1. Brainstorm, set goal, GO!
Step one…throw caution to the wind and just start. Virtual programming may feel intimidating at first, but the possibilities for great programming are endless. Think about the services your organization offers and envision how those services can translate to the virtual world. This may be through a lecture series, an online forum discussing a community issue, a virtual exhibition, or a moderated art session. Choose a great topic that will encourage discussion and get started!

2. Become a Zoom Master*.
*Or the master of whatever virtual platform you’re using to host your program. Learn the software inside out before hosting your program (Google Meet, Join.me, Microsoft Teams, etc.)- how to mute, record, unmute, share screens, use the chat box, locate ‘raised hands’, the whole nine yards! The better you understand the software you’ll be utilizing, the smoother your program will run.

3. Conquer the technological divide by offering internet assistance to program attendees.
Now that you’ve taken the time to become a guru with the virtual platform you’re using, offer that expertise to your attendees! One of the main deterrents for patrons signing up for a virtual program is confusion about how to use different technologies. Providing a phone number for internet assistance alongside social media posts and other materials marketing the virtual program communicates to your patrons that you value their time and will provide them with a positive virtual experience.

4. Has anyone seen the IT guy?
Not only is there a possibility that attendees will experience technical difficulties, but the speakers in your program and the webinar program itself may require a helping hand. That’s where the most tech savvy person on staff factors in: make sure at least one staff member who understands the technology is present and able to throw on their cape and save the program at the first sign of distress.

5. Embrace the powers of the Mute Button.
The mute button, with its mystical silencing powers, will become your good friend. Mute all attendees whenever a speaker is presenting to limit background noise and interruptions. Just don’t forget to unmute attendees when it’s time for discussion!

6. Record the session…but let everyone know the session will be recorded.
Lights, camera, action! Recording virtual programs allows their community impact to extend to wider audiences. It’s important to gain consent before filming any participants. If any program attendee doesn’t want to be recorded, let them know that they can opt out by turning off their camera. It’s also important to have a conversation with your presenter prior to recording – they might not feel comfortable with your organization recording their talk if they make a living by giving presentations for a fee.

7. “Kathy, we can’t see you! Turn your camera on!”
Worry not, because all hope for meaningful connection during the virtual age is not lost! By requesting that all attendees, when applicable and able, turn their cameras on for the duration of the program, you will build a similar sense of connection that is achieved with face to face interaction. Attendees are more likely to engage with the program and discussion, so change out of your pajamas and turn the cameras on!

8. Surveys Galore
One of the most important aspects of hosting a fantastic program is finding out if the program was fantastic. With the new virtual format, exit surveys are a valuable way to gauge attendee interest and satisfaction with the program. Ask specific questions about the virtual aspects of the program, such as sound quality, ease of use with the webinar program, and visual quality. Use information gathered from surveys to improve future programming and retain attendance!

9. Have fun and remember your mission!
Although navigating these new virtual waters may be frustrating, don’t forget why we’re doing what we do: to deliver vital cultural programming for the communities who need it most. *Deep breath*, we’re all in this together. Now let’s host some amazing virtual programs!

Madeline Rhodes

Madeline Rhodes is a digital content creator for Florida Humanities and is currently a student at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg Campus.