadvantages –

  • Audio usually limited to voice-over from instructor but two-way voice interactivity possible
  • Long distance telephone charges may incur if two-way voice interactivity is enabled
  • Participants will not see each other
  • Mobile devices are not ideal for collaborative sessions
  • An annual plan necessary to guarantee unlimited access to on-line meeting rooms
  • Not all web browsers work the same
  • Materials may not display accurately on all computers
  • Not all applications will accommodate Mac computers or mobile devices
  • Internet speed must be adequate at all connecting points to avoid lag time or distortion

Training Webinar, You will need to –

  • Make arrangements through an on-line service provider
  • Choose a standard set-up and make changes electronically if new features needed per session
  • Provide a link to a web-based application or a software download for all participants
  • Verify computer microphone available for audio input
  • Provide webcam if streaming video from originating location is to be included
  • Verify payment procedures if not included in package
  • Give advance notice to participants of computer system and high-speed Internet requirements
  • Verify that detailed instructions and contact info for questions distributed in advance to all participants
  • Develop your own detailed checklist using Planning Helper’s free sample as a guideline


A webcast or web event is a broadcast that is conducted using the Internet rather than a satellite for transmitting to audiences anywhere in the world where access to adequate high-speed Internet is available.  Presentations can be filmed live on video camera(s) and broadcast in real time using streaming media technology (video, sound and data) to remote audiences or viewed on-demand by individuals or groups at a later time.  Contracting with a trusted and reliable audio visual service provider is highly recommended.  Bring them into the planning process early and rely on their recommendations for the equipment and services needed for the best results.

Interactivity between groups at different locations over the Internet is complex, so webcasts are primarily used for one-way transfer of information filmed live of a keynote address, panel of speakers, performance, general session, and so on.  Although image quality and reliability are always at risk when broadcasting video over the Internet, webcasting is less costly than transmitting to a private Wide Area Network (WAN) or a satellite.  Verification in advance of adequate Internet speed at each connecting site will be vitally important, and a back-up plan must be in place in case there is a disruption or failure of the broadcast.

Registration and access to the webcast will typically be handled by your own resources using your database and registration software or spreadsheets.  It is possible for individuals to produce informal webcasts without the assistance of professional tech support, but for most business or high level purposes it is advisable to rely on professionals to produce and troubleshoot your event.

Cost of a webcast or web event is dependent upon the level of technical expertise and equipment required to produce the type of event you desire, plus the meeting or event facilities needed if production is to occur before a live audience for distribution in real time to other groups.   Webcasts or web events can also be viewed by an unlimited number of participants from desktop computers or mobile devices once they receive a direct link or access code.

Webcast Advantages – 

  • Less expensive than satellite broadcasting
  • Great way to reach a large number of participants gathered in multiple locations
  • Webcast can be transmitted in real time to large or small groups gathered in various locations
  • Also possible to view in real time by individuals sitting at computers or using mobile devices
  • Ideal for one-way communication of keynote speeches, general sessions, panel discussions, etc.
  • Webcast can be recorded for access on-demand by groups or individuals

Webcast Disadvantages – 

  • Professional audio visual and communications specialists required for high level results
  • Specialized equipment and adequate bandwidth required for media streaming over the Internet
  • Higher risk of disruption, distortion or failure of transfer when using the Internet rather than satellite
  • Standard Definition (SD) images may degenerate if enlarged to fit room-sized screens
  • Two-way interactivity between audience(s) and the presenter(s) will be limited or non-existent
  • Qualified troubleshooters recommended at every group receiving sites
  • A backup program advisable in case webcast transmission is interrupted or unsuccessful
  • Can be very expensive depending on how many sites are to receive the broadcast
  • Not all web browsers will work the same

For Webcast, You will need to –

  • Contract with trusted audio visual professionals for high level results
  • Consult with them early in your planning process before a site selection for production is finalized
  • Select a light- and temperature-controlled environment for production room or auditorium
  • Provide video camera(s) – can be stationery, remote-controlled or free-standing
  • Arrange for microphones, audio speaker system, sound mixer, adjustable or specialty lighting
  • Verify adequate broadband width is available for transfer of High Definition (HD) video over the Internet
  • Select appropriate projector for type of video used – Standard Definition (SD) or High definition (HD)
  • Arrange for computer monitors and/or audio visual screens for group viewers
  • Give advance notice to viewers of computer system and high-speed Internet requirements
  • Verify that detailed instructions and contact info for questions distributed in advance to all presenters
  • Develop your own detailed checklist using Planning Helper’s free sample as a guideline


Video conferencing enables two groups to connect from separate locations over the Internet or directly through an organization’s private Wide Area Network (WAN) that allows all participants to see, hear and speak to each other almost as if everyone were in one room. Standard videoconferencing is easy to set up and can be done in small conference rooms or large auditoriums.

Internet video conferencing – 
The improved reliability and low cost of video conferencing over the Internet has made it commonplace.  Problems will occur if bandwidth is not certified to be adequate enough at all sites to provide high-speed transfer of video, audio and data.  If bandwidth is not adequate, lag time, distortion or failure of a session will occur.  If High Definition (HD) of images is desired, greater bandwidth will be necessary.  The Internet is a public WAN (Wide Area Network) that spans a global geographical area and enables video conferencing between remote locations anywhere in the world that can provide adequate bandwidth to support it.

Direct video conferencing without the Internet – 

Although expensive, a private WAN (Wide Area Network) can connect with an organization’s Local Area Networks (LAN) to enable video conferencing of groups located in separate offices of that organization within a city or a region or across the nation. These WANs are created using high-speed copper or fiber-optic cable or telephone lines.  All locations of the network must be set-up to receive video transmission at the same rate of speed, and both Standard Definition (SD) and High Definition (HD) image quality requires significant bandwidth.   There is less risk to the quality of images, content and data being transferred by hard-wire than across the Internet for video conferencing.  Lag time or disruption can occur, however, if other business applications in the same network create traffic congestion.  Provisions can be made to ensure priority access for video conferences over other business applications if preferred.

Video conferencing in large rooms – 

It is possible to produce a video conference in large rooms equipped with self contained, permanently installed consoles.  These units house all necessary components and interfaces including remote controlled video cameras, omni-directional microphones that pick up sound from any direction, and projectors for display on a large screen.   Although these self-contained consoles can be operated successfully by trained in-house personnel or volunteers, it is highly recommended that the services of an audio visual specialist be on-hand to handle all but the most routine aspects of your video conferencing needs.  For complex presentations, professional camera operators and audio visual technicians and additional equipment will be required to minimize risk of disruption or failure and to ensure the most successful video conferencing experience.

Video conferencing in small rooms – 
Portable consoles that contain less expensive equipment such as a stationary video camera, unidirectional microphones and a TV monitor are available for video conferencing in small office and hotel conference rooms.  Specific seating arrangements of the audience will be required to accommodate the position of stationary cameras and to ensure that everyone who is to participate can be seen and heard.

Cost will vary based on type of facility used for the video conference and the type of equipment and technical support requested.

Video Conferencing Advantages – 

  • Eliminates the need for participants to travel long distances to participate
  • Participants can see, hear and interact with each other as though meeting in the same room
  • Body language and gestures can be visible if within video camera range
  • Easy to set-up for regular use if portable or installed equipment is available in-house
  • Choice of various two-way collaborative features available
  • On-site tech support may not be necessary if in-house staff is experienced
  • Can be recorded for review or on-demand viewing for anyone who cannot attend in real time

Video Conferencing Disadvantages –

  • Video conferencing over the Internet can be troublesome without sufficient bandwidth (high speed)
  • Video conferencing over a private WAN is more reliable than the Internet but more expensive to an organization
  • More complex to arrange and conduct than on-line meetings or webinars
  • Adequate bandwidth must be verified at each participating site to reduce the risk of lag time or disruption
  • Tech support for set-up and troubleshooting advisable unless video conference is of a routine nature
  • Equipped meeting space in an office building, hotel or conference center required at all participating sites
  • Participants are less relaxed and spontaneous in front of a camera than face-to-face
  • Body language is visible only when video camera captures every participant
  • Eye-to-eye contact is simulated but ineffective
  • Can be expensive if equipment not already leased or purchased
  • TelePresence is the only life-like video conference technology available today

Video Conferencing, You will need – 

  • Conference rooms or auditoriums equipped with high speed interface that is adequate at each site
  • Microphones, video cameras, TV monitors, loudspeakers, camera operators OR
  • Self-contained portable or installed consoles for small conference rooms OR
  • Self-contained installed console for large conference rooms
  • Backup tech support available at each site advisable
  • Trusted audio visual service provider to produce complex or sophisticated video conferences
  • Advance notice to viewers of computer system and high-speed Internet requirements
  • Detailed instructions and contact info sent in advance to all presenters and participants
  • Your own detailed checklist using Planning Helper’s free sample as a guideline

Tips for participants – 

  • Avoid wearing patterns or the colors red, white or black – solid pastels are safer and more flattering
  • Show up early to become accustomed to the set-up and familiarize yourself with the procedure
  • To avoid discomfort in front of the camera(s), pretend that everyone participating is in the same room
  • To simulate eye contact, look directly into the camera being used (red light will be on) when you are speaking
  • Practice relaxing your facial features and try to smile when appropriate so you appear natural and not stiff
  • Be mindful that any small sound will be magnified by microphones and can be disruptive or embarrassing
  • Try to avoid shuffling papers, sniffling, tapping your foot, doodling, or other nervous habits

Satellite Broadcasts

Individuals or groups of people located in separate geographic areas can be connected to the same live presentation in real time by uplinking video, sound and data signals from a production site to a satellite in space then downlinking to a receiving dish at one site (point-to-point) or to dishes at multiple sites (multi-point).  Point-to-point broadcasts are relatively straightforward; multi-point broadcasts are more complex and expensive.  A distinct advantage of satellite broadcasting is the reliability of the transmission and the superior quality of images, sound and data received.  It is used primarily for one-way communication to an audience with little or no interaction with the presenters.

An audio visual and/or communications service provider will be required to guide you through the decision-making process and to provide the equipment, technical support and services needed before, during and after (if recorded for on-demand viewing) the broadcast.
Satellite broadcasting is very expensive due to the cost of satellite time plus the number and expertise of staff required to plan, produce, conduct and monitor it, but it is the most reliable method used for one-way virtual meetings.

Cost can be minimized if broadcasting can be conducted on a university campus that offers the services.

Satellite Broadcasts Advantage – 

  • The most reliable method for transferring high definition (HD) video to large audiences in multiple locations
  • Cost can be minimized somewhat if college or university uplink sites are available to you
  • Presentations can be viewed clearly anywhere in the world in real time

Satellite Broadcasts Disadvantage – 

  • Satellite broadcasting can be very expensive due to equipment, technical staff and satellite time required
  • Short lag-times can occur from the uplink to and downlinks from the satellite
  • Each receiving location will require an installed satellite dish
  • Arrangements must be made well in advance rather than last minute

You will need –

  • An audio visual or communications service provider to set-up, produce and monitor the broadcast
  • Technical support and a back-up plan for each location that is to receive the broadcast for a large audience
  • Advance notice to desktop or mobile device viewers of computer system requirements
  • Verify that detailed instructions and contact info for questions distributed in advance to all presenters
  • Develop your own detailed checklist using Planning Helper’s free sample as a guideline

Video Calls

Not so long ago video calls were limited to one-on-one communication with little advance preparation required except as noted below.  For that reason, these calls were not considered as a virtual meeting type for group business purposes.  However, the technology has advanced quickly making the transfer and quality of images more reliable and more desirable for broader business purposes.  Capabilities have improved to enable group video calls connecting individuals from different locations and mobile applications have been developed for the iPhone and other hand-held devices.  Clearly, video calls have become more important to the business sector.

Participants on a video call can be seen on computer or videophone monitors while they are speaking, which automatically makes the communication more engaging and meaningful than a standard call.  Each participant must first have the same software downloaded on their devices to enable both audio and visual functions.  Calls can then be placed by using a computer keyboard or telephone depending on the software capability.  When connected, a small number of people can cluster in front of a webcam that will transmit images over the Internet.

Cost for video call service is minimal and software can be free.

Video Calls Advantages – 

  • Basic services free
  • Easy – no setup required
  • Free software available for basic connection and image transfer
  • Software upgrades available for better reliability and images
  • Visual and audio contact more meaningful and engaging than only audio contact
  • OK for informal business communications

Video Calls Disadvantages –

  • Poor image quality
  • Reliability of video transfer at high risk
  • Lag time from an origination point to receiving point probable
  • Limited number of participants visible at one time
  • All participants must download the same software

Sending and receiving parties will need –

  • PC computer with a webcam (built-in or separate) OR a mobile videophone
  • Microphone or telephone for voice communication
  • Audio speakers
  • Internet connection
  • Video-call software
  • Upgrade to a high quality webcam, dual processor PC, high-speed broadband for better reliability and images

About the Author

Susan has managed high-profile events for IBM, GE, and other Fortune 500 companies. She has organized fundraisers, large festivals, and promotional events. Now, she is a blogger and speaks about event planning topics

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