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Best Practices and Tips

A collection of best practices and tips have been compiled to serve as checklists in your virtual event planning.

Tech, Video and Audio

Software Connectivity

  • When using equipment or locations not regularly used, test your meeting connections in advance. 
  • When possible, establish online video conferencing connections several minutes before the meeting start time. (Recommend at least 15 mins prior) 
  • Create a backup communication plan for trouble connecting with remote participants. 

○ A backup plan can include asking participants to connect to the meeting through their laptops, having the mobile app downloaded and ready for use, and a dial-in option for last resort. 

○ To ensure stability and to clear up last-minute confusion, schedule dry-runs and rehearsals, as well as having panelists/moderators arriving 15 minutes early to the gathering. 

  • If possible, connect your laptop to an ethernet port on your router or cable box log in with your NetID and password. Your account will be provisioned automatically.
  • Disconnect as many devices as possible from your wifi to try to minimize disruption to your signal. 
  • Plan a prep call and/or trial-run using the opted format. Make sure all speakers are in the location they plan to take the meeting and check for any connectivity issues or potential location disturbances. 
  • Clearly communicate with attendees and speaker(s) in advance to set the virtual meeting norms and expectations (i.e. muted until Q&A, level of audience participation, timeline of event, login details, etc.).

Sound & Setting

  • Find a quiet area with little echo for your presentation.
  • Choose a professional setting such as a desk or home office with limited personal items in the background.
  • If there is not a suitable or professional setting available, choose a plain wall as a backdrop.
  • Avoid distractions. No moving objects, pets, people, or personal items that may cause viewers to lose focus.
  • Ensure there is no propaganda or other political messaging or symbols, from any country, within the frame of vision.
  • If you will be seated as an individual during your presentation, place your recording device about 1 foot to 2 feet away from you and raise up/angle as needed to bring camera of device to eye level.
  • Three to six feet is the suggested distance from you to the nearest wall behind you. 
  • Position yourself directly in the center of your video's frame, and have your computer at or near eye level. If you have a laptop books can help elevate your computer. 


  • Situate yourself in a well-lit area. Seek natural or artificial light sources. 
  • If using artificial lighting, reduce face shadowing by balancing light in front and to the sides.
  • Avoid backlighting, which will cause you to appear as a silhouette.
  • If there are windows in your room, have them to the left, right or front of your setup.

Contingency Plans

  • Have email addresses of participants available to contact them if the event cannot proceed as originally planned due to technical issues or any other circumstances. 
  • Designate someone other than the host/presenters as a technical contact to help handle and mitigate connection or functionality issues for attendees. 

For Presenters


  • Practice your speech/presentation several times before going ‘live,’ for confidence in delivery and timing purposes. 
  • Test the virtual meeting platform with all staff, students that plan to present.
  • Designate additional staff (non-presenters) to serve as tech/functionality support and manage comments/Q & A, if part of your program.
  • Clearly communicate a meeting agenda in advance with attendees as well as virtual meeting expectations such as muted audio, Q & A, level of audience participation, timeline of event, login details, etc.
  • Consider using photos, infographics or other visual aids in any presentation materials.


  • Avoid stripes or complex patterns. Checks, extremes stripes or dramatic herringbone patterns tend to appear to vibrate on screen.
  • Solid colors are best. Colors that work well are purple, shades of gray, blues. White is not ideal, nothing extremely bright. 
  • Be professional but comfortable. If you rarely wear a tie/scarf while speaking then do not wear one for your virtual presentation.
  • Have back-up attire ready and available in case of a stain prior to filming.
  • Wear non-reflective glasses if possible and avoid noisy, shiny jewelry. 

While Presenting

  • Use an external microphone if possible to offset background noise and communicate clearly.
  • Mute yourself when you are not talking.
  • If screen sharing, close unnecessary windows and clear browsers or bookmarks that may be distracting.
  • Locate your computer or external camera and maintain as much ‘eye contact’ as possible.
  • Keep your energy up to stay engaging.

Engagement Strategies and Ideas

Student Participation/Acknowledgement

  • Invite students to share photos and favorite memories from their time at Northwestern. These can be vetted and shared on your department website in slide format or in a video, if resources allow. 
  • Create a competition or challenge to students such as cap design/decorations or artwork that best illustrates their Northwestern experience.
  • Ask students to contribute to a time capsule that can be stored within the department when staff return to campus.
  • Invite Students to speak/presents at your event.
  • Invite students to wear regalia and/or NU spirit wear.
  • Create a blog to allow students to story tell and say goodbyes to faculty/friends.
  • Depending on the number of graduates, a roll-call of names.

Speaker Messages

  • Text/Video Advice from Alumni
  • Text Video Messages from Faculty
  • Create a blog to allow faculty to story tell and say goodbyes to students

Social Media

  • Create hashtags for Twitter/Instagram and ask students to post photos and reactions during your events/graduation weekend.
  • Encourage students to connect with the Northwestern Alumni group on LinkedIn.
  • Encourage students to ‘Like’ your department/program Facebook page and share photos/posts.
  • Leverage these platforms for any photo/video creative contests in advance, during and after your events/graduation weekend. 

End-of-year celebrations

Department- Level Events Calendar

End-of-year celebrations should be added to the Weinberg College Events Calendar to minimize overlap. A reminder that events should avoid a blackout period between 11:00 a.m. and 2 p.m. CST when Commencement and school virtual ceremonies will take place.

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