An Instructional Designer’s Guide to Exceptional Virtual Events

November 19, 2021
Person watching a Blue Sky eLearn webinar on a laptop
How do you create the best virtual events for your audience? Instructional Designer Kristen Jensen Wall, EdD, brought her years of experience in education to the table during one of our webinars. What we’ve outlined below only scratches the surface! Make sure you watch the full on-demand webinar for all of Kristen’s tips and advice.

Virtual events are now the primary drivers of membership and education revenue for associations and professional organizations. Understanding how to design and deploy engaging webinars may well be this decade's most valuable instructional design skill.

Do you need help marketing your next webinar? Are you worried about the technical details involved in planning your association’s annual meeting? Then keep reading to get the advice and tools you need to execute your next amazing event.

Use the Cake Metaphor

Virtual events have many moving parts and pieces. It can be easy to forget what needs the most attention and in which order tasks need to be performed. We use a three-layer cake metaphor at Blue Sky eLearn to help remind our clients how to stay organized.

The instructional design three-layer cake: SMEs & Content, Marketing, & Logistics

Subject Matter Experts & Content

At the base of the cake is the “Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) & Content” layer. This layer requires the most attention, consideration, and time—because without good content and experts to create the content, you can’t build the rest of your cake!

Ask yourself these critical questions during the content planning stage to help you develop an exceptional virtual event that resonates with your audience:

  • How does the content of your webinar or virtual event align with your overall strategy? How will this help move your goals forward?
  • How does this align with your scope and sequence? Who needs to learn what, and in what order? How will this webinar fit in with the content you already have planned or published?
  • What gaps do you need to fill? What will help you deliver the content you need?
  • Who do you know that can help you fill those gaps? Who is the SME that can help you accomplish your goals?


Marketing is the next layer in our cake metaphor because to have virtual event attendees, you need to communicate to your audience. Here are a few helpful tips for marketing your webinar:

  • Start marketing your webinar six weeks in advance to give your members ample time to plan on attending.
  • Provide your course description and learning outcomes in your marketing materials—let your audience know what they can expect!
  • Provide a headshot and bio of the SME who will be presenting. These will help lend credibility to the information being given during the webinar.  
  • Make sure it’s EASY for attendees to join the webinar. Use direct links in your marketing (emails, social, etc.).
  • In addition to a regular cadence of registration emails, try to send an email to registrants one minute before the webinar so that they have quick access to join.


The final and top layer of our cake metaphor is Logistics. Logistics is all about practice, preparation, and redundancies. You need to ensure everything is dialed in and ready to go with plenty of backup plans in place. Take precautions with these helpful suggestions:

  • Hold practice sessions with everyone involved in the virtual event. Even the most experienced presenters need to do a run-through prior to showtime.
  • Create multiple digital copies of the PowerPoint deck and distribute them among team members.
  • If you add interactive components (polls, quizzes, games, breakout pods), use them judiciously and plan in advance.
  • Make sure you have an event moderator in place who knows the presentation backward and forward. They can take care of introductions, transitions, and monitoring incoming questions.
  • Create a script and include times, team members with contact information, and lobby slides. Make sure all presenters have hard copies printed out just in case they have any technical issues.   

Watch the entire webinar on-demand
for even more content, marketing, and logistics tips.

Get the Guide

Take the headache out of developing virtual events from scratch. Our landmark guide, Working with SMEs to Execute a Flawless Webinar, contains 24 pages of helpful processes, timelines, and templates to help you plan and market your next virtual event.

Our Learning Strategy & Development team created the guide based on real experiences with clients. We’ve captured the process to make it easy for you to set up your first virtual event. And, when you’ve executed your successful event, you can use the guide again and again to replicate the process.

Here's what you’ll find in our guide:

  • How to build your webinar course description
  • Email templates
  • Detailed timelines
  • Layout ideas and examples for your webinar interface
  • Samples of lobby slides, meeting agendas, and scripts

To get your copy of Working with SMEs to Execute a Flawless Webinar, please fill out our Contact Form and let us know!

About the Author
Kristen Jensen Wall, EdD is a former junior higher teacher, university professor, and higher education professional who moved into corporate learning and development in 2018. She is now a Senior Project Manager for Instructional Design at Blue Sky eLearn. She works with clients to develop their learning strategy, create meaningful learning experiences, and assess the effectiveness of the learning. She completed her doctorate in adult learning and development in 2016 and is now happily reading her way through an endless stack of mystery novels.

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