Facilitating Online Events

Overview


Facilitating online events will certainly be very different from running in-person events, but it doesn’t diminish the need for an experienced and skilful event facilitator.

You will still be expected to lead activities and emcee the event, just in a different format. Since the event is 100% online, there will be an aspect of technology management involved. 

To ensure everything goes smoothly and that the online crowd stays engaged, it is important for the facilitator to get to know all the tools that will be used during the event as soon as possible. Thorough tech checks and rehearsals should also be carried out at least a week in advance to avoid any issues.

Facilitator Deck

Remember to make a copy of the Techstars Startup Weekend Facilitator Deck Template for your online event.

Responsibilities during the event

Review and familiarize yourself with key responsibilities during the event.

Friday

Remember to be online early, with enough time to:

  • Complete a walk-through with the organizing team

  • Run through the tech checks on all tools and platforms

  • Identify any red flags.

It’s important to start the event on time and follow the schedule. If you find that you lose time during one activity, make up for that time during a later session. 

As you may very well know, Friday night can be both thrilling and terrifying for the participants. Many might be nervous about their 60-second pitches or staying engaged online throughout the session. We recommend a short icebreaker activity to help get everyone settled in and socializing once you start your opening presentation. 

Opening presentation: The main goals of the Friday kick-off presentation are for participants to:

  • Understand what Startup Weekend is and what Techstars is

  • Understand how the weekend will work

  • Pitch their ideas 

  • Form teams

  • Feel welcome and comfortable in the space and with other participants.

Facilitator To Do’s:

  • Coordinating/presenting the introduction and Friday slide deck

  • Leading ice-breaking games (if applicable)

  • Managing the pitch process

  • Managing the voting process

  • Managing the team formation process.

Introductions and stories: Using your facilitator deck, you’ll begin by introducing yourself, the Organizing Team, talk about the goal of Startup Weekend, and include a success story to demonstrate the impact of the event and to inspire participants. Please ensure that you’re using the most up to to date facilitator deck template and adhere to our branding rules and guidelines.

Housekeeping: Next, review housekeeping items such as the event Code of Conduct and guides on how to use various tools and platforms. Review Online Event Tools and Platform Etiquette here.

Event team: Share information about the sponsors, speakers, mentors, judges, and volunteers.

Speaker intro: If applicable, introduce your keynote speaker. 

Ice-breaker: Following the speaker, it’s time for an ice-breaker activity. You can use our recommended tool Icebreaker. If you do use the Icebreaker tool, make sure you set it up beforehand.

60-second pitches prep: Here you want to go through the elements of a good pitch from your deck:

  • State who you are and what your background is

  • Explain the problem that you’re going to solve

  • Explain the idea or product and how it solves the problem

  • Indicate what skill sets you need on the team like a developer, marketer, or designer

  • And lastly, provide a name for your startup.

We recommend giving a sample pitch to demonstrate the elements of a good pitch. Please encourage all to pitch, no matter how they feel about their idea being picked. Participants never regret pitching, but they might regret not using the opportunity to practice pitching. 

Pitches time: Now, it’s time to pitch! Give participants a couple of minutes to join the Video hosting platform and ask for those who are not speaking to mute their mics.

Voting prep: Make sure the assigned organizing team member shares the Idea Voting Form and Clear instructions with participants. Ensure that all ideas have clear descriptions and the idea owner’s name.

Voting support: The organizing team should share the Idea Voting form with participants to vote on their top three ideas. The ideas with the most votes will be worked on throughout the weekend. Make sure that there is around 1 idea per 6-8 participants.

Top selected ideas announcement: Once the top ideas have been selected, bring everyone back into the livestream room. Announce all the ideas and invite each idea owner to do their 1 minute pitch again (if time allows).

Tips & Tricks

  • Remind the idea owner to mention what skillsets they are looking to add on to their team

  • Have someone from the organizing team responsible for muting / unmuting participants, to avoid having any background noise.

Form teams: The organizing team should share team formation instructions on the event communication platform, participants will have until Saturday 9am to form teams. Check to see that everyone has joined a team.

Mentor Signup Session: The organizing team should share the Mentor Signup sheet and announce the process with participants. Teams will have until Saturday 10am to sign up. 

Friday wrap up: After top ideas have been announced and before everyone heads away from the main presentation area, review the Saturday schedule, kick-off time and links, and anything else participants should remember for the next day. 

Saturday

The main goals for Saturday are for participants to:

  • Understand what needs to be accomplished before Sunday night

  • Understand the mentoring process

  • Build out their MVP

  • Start working on their presentation.

Facilitator To Do’s:

  • Host a morning kick-off session outlining the plan for the day (optional, but strongly recommended)

  • Check-in with teams

  • Sync-up with Mentors

  • Keep up the energy—engaging participants in communication on the platform, scheduling team status updates, facilitating a networking activity Sometimes, running a session for a mindful moment is necessary to help reset upset feelings of exhaustion, stress, and anxiety.

Morning welcome and announcements: Review the day’s activities during your morning announcements, and remind participants of:

  • Virtual venue information

  • The day’s agenda

  • Speakers and workshops if applicable

  • Who the mentors are and what the mentoring process will look like 

  • Reminder on team registration information

  • Reminder on mentor signup session deadline

  • Needing to focus on customer-validation and building their MVP.

Judging Criteria: Either during your morning address to participants or during a later scheduled workshop and address each piece of the judging criteria in detail. You can see the full description of the judging criteria here.  

Connect with teams: Once teams have had a chance to settle in and start building their products, take some time to join team channels and check in with the teams.

This is a good opportunity to remind teams to register their team information. The organizing team is responsible for creating the Team Registration Form. If they haven’t already done so, remind teams to sign up for mentor sessions. A Mentor Signup sheet should also be created and shared by the organizing team.

A large part of your responsibilities during Saturday is to coordinate and support mentors.

Even though the mentors would have typically reviewed mentor expectations and best practices before the weekend, they may have questions - make sure that you have reviewed these guidelines ahead of time so that you can answer any questions they might have.

You can remind mentors that teams may need the most help with their business model, customer validation, and market strategies. We would ask for mentors to work with what the team presents and gently steer pivots where appropriate. 

Please assist the organizing team with facilitating introductions between teams and mentors.

Check-in: Sometime in the afternoon, check-in with the teams about their mentor experience and progress. Encourage teams to start putting together a presentation deck for Sunday pitches if they’ve not started to do so already.

Day 2 Wrap up: To close the day, remind teams what time the Kick-off session starts on Sunday, and that everyone has to have their Final Pitch Video and presentation Deck submitted on Sunday by 3pm. Also, take some time to acknowledge their hard work and accomplishments so far!  

Sunday

Sunday is an exciting and nerve-racking day for the participants and it’s important to kick off the day with enthusiasm and encouragement. 

The main goals for Sunday are for participants to:

  • Continue working and improve their idea based on mentors feedback

  • Finalize, practice, and submit their final presentation 

  • Celebrate all the hard work! 

Facilitator To Do’s:

  • Host a morning kick-off session outlining the plan for the final day (optional, but strongly recommended)

  • Check-in with teams

  • Remind team about the Final Pitch Submission process and deadline

  • Sync-up with Mentors (if any)

  • Keep up the energy - engaging participants in communication on the platform, scheduling team status updates, facilitating a networking activity.

Morning announcements: During your morning announcements, please remember to go through:

  • The day’s agenda 

  • The judging criteria

  • Who the judges are

  • The final pitch submission process

  • The pitch process

  • The prizes, if applicable

  • Information about the post-event celebration, if applicable.

Final Pitch Submission: You’ll make sure that each team has submitted their final pitch video and presentation deck via the form shared by the organizing team. You’ll also help to instruct the teams where to be during and after the pitch.

Judges: Invite all judges to a call before the judging session, once everyone has arrived take a moment to introduce yourself and make sure that they receive a copy of the judging form and criteria. Run through the schedule for the evening and the judging process with them. You will be their point of contact and guide throughout the process. 

Time to pitch!: All teams will join the judges live and pitch their ideas. 

During your pitches kick-off presentation, using your facilitator deck:

  • Welcome all guests who came to watch the pitches

  • Acknowledge the global and local sponsors, organizing team, volunteers, and mentors.

  • Introduce the judges

  • Explain the pitch process and judging criteria

  • Mention any prizes 

  • Share information for the post-event party.

Judges guide: After the final judges’ Q&A, invite judges to the final judging review call. Once the judges make a decision on the winners, update your presentation.

Prizes time!: Welcome everyone back. Please re-emphasize the commitment and hard work that all the teams have put into the weekend. Once you announce a winning team, invite them on the virtual stage to be recognized.

Sunday wrap up: Wrap up the evening by congratulating all participants. Remember to share information on how they can stay involved in the Techstars Network (included in your deck template) and give a final shoutout to local and global sponsors, the organizing team, and anyone else who helped make this event a success. 

We recommend spending some time after the event networking with mentors and teams. This is a great opportunity for expanding your network.

Live Streaming Best Practices

Just like facilitating in person, to have a great on-screen presence you’ll want to ensure you know what you’ll be telling the crowd, especially as you will need to focus on the camera, even though your slides will be on screen.


Your background

A few basics to think about for where you film:

  • Background should be neutral 

  • Light greys work great 

  • You should also make sure there is distance between yourself and the background

  • Film with your laptop at shoulder height

Visual & Audio 

A few things to keep in mind when speaking to your online audience:

  • Remember to look directly into the camera — you want to connect with your audience

  • Looking even slightly down or to the side can be noticeable to the viewer 

  • Ensure the audience can hear you, isolate yourself from background noise and use a headset or microphone if you can

  • Present in a conversational tone

  • Clean your camera prior to filming — optical cleaning or microfiber cloths work best

  • Utilize a remote to advance your slide, if possible

  • Try to have good lighting — it’s better to have a front light that helps the audience see your gestures.


Online Crowd Engagement and Management Tips

Managing a virtual crowd and keeping participants engaged over 54 hours can be challenging. Below are some tips to keep manage and keep participants engaged during the online event:

  • Set clear tone and expectations from the beginning. The goal is for participants to enjoy their experience during the weekend

  • Keep the event agenda and content well organized. Ensure all participants know where to access all the important information

  • Make sure participant resources have open access

  • Give shout outs and address participants by their name

  • Look directly at the camera when speaking 

  • Ask participants to submit questions in comments or through a chat tool (ensure you  have a moderator assigned to the task of fielding questions)

  • Indicate in advance when there will be breaks for online guests to attend to things such as email and networking to reduce the risk of participants multitasking

  • Limit your online sessions, each session should not be too long 

  • Have a dedicated group of people assigned to monitor chats and support channels

  • Encourage participants to join Virtual Coffees and Just for Fun channels

  • Ask participants to participate in polls and quizzes in the Fun channel

  • Ask for feedback at the end of the event. 


Watch Community Masterclass: Online FacilitationWatch 10 tips to becoming the best online host