Report: How to host a virtual event in the age of Coronavirus — Arena

Apr 16, 2020

Report: How to host a virtual event in the age of Coronavirus

We hosted a 150-person immersive training entirely online -- and you can too.

Johannah King-Slutzky

In late March, Arena hosted an online training with 150 participants called Arena Academy. Arena Academies are typically five-day immersive in-person training programs for current and aspiring campaign staff. The program ends with a multi-day exercise called Arena Cup in which participants form teams to produce campaign plans based on real district data. 

By the time Coronavirus hit, we had two weeks to take the event virtual. 

As long as social distancing is in effect, campaigns and nonprofits will need to stage large events similar to Arena Academy. To make that transition easier, we’re sharing our report on how we successfully converted our large in-person training, Arena Academy, to the virtual event called Arena Academy Online.


This report covers conceptualizing your event, recommended technology and settings, staff infrastructure, onboarding processes for staff and volunteers, and best practices once you go live.

A few of our topline suggestions:

  • Train event leaders and participants how to use the tech ahead of time
  • Be conscientious about how you adapt your curriculum and use technology to your advantage
  • Provide staff infrastructure to support speakers so they can focus on the content and not the technology. We created a role called “Zoom hosts” for this purpose which you can read more about in the report
  • Push attendees to breakout rooms for more personal interaction and welcome guest speakers in a virtual “green room” to acclimate them ahead of time
  • Take advantage of Zoom’s built-in features to create personal interaction, especially the chat bar, breakout rooms and Zoom polls

This report will be most useful for events that are at least 50 people.  For events smaller than 50, we’ve also included summary learnings at the end of the report that you may find helpful.

If you anticipate putting together a virtual event, I invite you to learn from our experience. I can’t begin to tell you how pleased we were with the result -- a source of happiness (and relief) I hope you and your organization will soon share.

Like what you see? Sign up for updates on Arena Academy and other campaign resources at arena.run/subscribe

Plus, check out Arena Toolbox, our suite of just-in-time campaign solutions, and Arena Careers, our jobs-matching board for progressive campaigns and their staff.

Next

Still in the Arena