This page provides checklists, recommendations and resources to help Carpentries community members plan for virtual (online) local and regional events.
Global occurrences, political decrees in different regions, or community preferences may necessitate virtually organised and run CarpentryConnect events. This section provides checklists, resources and a set of best practices to help guide your virtual event planning. The information contained herein is constantly evolving to include perspectives from different community members, and your input is highly appreciated.
This two-part checklist suggests preparatory tasks you can embark on before diving in to use the rest of the CarpentryConnect Planning Kit to organise your online CarpentryConnect event. The checklist includes guidelines on brainstorming about your idea for an online event early on, selecting dates, and getting a planning committee together before continuing on to other sections of the Virtual CarpentryConnect Planning Kit.
I just had an idea to bring people together in a CarpentryConnect!
- [optional] In case this would be valuable for you, schedule a call with our Director of Community Development and Engagement to discuss your idea and chat about your wishlist and next steps. You can do that by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Reach out to community members via The Carpentries Slack channel or TopicBox sharing your idea and interest in finding others to help organise a CarpentryConnect in your region, including as many details as possible
- Once you have identified several community members that would be interested,
- create an Etherpad on pad.carpentries.org and share it in the email asking people to share their ideas and questions around the CarpentryConnect proposal in it More information on what Etherpads are, and how we use them in The Carpentries can be found here.
- email the community members who are interested and include the Etherpad link. Ask them to share their ideas and questions around the CarpentryConnect proposal
- Send a calendar invite to people who expressed interest, labelling your meeting invite virtual CarpentryConnect [City] chat or something equally descriptive
- A few hours before the first meeting, take time to read and organise everyone’s questions and ideas in the Etherpad into themes, and designate time blocks for discussion of each item to make sure everything is covered in the time you have for your meeting
- Leave plenty of time to discuss next steps and agree on a date for the next meeting
- Send an email summarising discussions, highlighting key action points and if possible, with a question to keep discussions going between present day and your next check-in meeting
A note to everyone with ideas for virtual Carpentry Connect events: This first stage sometimes takes a while, so do not be discouraged with the process. Sometimes the outcome of your first discussion is a decision to organise a smaller meetup first, or plan for an in-person CarpentryConnect event, rather than a virtual one. You can find our In-person CarpentryConnect Planning Kit here.
I am in the early stages of planning for a CarpentryConnect!
This section assumes that you have an idea about these three things for your event: city/region, date range and community members to help you put together a CarpentryConnect event. If not, start here.
Let The Core Carpentries Team know that you have an idea for or are planning a CarpentryConnect by emailing email@example.com with as many details as possible.
- As you have some intricate details at hand already, consider writing a blog post detailing your knowns and unknowns, and with clear calls to action about how others can get involved. Here are a few prompts to guide the writing of your blog post. Submit your blog post for publishing on The Carpentries blog by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dive into the rest of the Virtual CarpentryConnect Planning Kit!
Keep Accessibility in Mind
Accessibility is to equity as a foundation is to a house. A well-rounded and intentional approach to making your community spaces and resources accessible levels the playing field for all in your community, and benefits everyone in the long-run.
December 3, 2020 was last year’s International Day for People with Disabilities. Under the theme, ‘Not all Disabilities are Visible,’ the day’s focus was on spreading awareness and understanding of disabilities that are not immediately apparent, such as mental illness, chronic pain or fatigue, sight or hearing impairments, diabetes, brain injuries, neurological disorders, learning differences and cognitive dysfunctions, among others.
This is an important reminder for us all as community conveners - assumptions and observational insight are not enough in helping us put together accessible events. We have a responsibility to educate ourselves on matters of accessibility continually. We can do this by:
- asking well-crafted questions that invite the perspectives of the communities we are hoping to bring together,
- paying attention to the accessibility needs and requests for accommodation that our community members make of us,
- enlisting the services of subject experts,
- committing to apply what we learn, no matter how hard we perceive the work to be, and
- communicating clearly and consistently about the approaches we are taking, the challenges we are faced with, and how we hope to overcome these.
To audit your processes and decisions and ensure you are centering accessibility in your event planning, a good question to keep in mind as an event organiser would be: Can people with disabilities get the same information, perform the same interactions, and function as others with comparable ease?
“At the heart of accessibility is the notion of designing a diversity of ways for people to participate in an experience so that everyone has a sense of belonging.” (Susan Goltsman, Play for All Guidelines and The Inclusive City).
Here are ways you can prioritise accessibility as you plan virtual events:
Ask speakers and participants if they have accessibility requirements.
Include questions in registration forms and speaker confirmation emails that prompt event participants to detail what accessibility accommodations they need around live captioning, large print, advance copies of slides, sign language, etc.
Provide telephone-based connection options in addition to web connection links because not all web clients for online meeting tools are accessible.
- Think about how participants with assistive needs and those dialling in from their phones will participate fully in your event:
- How will they ask questions and provide suggestions?
- How will they respond to polls, interact with links, and comment in the chat?
Are you able to share speaker slides or reading material in advance so they have context for what is being presented?
- Choose an accessible online meeting platform i.e. go for platforms that have integrated captioning, screen reader compatibility, and multiple ways of communicating with and engaging participants. Take these options into consideration when choosing a platform.
- Invest in interpreters, live captioners and live translators where possible. Interpreters in virtual settings might make it possible for multiple-language representation at your event. Plan for good visibility of the speakers and interpreters. Zoom provides automatic captioning of calls, read more here. We recommend to always turn on live captioning at the beginning of each call.
- Who should have their video and audio on and when during sessions?
- How can you best place the speaker and sign language interpreter on the screen, especially when the speaker is also sharing their screen to show slides?
- Inform speakers of accessibility requests that have been made and the accommodations that you are making available as the event organiser.
- Rehearse presentations with the platform and tools that will be used during the event.
- Share best practices for accessible presentations, such as testing presentations against accessibility checkers, adding captions against embedded multimedia resources, using plain language, issuing content warnings in advance, and only using relevant multimedia.
- Make your event website and the resources that you will share accessible. Indesign’s Pablo Stanley offers an elaborate and insightful set of best practices in this web accessibility blog post. Summarily:
- Make content and structure available, robust, and understandable by anyone.
- Improve the color contrast, make content easily understandable, and observe header etiquette.
- Use patterns in addition to colors for visual content, offer transcriptions and captions or subtitles, and underline or bold links.
- Use alternative text on embedded images.
- Use labels and add instructions to form fields in addition to accurate placeholder text.
- Test your content with assistive technology.
- Design accessible pathways for interaction and collaboration throughout your event. Think about:
- language translations in collaborative documents,
- live captioning during sessions,
- live and collaborative notetaking in a publicly accessible document
- multiple ways for people to ask and answer questions, meet and collaborate during sessions at your virtual event
- Make transcripts available alongside audio and visual content after the event on your website.
Designing Online Sessions
This section assumes that community members are looking to translate session formats and experiences from an in-person event in planning for a virtual CarpentryConnect event.
In-person events are great avenues for relationship building, skillsharing, collaborative work and holding dedicated discussions. While it may not be possible to replicate all of the experiences from an in-person event in a virtual one, here are suggested formats you can adopt for your sessions in a virtual CarpentryConnect event to help your attendees engage with and benefit from one another in the sessions they sign up for: Talk Sessions We recommend running your virtual keynote, panel and other regular talk sessions in the same way that Themed Discussion sessions work in The Carpentries. Here’s a guide from The Carpentries’ Handbook that you can tweak to suit your needs.
Birds-of-a-Feather sessions are a good example of breakout sessions in a conference setup. In a virtual event, breakout sessions present a good opportunity for event attendees to self-organise. As the event organiser:
- block time in your event program for breakout sessions to take place
- create a central resource like a document for attendees to share details about their self-organised breakout sessions. Helpful prompts to include in this document include:
- breakout session discussion topic
- breakout session facilitator and email
- link to join breakout session call
- link to notes document for breakout session - some people may not be able to dial in but can contribute questions and ideas in the collaborative document
- provide a summarised guide for breakout session facilitators
- we recommend meeting all breakout session facilitators in one meeting to discuss your online event values, code of conduct and expected behaviour to make it possible to extend the feel of your online event into these meetings
- be sure to include instructions on setting up online meeting spaces using Google Hangouts/Meet, Zoom where available, Slack calls for small meetings (upto 8 people),etc
Virtual poster session
In addition to the official conference hashtag, consider using an additional hashtag on your socials - Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram to invite virtual event attendees to share their posters.
On asynchronous short-message tools like Slack, you can set up a dedicated channel for people to add their posters, and have other attendees comment on them.
Virtual lightning talks session
- Block out time in your program for lightning talks
- Invite virtual event attendees to sign up as lightning talk presenters, and select relevant ones
- Ask selected lightning talk presenters to share their presentations with you, with guidelines on
- how many slides you expect,
- how much time they will have to present, and
- the order that they will present in
- doing a dry run with as many lightning talk presenters as are able to make it to such a session, or
- pre-recording all lightning talks and sharing them at one go on the day of your conference.
- Run a channel on Slack for people to share pics during their walks, lunch and tea
- Consider using a hashtag for social discussions on your socials too
- Have a group of people facilitating this too by asking questions, pointing people in the right direction
Defining Volunteer Roles
Across this resource, we refer to volunteers in virtual events as community facilitators. The role of community facilitators in virtual spaces is important, and each community facilitator can take on one or more roles depending on how big the pool of community facilitators is.
Here are some community facilitator roles, and checklists for responsibilities to take on
- Liaise with speakers before their calls to
- orient them on the use of video conferencing tools to be used in your online event and help troubleshoot any issues
- conduct a dry run of the online session, discussing how to transition smoothly between segments of the presentation and questions posed during the session
- discuss worst case scenarios and agree on approaches to ensure a successful session i.e.
- is the speaker willing / able to present by dialling into the call from their phone, in which case the call host would share and manage the slide deck in the call?
- is the speaker able to pre-record a version of their presentation so it can be shared with others in case they are unavailable on the day?
- share code of conduct, expected behaviour, and best practises for presenting at your online event
- Liaise with other community facilitators to confirm that everyone understands their role, and to discuss who can take on roles that are unfilled i.e.
- work with code of conduct facilitators (role described below) to design rubric to help with quick decision making in sessions
- invite communication facilitators (role described below) to share their plans for what is essential to communicate before, during and after the virtual event, adding suggestions, and edits as needed so tone of communications is consistent throughout your event
- Invite Code of Conduct Facilitators to summarise event Code of Conduct to session attendees at the start of a virtual event
- Notify community about intentions to record the session, and offer guidelines for people that want to participate but not be identified in the call i.e.
- turn off your video and sound for the duration of the call
- ask questions in a document that allows anonymity i.e. Etherpad, or send direct messages to the call host rather than post in the call chat, etc
- Introduce speakers at the start of their session in the online event
- Record the actual session after introducing the speaker(s)
- Skim through questions raised during the presentation and decide which ones to prioritise for the time slotted for Q&A
- Prepare a set of summaries for the last 5 minutes of the call, explaining
- where attendees can continue with discussions after the virtual session
- what attendees can expect in the coming days i.e.
- recording of the call will be released,
- an invitation to collaborate on a post-session blog post or survey, etc
- organise the editing and publishing of the recorded session for access by others
Code of Conduct Facilitators
Code of Conduct Facilitators serve as an added layer of support to report incidents to the Code of Conduct Committee (CoCc). Code of Conduct Facilitators actively monitor online spaces during the event and are the in-person point of contact to provide support and guidance to report potential breach of the Code of Conduct to the CoCc. To efficiently serve as a bridge with the CoCc, Code of Conduct facilitators:
- liaise with the call hosts and introduce themselves at start of the event and summarise event Code of Conduct to session attendees
- provide clear and straightforward ways for people to reach out to flag CoC issues in the virtual session
- preferably in a separate place from the event chat
- should be easy to save content as it is typed
- describe workflow and expected timelines once someone reports an issue to help with accountability, follow-up and managing expectations. Code of Conduct facilitators need to read our incident reporting and response guidelines and understand how to report a Code of Conduct Incident with the Carpentries committee.
- liaise with call hosts in backchannel to enforce rubrics designed before event to quickly act on Code of Conduct issues during the virtual session i.e. expunge bad actors from the call to prevent unnecessary disruption, etc
- handle information shared with utmost care, discretion, and pledge to not divulge any information that would be shared with them with anyone
- communicate with the Code of Conduct committee as appropriate The CoCc handles the rest of the process. For more information, please read our incident response procedure for the carpentries code of conduct committee.
- Here are some helpful guidelines for managing bad actors in Zoom, as authored by Alex Miller on Twitter
- Check in with other community facilitators to confirm what needs to be prioritised / communicated before, during and after the virtual event
- Prepare a communications timeline, shared with all community facilitators showing what needs to be done well for communications to go out to the community in timely fashion
- manage all formal communications platforms and serve as first point of contact / first responders for social media sites, mailing lists, etc before, during and after the event
design communications resources for dissemination before, during and after virtual event, in a way that allows event attendees to quickly recognise your virtual event as the source of communication i.e.
- append virtual event logo to all communication - slide decks, virtual posters, etc
- monitor all channels used before and during the virtual event, and flag any issues raised with relevant community facilitators for action or brainstorming
- draft and schedule communique to
- constantly update attendees,
- build up excitement in the work up to the event,
- reinforce important details i.e. time, date and timezone that various sessions of the virtual event are scheduled to take place in, etc
- research and settle on one hashtag across socials. For CarpentryConnects, that should be #CarpentryConnectCityName
- provide guidance on spaces for virtual attendees and session presenters to raise and answer questions, discuss suggestions and ideas, etc Work with other session
- design an efficient but non-disruptive way to notify presenters and other community facilitators about time remaining, and to stop discussions when time is up
- consider setting up cuckoo.team which runs a countdown at the top of the frame of a presenters’ screen to inform them how much time is left
- alternatively, keep timekeeper can keep a counter and type in chat to notify call host and presenter that it is time to wind up or halt a session
- meets with the call host and presenters before the virtual session to discuss
- verbal cues and modes of communication about time left during the session
- action that will be taken in worst-case scenarios i.e. when out of time
- will there be provision to continue into break time?
- will the session be cut off abruptly?
- makes sure that event starts and stops at the designated times
- prepare a clear guide for session presenters and event attendees to set up tools to use before the virtual event.
- this should be shared
- This can be shared in an easy-to-access space i.e. event website
- respond to issues about difficulty in connecting to or using any tools used during the virtual session - some of which may be flagged by communications facilitators
- Determine the best formats and tools to use to transcribe live sessions online
- Coordinate with communications facilitators and call hosts to introduce these tools to session presenters, and conduct a dry run
- Communicate clearly about how session attendees can access live transcriptions from the virtual sessions
- Review recorded sessions, adding in correct transcriptions before these are shared publicly.
- Research and design suitable icebreaker activities for periods between sessions in the virtual event
- introduce icebreaker activities to virtual event attendees
Deciding Which Tools to Use
There are lots of tools to choose from, and different ways to use them. Here is a set of prompts to help guide you as you decide what tools to employ as part of your virtual event:
- what demographics will your event attendees be joining from? some tools are unavailable for use in certain regions, while others may require more bandwidth than is available to attendees in certain places. Go for options that will be inclusive for majority of your target audience
- how best can two tools be used concurrently in your virtual event’s sessions? providing alternatives for your virtual event attendees to participate is a big part of designing inclusive events
Here are some tools for you to consider using:
- contributed by Carpentries community members, here are suggested tools recommended for use in online meetings that you can adapt for your needs
- Recommended resources by The Carpentries’ COVID-19 response team will be made available here.
Preparing Your Session Facilitators
The term session facilitators is used here to refer to panelists, keynote speakers, breakout session leads, lightning talk participants, and anyone else in charge of leading discussions on a specific topic in your online event.
Here’s a checklist to help you prepare session facilitators for your virtual event:
- Start by inviting session facilitators to test the tools you will use during the session. Check for:
- quality of sound, and determine if background noise, room echo, etc will be a deterrent in the actual call. If they will be, brainstorm through alternatives.
- screen sharing mechanisms if they intend for their session to include periodic demos. Two to three screenshare dry runs would be sufficient - ease of resource sharing - links, slides, collaborative documents. All resources to be shared with session attendees in a virtual setting should be made available to the session moderator in advance. The session moderator can then share them with session attendees at designated times during the virtual session
- ease of flow between presentation, discussions and tackling questions in an online session. The session moderator should discuss with session facilitators how best to balance between presentation and interaction with an online audience.
- fallback options available to the session facilitators in worst case scenarios i.e. power failure, slow connectivity, etc. Some suggestions:
- pre-record their sessions and playback the videos in the session in case a facilitator is unavailable. Invite participants to write their questions down in a collaborative document, and have the session facilitator respond to them within 24 hours.
- have the session facilitator dial in, and present from their phone. In this case, the session moderator can share the facilitator’s slides, and help navigate from one slide to the next. The session moderator and facilitator can agree on cues to use to move to the next slide, flag a question from the audience, etc
- Talk about The Carpentries Code of Conduct, highlighting expected behaviour during the call. To give the session facilitator a better sense of the type of audience they should expect, share these core values that community members in The Carpentries embody. Take time to explain what would happen if a Code of Conduct issue is reported during the session.
- Discuss the time that the call is scheduled to take place, being careful to specify time zones. We recommend creating and sharing a calendar invite for the session in your meeting with the session facilitator and double checking to make sure it is correct.
- Check for consent to record the session and make it available to other community members. We recommend adding a yes/no question about this in the sessions proposal form for your event, and confirming consent to record in this check in
- Agree on any post-session activities - like writing a blog post about the session, answering community questions in a collaborative doc, etc.
Guidelines for Effective Community Facilitation
- Plan ahead, starting as soon as your virtual event dates are confirmed
- define what constitutes a normal session for your virtual event, and prepare for best and worst case scenarios
- engage a subset of your attendees where possible to incorporate their expectations as deliverables in your role as a session facilitator
- introduce all facilitators in a central resource i.e. list them on your event website for ease of identification, and with information on how to reach them
- plan for fun and human mini-breaks in your session i.e.
- research about icebreakers and work them into your session, being careful to respect people’s context i.e. don’t ask people to stand up for the icebreaker, avoid political commentary or other topics that may be triggering, etc
Creating a Website for Your CarpentryConnect Event
Website Templates to Use
To help you get started, The Carpentries will soon be adding two website templates for you to choose from. You can find both templates in the CarpentryConnect repository on GitHub.
Just like this resource and The Carpentries website, both website templates will employ use of Jekyll, a static website generator, and display all information about your event summarily in a single page.
In the meantime, we recommend using these as a template:
- Agency Jekyll Theme, a one-page Jekyll website theme that was used for CarpentryCon 2018’s website
- Project Zepelin’s theme, a multi-page Jekyll website theme that was used for CarpentryCon 2020’s website
- This MIT-licensed custom theme, a one-page Jekyll website theme that was used for CarpentryCon 2021’s website
Domain for your CarpentryConnect Website
We highly recommend cloning either of the templates to the same repository to make it easier for The Carpentries Core Team to register a cityyear.carpentryconnect.org subdomain for your event. Please reach out to email@example.com if you would like for one of our team to work with you in this step of the process.
Call for Session Proposals
Because most conferences have established ways of asking community members to share proposals for sessions ahead of an event, with modalities for sending these online, we recommend following your most preferred approach. We recommend including this information and prompts in the sessions proposal form for your virtual event so as to know what accommodations you will need to make for your session speakers and session attendees:
- Find out if proposal submitters have presented in an online event before, and what challenges they faced
- Find out what provisions they would like you to have in place in case their proposal is selected
- Ask what timezone they will be presenting from
- Check what timezone they will be presenting from. This will help you design your event timetable
Planning for Post-Event Wrap Up
Towards the end of an event, your virtual attendees may be inspired and challenged, and full of ideas, suggestions and interest to continue with conversations beyond your virtual event. It is important for virtual event organisers to think about how to conclude an online event definitively, and with calls to action to help keep attendees engaged and supported, as well as to manage their expectations, up until the next virtual event.
Here’s a checklist to help virtual event organisers plan for post-event wrap up ahead of time:
- Determine where resources from the event will live. Consider securing accounts on your preferred platforms so you can share resources from a central location
- where will recorded videos be uploaded?
- where will event photos live?
- Set up space for post-event follow-up and communicate about this centrally
- where will collaborative notes from all sessions be linked from?
- where can attendees share their post-event think pieces?
- where can session presenters and session attendees continue their discussions?
- Design a post-event survey, to help capture the feedback of your session presenters and attendees. Here’s an example of a post-event survey with questions you can ask
- Run an organiser’s retrospective, to help garner feedback from co-organisers
- Develop a template document with some open-ended, broad-range questions to help your event attendees write their wrap-up blog posts
Other Helpful Resources
- Email templates for Carpentries Workshop Administration
- The Carpentries Certificate Repository: When hosting Data, Library or Software Carpentries workshops as part of your event you can provide learners with attendance certificates.
- How to run a free academic online conference
- Budget template for your event
- Dev.To’s Types of Online Events and How to Get Started
- How to plan engaging virtual events
- 10 Resources Every Event Professional Should Bookmark
- Turing Way’s checklist for remote events
- Turing Way’s guide to facilitating remote events
- Cornell University’s Accessible Meeting and Event Checklist
- Web Accessibility Guidelines from W3C contains lots of tips, examples and resources
- WebAIM has great resources, articles and training on web accessibility
- special, standalone mention to WebAIM Color Contrast Checker
- Detailed guide on how to create accessible event submission forms
- Accessibility resources by a11y project
- Checklist by a11y project to guide you in making your event websites accessible
- Improving Accessibility for your Events with Svetlana Kouznetsova - listen to podcast or read the transcript
- Resources to help improve accessibility for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
- Guidelines for writing in clear and consise language
- Whiteboards/Shared documents to accommodate deaf students (Schley, Duckles, Blili-Hamelin 2020) - Journal of Faculty Development
- On connectivity ( low-bandwidth) challenges