What do you need to know before planning a Zoom webinar event for Extension? Learn about what to think about as you are planning your webinar or meeting, how to set up the event in Cvent, how to design an Extension-branded PPT, and more.

Now available! Watch an on-demand training session on planning and executing a successful webinar for Extension.

Why Webinars?

Webinars allow our customers to access an in-depth presentation by Extension educators, and they are useful and convenient for those who are unable to attend an in-person event. Webinars can also eliminate the travel and costs of conducting a shorter face-to-face workshop.

Webinars are initially streamed live online, hosted by one or more educators. They give attendees a way to learn from the instructor from the convenience of their own computer. During the presentation, attendees can ask questions in real time. For educators, preparing for a webinar presentation is like preparing for a live lecture, but presenters must also consider the needs and limitations of an online audience. Webinars can be recorded and shared with participants afterwards, and/or can be published to the website for anyone to view. Customers are required to register for an Extension webinar event, and in some cases registration may require a fee.

Webinars are delivered using Zoom, Penn State's video-conferencing tool. All Zoom events that are marketed to customers via the Penn State Extension website will be referred to as webinars for consistency in communicating to the public. Note that Zoom offers both "webinars" and "meetings" which have slightly different features for managing participants and the degree of interactions. These differences and recommended uses are discussed below.

Plan a Webinar Event

If you would like to hold a webinar that is not already part of a regularly scheduled series, you will need to consider the following details:

  • Will the webinar be free or paid for?
  • Will people external to Penn State Extension (such as from industry or government) be presenting as co-hosts or panelists?
  • What level of marketing support do you need?
  • Will the webinar and/or materials be made available to participants afterwards?
  • Will the webinar recording be published publicly to the web and available to anyone to watch afterwards? (Note: Webinar recordings that are to be made publicly available first need to be close-captioned with the Digital Education team.)

If you would like consultation or assistance with the webinar strategy or marketing, please submit a Workfront request for Webinar Support, Strategy or Planning. A Marketing Strategy Specialist or Team Marketing Coordinator can work with you on the following items:

  • How to advertise and market the webinar in advance (outside of the communications identified as part of the Cvent email marketing process.)
  • Planned follow-up communications with your registrants after the webinar if you need to provide them with the recording link and any follow-up materials.
  • Deciding if the content should be transformed into another type of product for long-term use (Learn Now video, Online Course, Article).
  • Determining if a recorded webinar should be actively promoted and marketed as a product. If you plan to record the webinar, inform customers of this beforehand in the event registration details and at the beginning of your webinar.

Cvent Registration Website Process

For all live webinars, whether they will be free or paid events, or for paid webinar recordings, follow the procedure to request an event registration website in Cvent. Go to the Cvent Request Website, log in (create a requester account if you don't already have one), and complete the request form for webinars. After you submit your request, you will receive an email confirming your submission. The Cvent team will then review the details of your request, accept the request if details are complete, and begin development of the site for your webinar. When site development is complete, the site will be put into test mode for your review and approval. You will receive an email with instructions when ready for review and testing. After you approve the registration website, the Cvent team will launch the site and publish it to the Extension website, making it visible for public registration.

Marketing the Webinar Event

During the development phase of your registration website, you will also receive an Audience Request email to initiate the marketing and publicity for your webinar event. The marketing team will review your request and assist with development of invitation lists, invitations, and other marketing required to support your webinar. In Cvent, the audience (invitation list) built by the marketing team will be imported into the webinar event registration site. Email invitations will be scheduled and automatically sent to the audience list, every 3-4 weeks, up through the week of the registration deadline.

Registrant Access to the Webinar

Upon submitting their registration, invitees will immediately receive the link to access the webinar in their registration confirmation email. The day before the webinar, registrants will receive a second email, and again one hour before the webinar, registrants will receive a third email; both emails are reminders of the upcoming webinar, and again provide them with the access link to the webinar. If appropriate, a post-webinar email can also be sent to participants providing them with the link to the webinar recording and, if appropriate, any additional materials.

Webinar Structures

All webinar events should be designed to fit one of the following structures:

  • Single Session Webinar (most common) – One webinar, one admission price, event registration deadline occurs before start of event. May be used for single session webinar events and independently offered sessions of webinar series.
  • Multi-Session Webinar w/All Sessions INCLUDED During Registration – Two or more webinar sessions, one admission price, sessions have educational build (each required as condition for participation in following session), event registration deadline occurs before start of first session in group.
  • Multi-Session Webinar w/All Sessions OPTIONAL During Registration – Two or more webinar sessions, price set at session level (fee assigned to each individual session), sessions are electives during registration (common theme without educational build), event registration deadline occurs with end date/time of last session in group, session selection available until each end date/time, session capacities set individually.

Design Your Webinar Presentation

Just like a live lecture event or workshop, a webinar typically delivers a PowerPoint presentation. Please use the following guidelines when designing a webinar presentation.

PowerPoint Template

Use the standard Penn State Extension template for all webinar presentations. See PowerPoint Templates to download Extension and 4-H branded templates. Use the 16x9 or Learn Now PowerPoint template; this size is best captured as a widescreen format video.

When designing your PowerPoint, use large enough fonts and images so an audience watching your presentation on a tablet or mobile phone will be able to read and view it easily.

Extension Branding and Webinar Title Slide

In addition to using the Extension PowerPoint template, use a title slide that clearly displays the Extension logo and identifies the title of the webinar along with the presenter's name, title and affiliation.

Please use an Extension-branded title slide even for webinar presentations that may be created and delivered by a non-PSU individual or institution. It's important to indicate Extension branding and identification on the title slide for all webinars hosted on our site.

During a live webinar, the Title slide should be the first item displayed when users log into a webinar and when the recording begins.

Webinar Recording Notification

Per Pennsylvania wiretapping law, you must inform participants if you plan on recording the session. Also, discussion of High-risk or Restricted data (as defined in AD95) is not permitted while recording.

Plan to include this information on the first or second slide of your presentation, and also make sure to verbally inform participants that you are recording the webinar. Include this information in the webinar event description prior to registration as well.

Copyright and Credits

Penn State University is responsible for the copyright and crediting of all digital content published to its web pages and online platforms. This includes webinars and the images and content used in them.

Penn State expects employees to provide attribution for using a quote, statistic, data, image, or graphic that comes from another source by including the appropriate credits (citations). This is particularly important because we often distribute a webinar presentation and materials to participants after the fact – this is a courtesy to our customers, and recommended practice, and this also means your material may be distributed and publicly available. Failure to provide credit for an image that is not yours is the same as failure to attribute a quote to the original author – it is plagiarism, and it is our duty as Penn State employees and professionals in our fields to follow the requirements for proper attributions.

When creating your Webinar presentation, include attributions for all content, images, and graphics that are not your own. You can include credits in small font at the bottom of each slide, or on a single "Credits" page at the end of the presentation. For further information on searching for, using, and crediting digital images, see the Copyright and Image Use Guidelines.

External presenters also must provide appropriate credits in their presentations. Because Penn State is hosting the webinar on our website, Penn State becomes responsible for the content. See Webinar Copyright Image Guidelines for a downloadable PDF to share with the presenters.

If you need assistance with your webinar PowerPoint presentation, including image credits, please see your Team Marketing Coordinator.

Set Up the Webinar in Zoom

Penn State Extension uses Zoom, Penn State's webinar conferencing tool for hosting and recording webinars and meetings, and Kaltura, Penn State's cloud-based video management platform, for accessing and managing the video recording of your webinar.

Webinar vs. Meeting

When setting up an event in Zoom, you must first select whether you wish to conduct a webinar or meeting. A webinar is the recommended approach for most Penn State Extension public events. A Zoom webinar is appropriate for delivering a lecture or presentation to large audience; participants can type in questions or chat to interact, but the host controls who may speak or share their screen. A Zoom meeting allows for more direct interaction among participants and is only recommended to be used with smaller groups. Further differences are elaborated below. This guide focuses on webinars.

Meeting Webinar
Description Zoom meetings are ideal for hosting more interactive sessions where you'll want to have lots of audience participation or break your session into smaller groups. Think of webinars like a virtual lecture hall or auditorium. Webinars are ideal for large audiences or events that are open to the public. Typically, webinar attendees do not interact with one another. Though Zoom provides options for you to get more social with your attendees, your average webinar has one or a few people speaking to an audience.
Participant Roles
Audio Sharing
  • All participants can mute/unmute their own audio
  • Host can mute/request to unmute participants
The Host can set all participants to mute upon entry
  • Only the Host and panelists can mute/unmute their own audio
  • Attendees join in listen-only mode*
The Host can unmute one or more attendees
Video Sharing All Participants Hosts and Panelists
Participants List Visible to all participants Visible to Host and Panelist
Chat Yes Yes>
Q&A No Yes
Polling Yes Yes
Breakout Rooms Yes No

(Adapted from Meeting and Webinar Comparison, by Zoom Support)

For more on webinars vs. meetings, see Meeting and Webinar Comparison, by Zoom Support

For more documentation on Penn State Zoom Webinars and Meetings, see the Zoom Learning Path for Hosts.

Webinar Schedule and Settings

You'll need to schedule the webinar in advance by logging into your account at psu.zoom.us. Set up the webinar date and time, and give the webinar a name that matches the event name you'll publicize on the Extension website. Once you schedule the webinar in Zoom, you'll receive the URL that you communicate to participants in advance.

There are some key settings to be aware of that may impact different Extension needs.

  • Recurring webinar: Most webinars are single events and won't check this box. If a webinar is scheduled for multiple sessions on regular recurring dates, such as once a week, or every Monday in February, or the second Tuesday of every month, checking this box will display additional settings to schedule the webinar at regular intervals. A recurring webinar will have the same URL for users to access.
  • Registration: Leave this box unchecked. Registration should be handled through Cvent, so Extension customers can be tracked, and communication can be managed through Extension's Salesforce database and marketing system.
  • Require webinar password: It is recommended to NOT require a password, as this adds unnecessary complexity for participants.
  • Video: It's wise leave the video for the host and panelists Off by default; you can choose to turn on the video when your webinar begins as you're ready.
  • Audio: It's best to select Telephone and Computer Audio; this way participants who cannot join via computer can call in and listen to the webinar audio by phone.
  • Webinar Options
    • Q & A: If you wish to use the Q&A feature, you need to enable it in your webinar settings in advance. Q&A allows participants to type in questions visible only to panelists and the host, and can be a useful way to manage and screen questions, especially during a larger webinar.
    • Leave 'Enable Practice Session', 'Only authenticated users can join', and 'Make the webinar on-demand' unchecked.
    • Record the webinar automatically in the cloud: It is recommended to leave this unchecked; this way the webinar won't record the preliminary chatter of participants joining, checking audio, etc. Once the webinar begins, remember to click the Record button when you're ready to record the content you wish to capture.
  • Alternative Hosts: It's important to set up another PSU Extension educator as an alternative host by entering their PSU email here. An alternative host can start and run the webinar in your absence.

For additional assistance in setting up and managing a Zoom webinar event or recording, please contact your Team Marketing Coordinator.

Webinar Recording: Important Details

Optimize Audio When Recording

It is important to provide good audio quality during a webinar, especially if you to make the webinar recording available for purchase or posted publicly. There are two main concerns for optimal audio quality during Zoom webinars

  • Clarity
  • Feedback

Clarity is achieved by minimizing ambient noise and echo. You will want to use a headset with a microphone if possible. This helps to isolate the speaker's voice by narrowing the range that is picked up and minimizing room reverberation. Headsets also tend to have higher quality speakers than a computer or laptop, while virtually eliminating feedback issues.

If a headset is not available, use the built-in microphone found on most laptops. Try to find a room that is as “dead" as possible, meaning with as few hard, reflective surfaces as is manageable. Carpets, wall coverings, and objects all help with this. Parallel walls reflect sound, so a perfectly square room with no wall coverings is your worst option in terms of clarity and feedback. Be as close to your microphone as possible and avoid background noise sources like HVAC.

Feedback is caused by a runaway loop of sound going from a speaker to a mic back to the speaker and so on, that can cause anything from an annoying ring to a dangerous squeal. Eliminate feedback by lowering your speaker volume. Audio settings usually allow you to adjust your microphone input level as well. Keep this as low as possible, but so everyone can still hear you. Actively muting your microphone when you are not speaking and asking others to do so as well can help to minimize feedback in a webinar setting. Headsets eliminate most feedback problems by isolating the speaker from the mic.

Some room and voice combinations are more prone to feedback than others because of their acoustic properties. Again, a room that has more things to diffuse the sound, the better.

It is recommended to always test your sound quality in the location where you'll be holding the webinar well in advance. You can record a short sample of your webinar presentation, then listen to the recording to verify that the audio is clear.

If everyone in a webinar or Zoom call is conscious of these factors, and starts by double checking their surroundings, connections, and levels, the experience will be better for everyone.

Recording the Webinar

When you begin your webinar, remember to Record your session, which saves your recorded webinar to the Kaltura video management platform.

Remember to verbally inform participants that you are recording the webinar before you do so, per the Pennsylvania wiretapping law, discussed above.

Accessibility Accommodations and Live Captioning Webinars

It is possible that a participant may request an accessibility accommodation to have a webinar live-captioned, so those with hearing impairments may be able to access this. They may indicate that they need accommodations when they register for the event, or they may reach out through Customer Service or to the event contact. If this happens, please submit a request to the Digital Education team; they will assist in coordinating with Penn State Accessibility and arranging for a live-captioning service.

Access Your Webinar Recording

Recorded webinars are automatically stored in the host's Kaltura video and media storage space at Penn State. The host can access the recording afterwards by logging in to their Kaltura Media Space.

For the process of publishing your webinar to the Penn State Extension website or sharing with attendees, see Penn State Extension Webinars - Processing a Webinar Recording for the Extension Website.