Tool Guideline

Using virtual events to facilitate community building: event formats

Uploaded by RRI Tools on 27 July 2020

Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement. (2020) A guide to using virtual events to facilitate community-building: Event formats. Woodley, Pratt, Ainsworth, Amsen, Bakker, Butland, O’Donnell, Penfold, Pope, Quigley, and Tsang

doi: 10.5281/zenodo.3934385


This guidebook is intended for scientific community managers, event organizers and convenors who are looking to design engaging and inclusive virtual events.

With the COVID-19 pandemic came a global shift to remote working and virtual events. Because of this, over the last few months many members of the CSCCE community of practice have become experts in planning and facilitating a range of virtual event formats. 

CSCCE wanted to celebrate this knowledge and make it more widely available, and so over the last few weeks they worked with several members of the community to consolidate their expertise into a freely-downloadable guidebook to virtual event formats. 

The guidebook is part of a larger series, intended to scaffold the planning and execution of successful virtual events that build connections and community. The remaining parts of the guide, including worksheets and a collection of additional resources, will be published soon.

This section focuses on event formats, and acts as a recipe book of sorts from which you can pick and choose the event that meets your needs and those of your community. The guide contains 12 different recipes in 3 sections: 

Networking and socializing

  • Virtual coffee chat – a casual one-on-one meeting with members of your community to build and maintain relationships.
  • Icebreakers – structured activities that bring people together and set the tone for follow-up activities. 
  • Virtual social hour – an in-depth example of a social hour for a large group of co-workers. 

Information exchange

  • Demos – for example, virtual vendor showcases, hackday demos, or sprint report outs.
  • Community calls – showcase your community members and invite discussion and participation. 
  • Plenary lectures – a great way to convey information from an expert to a large audience.
  • Panel discussions – another great format for sharing expertise with a large group of stakeholders. 

Collaborative learning and building together

  • Virtual study groups – a structured format for targeted learning among a smaller group.
  • Virtual co-working – how to work effectively with a “virtual office mate.”
  • Virtual office hours – make yourself available for others to ask questions, follow up on an assignment, or address a topical issue. 
  • Collaborations workshop – come together to creatively identify and solve problems. 
  • Collaborative sprint – for example, hackathons, ideathons, game jams, or design sprints.








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