There may be members of your community looking for ways to share their artistic talents with a wider community during this time of physical distancing. Some may even want to share personal stories about their career or personal life experiences, like a TED Talk. Hosting a virtual open mic night can provide a great opportunity for connections like this.

Step 1: Decide on the event format

Do you want to have a theme for the event? Do you want to make the event genre-specific, or maybe you want to bring musicians, poets, comedians, dancers, and storytellers together? Decide how long the event will last and how many performers you can accommodate. Invite people to sign up to participate in advance so that you can set your event lineup. Be sure to contact your performers to confirm their participation and to let them know how many minutes they’ll have for their set. Additionally, if you are planning a series of short talks for alumni, consider a variety of voices and experiences.

Step 2: Select a volunteer to serve as the MC

The MC might opt to perform a little something to kick things off and then introduce the other performers. This volunteer should agree to confirm all performers in advance and to manage the technology. If you’re planning a series of short talks from alumni, the MC should work with the event organizers and presenters on deciding if there will be Q&A and how to manage timing to allow all presenters to speak.

Step 3: Decide on technology

There are many video conferencing options, including Zoom, Cisco WebEx,, and GoToMeeting. We suggest you choose a platform that is easy to use and accessible to your audience. Note: It is your responsibility to host the event on your (or a fellow classmate’s) personal account.

Some technologies offer recording options, which can be a nice way to share content with those who are unable to attend. Just note, if a session is recorded, it must be disclosed to all speakers and invitees in advance. You are also required to get signed permission from all attendees before sharing a recorded link.

Step 4: Pick a date and time

You know your communities best. The chosen date and time should be aligned with the availability of the desired audience with time zones taken into consideration as needed.

Step 5: Create an event page and advertise

Although optional, you may want to create an event page to measure interest and collect registrations. You can make an event page through social media or request to have one on the Harvard alumni website. Then, start inviting people with scheduled emails. You could also use your community’s social media platforms to advertise your events.

If you have an idea or best practice to share with other volunteers, we’d love to hear it. Let us know by emailing or calling 617-496-7001.