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Virtual Events – Alumni Planning Guide

Virtual events provide an opportunity for Macalester alumni, students, parents, and friends to come together from around the world to build community and show their Mac spirit. If you’re interested in hosting or need help with planning a virtual event, we have provided some resources to help.

If you’re ready to plan your event, please contact the Alumni Engagement office at [email protected].

  • What type of virtual events could I host?

    • Social events: Happy hours or trivia games can be fun virtual meet-ups.
    • ‘How Tos’ or tutorials: Do you have a special skill? Share tips, tricks, and instructions in a virtual event, or interview an expert! Consider kicking things up a notch with a full-on class. For instance, yoga instructors and chefs can share exercise and cooking classes online.
    • Interviews or performances: TED-style talks, intimate interviews, stand-up comedy shows, and musical performances all make for great virtual events.
    • Behind the scenes access: Provide alumni and friends with a behind-the-scenes look at places like museums, galleries, theatres, parks, and more. Show viewers what it’s like to visit or work somewhere.

  • Are there certain parameters and best practices I should keep in mind?

    Virtual events should further connections between alumni, parents, families, and students to each other as well as with the college and local alumni communities. Ideally, all programs and events should do one or more of the following:

    • Promote the college community, networking, and inclusivity.
    • Be uniquely tailored to the needs of the college community and/or a specific group.
    • Connect alumni, parents, families, students, and/or friends with the college.

    Keep in mind that the Mac community is diverse, so consider different geographical locations and interests based on age, background, and college affiliation.

  • Hosting your event on Zoom

    Zoom is a popular option. Your staff partner in the Alumni Engagement office will set this up for you. Take into consideration the type of virtual event you will host. Depending on the scope and purpose, you can either host a meeting or a webinar.

    • If you expect attendees to primarily just listen, consider hosting a Zoom Video Webinar.
    • When you want more interaction between attendees, a Zoom Meeting is the better option.
    • Zoom is a free platform that you can use for your gathering for up to 45 minutes. If your event will be longer, please email the Alumni Engagement office at [email protected].

  • When should I host my event?

    Consider the day of the week, time, and audience: Do they span time zones? Avoid major holidays and keep in mind that as the volunteer event host, you need to be available to staff and manage your event.

    Your Alumni Engagement staff partner can also suggest potential dates to avoid conflicts with existing college events.

  • Who will be invited to my event?

    Think about who are you are hoping to connect with! Is the event for alumni and families in your regional network? Are you looking to connect across geography, identity, industry, or interest? Alumni Engagement staff will work with you to help develop a custom invitation list depending on the type of virtual event you are hosting.

  • How can I publicize and promote my event?

    The Alumni Engagement office can assist with promoting your event and will also help ensure that all communications are in alignment with the college’s graphic standards and identity guidelines.

    Event hosts are always encouraged to publicize and promote their events by:

    • Utilizing and posting on social media platforms. For example, creating and sharing a Facebook event, posting in your alumni network Facebook group and your respective class Facebook group (if applicable), and to your personal Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.

  • How can attendees register for my event?

    Alumni Engagement can create an event registration page to assist with collecting online registrations if provided with final details 4 or more weeks in advance of your event.

  • What are the expectations and responsibilities of a volunteer event host?

    As a volunteer event host, you are expected to:

    • Serve as primary point of contact throughout the planning process and be online as event manager for the duration of your event.
    • Promote and publicize your event in a variety of ways.
    • Serve as an ambassador of the college.
    • Maintain open and consistent communication with fellow volunteers and your Alumni Engagement partner.
    • Provide post-event feedback, including (but not limited to) what went well, number of attendees, and notable takeaways.

  • As a volunteer event host, what can I expect from my Alumni Engagement staff liaison?

    • Assistance with programmatic, promotional, and logistical details.
    • Open and consistent communication.
    • Advice on best practices, feedback, and collaboration.

  • Best Practices for Virtual Events

    Familiarize yourself with the Zoom platform. Here are some great resources:

    Audio & Video:

    • Test your audio and video by visiting
    • If you’ll be speaking, be sure to turn off notifications from messaging and other apps on your computer or device before the event begins.

    Host controls & functionality:

    • Review your host controls and settings ahead of time.
    • For Zoom meeting functionality, use “Gallery View” to see all of your attendees.
    • You can hide your own video tile (it can be so distracting!) by clicking on the ellipses (…) on your tile and selecting ‘Hide Myself.’
    • Utilize the ‘Share Screen’ function if you are presenting to make the experience more dynamic and engaging.
    • If there are multiple panelists or facilitators, consider a practice run.

    Looking your best:

    • Lighting should come from in front of you or from the side to best light your face.
    • Pay attention to hair and clothing; people can still see you.
    • Think about your background–make it interesting, but not distracting.
    • Put your camera at eye level or higher; experiment for the best angles.
    • Locate yourself in a place that is as free of distractions as possible. As a host, it will be very important that the event has your undivided attention.

    Eye contact & mannerisms:

    • Look at the camera! This takes a bit of getting used to because you will be tempted to look at the other participants’ faces, but try to look at the camera when you’re talking. This tactic will mimic the in person feeling of eye contact. It’s important to gauge reactions by looking at the screen, but alternating that with looking at the camera makes the audience feel like you’re really talking to them.
    • Use the gestures and mannerisms that you would typically use in person.