How to Create a New Virtual Event

V 7.1.2020

Introduction: #

Prolific Writers Life (prolificwriters.life/ — which we’ll refer to in shorthand as PWL) is a “Virtual Workspace” for writers, where you can connect: “collaborate with authors, editors, writers and experts who can give you the guidance, motivation and support you need to achieve your writing goals;” learn: “Participate in virtual events hosted by experts who are dedicated to helping you reach your writing goals;” and earn: “Sign up as a Host and set up your store; host events when you want; enjoy the benefits of doing what you love while having the freedom to set your own schedule and prices; and profit by sharing your know-how and experience; the more writers you help, the more you earn.” 

There are many options for the kinds of “products” you can create and offer here (downloadable docu- ments, physical products, virtual online events), but the primary product type is virtual online events. This tutorial walks you through the step-by-step process of creating and scheduling an online event. 

The website is built with WordPress, the world’s leading content management system for creating and managing websites; it also uses the widely popular ecommerce tools Woo Commerce and Marketplace. While there is a learning curve to learn how to use these tools, it does not require any coding and can be learned relatively easily — so let’s get started! 

This is Step Two of being a Host at PWL; Step One is signing up as a host and setting up your “storefront,” which is covered in the tutorial How to Register as a Host at ProlificWriters.Life. Now that you have your PWL store set up, it’s time to create your first product.

You can watch this 30-minute video, or read the step-by-step instructions below.

Creating a Virtual Event: #

  1. The Store Dashboard can be a bit overwhelming at first glance, but we’ll only be using a few parts of it. (Woo Commerce and Marketplace are powerful tools that can be used for all sorts of ecommerce; we’re just using a small portion of their capacities…) 
  1. Begin by rolling over Products (4th item down on left navigation menu) and click on Add New.
  1. The first step in defining and describing your new “product” is to select Simple Product from the drop down menu for product type.
  1. Make sure you also check the box for virtual product.
  1. Set the price of your event, and if you want to offer a sale price you can do that too. (If you do offer a sale price, click the schedule link and set start and end dates for the sale price.)
  2. Give your event a title; it’s helpful if the title includes the date and time — including time zone! This will help people see right away when this event will occur — and it can help you find, duplicate, modify events that you will be repeating.

Descriptions: #

  1. Now write a short description of 1–2 sentences. Then write a fuller description, offering as much detail as you can. Here are a few tips to maximize the effectiveness of your description:
  • Consider each workshop a stand-alone flyer for your event; the more specific details you include, the better. Consider a bulleted list to keep it concise while covering the content thoroughly.
  • It’s nice to include a short bio and photo of the presenter(s) in the long description; adding your photo and bio helps to build trust and connection.
  • You should also add one or two images for the event; the first one is the image people will see when they click on your event in the Events calendar; the second image will appear when one rolls over the first image.

There are several options here:

  • The “WYSIWYG” (“What You See is What You Get”) visual editor is very similar to what you’ve seen in word processing software, including buttons for all sorts of formatting, including text styles (Bold, Italic, Underline), lists (bulleted or numbered), quotes, left/center/right alignment, and more.
  • There are keyboard strokes for many more options; see Text formatting keyboard shortcuts for Mac, or Alt key shortcuts for symbols in Windows for Windows.
  1. As with anytime you’re working on a computer, it’s good to save your work every few minutes. To do so, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and click the DRAFT button.
  1. Adding media (images) to your event description is optional, but it’s a great way to enhance the appeal. To do so, click the Add Media button to add images to the longer description, and choose from images you’ve already uploaded to your Media Library, or click the Upload Files tab to upload images to your media library.  You can click on the SELECT FILES button, then navigate to your file(s), then click Open; or you can have the files visible in a folder window, and click-and-drag them from the folder to the Upload Files tab — the area will turn dark blue when doing this to indicate that you in fact have a file (or multiple files) selected to upload. There are also several image alignment options for how the image and text will be arranged on the screen. And yes, if you happen to have a video, you can include that to the longer description as well. (Understanding how to work with images, PDF files and videos in WordPress is a whole topic unto itself, worthy of its own tutorial… coming soon!) 

Categories and Tags: #

  1. You should select one or more relevant Categories under which your product will be listed:

The Categories checkbox list

There are a few things you should understand about categories:

  • You will likely find appropriate categories already listed; check one or more that apply to your event. If you do not find the category you want, you can click the Add new category link and add to the list — but understand this before doing so:
    • Categories should be general enough for many different hosts to be able to use them; this is not where you put anything specific to your unique offerings or company/brand/product/service — that’s what tags are for.
    • Also be aware that anything you add will then be visible and usable by all the PWL hosts, so think accordingly.
    • If you do add a category, see if it is a “subcategory” of another category already listed. If so, when you create your new category, select the broader category as the “Parent Category” of your new category; 2 examples are WordPress under Tech, and Fantasy under Young Adult. (These sub-categories are called “Child categories;” and you can even create “Grandchild categories:” sub-categories of a sub-category…) 
  1. You should also add one or more relevant Tags under which your product will be listed:

And there are a few things you should understand about tags:

  • Tags are where you can get very specific about the content of your event; list words and phrases that accurately describe your event, separated with commas; you can click on the link Choose from the most used tags to see what others have used.

For more on categories and tags, see Categories and Tags in the WordPress documentation. (The screenshots will look a bit different than what you see in the PWL store dashboard, but the underlying WordPress functionality is the same. See Categories for a more indepth look at categories.) 

  1. Very important Step: You should set the Product Expiration date and time; by default, Enable Post Expiration is checked, and the date and time are set to the minute you created this new event. Therefore, change this to the date of your event, and PWL recommends you set your event to expire one hour after the event occurs. This helps to make sure that people don’t accidentally sign up for an event in the past — and it reserves the “Browse Events” area for only current and upcoming events. 

(You will set the date and time of the event itself, in just a couple steps.)

  1. Set Catalog Visibility to Shop and search results.
  1. Now you can click the SUBMIT button (or click DRAFT and leave it as a draft until you’re finished).

Event Details: #

  1. After it has saved and refreshed the page, scroll down to the second section, Product Details. Click on the Event button. 
  1. The first thing to do is select Yes on the dropdown menu to indicate that this product is an event. You then see two options for dates: Sequential days or Select days. Assuming this is a 1-day event, it doesn’t actually matter which you choose, so you can leave it on default: Sequential days. Indicate the Start Date, enter the same date as End Date — unless your event actually crosses over midnight to the next day.

    When entering the start and end times, know this: If you use the 24-hour clock (AKA “military time”), then do not also select am/pm — this will mess it up! So either use 1–12 and indicate am/pm, or use 24-hour time and do not indicate am/pm. 
  1. In the “Venue” field, indicate that the Venue is a Zoom online video conversation (or meeting or whatever phrase you prefer).
  1. There are a few fields about location you can ignore when creating virtual events: GPS Coordinates, Google Map Coordinates, Directions.  For the next fields —phone, email— we suggest the following:
  • We recommend using your business phone number. If you don’t have a business line, you can sign up for a free Google Voice number.
  • Likewise, if you mostly use a personal email, you can create a new gmail account and share that email. (You can also then have that gmail automatically forward to your personal email, if you like.

There are a few options for HTML ticket theme; you can ignore that as well. If you have a business/store logo or professional portrait/profile photo (as mentioned in steps 6 and 8), you can add it to the ticket, which can be a nice touch.

  1. The next step is the Ticket text; the ticket is what will be emailed to people who sign up to attend your event; this is where you copy-paste the Zoom meeting invitation — so now it’s time to talk about Zoom!
  • Zoom (zoom.us) is an awesome tool for online video conferencing, with both a free version and more robust “Pro” and “Business” plans ($14.99 and $19.99/month, respectively).  
  • So in addition to signing up for your hosting membership here at PWL, you’ll want to create an account at zoom.us and download and install the Zoom app on your computer, tablet, and/or smartphone. (However, these events are best on a larger screen, so hopefully you have a desktop or laptop computer to use, or at least an iPad or other tablet; it’s pretty hard to do these on a phone…)
  • Regarding the free vs. paid versions of Zoom: the free version limits events to 40 minutes if there are 3 or more participants (including you the host), so the free one will work for 1-on-1 or events of 40 minutes or less, but if you have 3+ participants and want more than 40 minutes, you’ll have to do a bit of calisthenics by creating two or more consecutive Zoom meetings — and including both Zoom meeting invites in your ticket text.
  • So, once you have your Zoom account, you first schedule a meeting for the date and time you want, save the meeting, then click Copy Invitation; a popup invitation text box appears, click Copy Meeting Invitation; the invite text is now copied to your clipboard, ready to be pasted into “Ticket Text” in your product Event Details.
  1. While we encourage hosts to use Zoom for consistency among all the various workshops, you can also use Skype, Google Meet or whatever else you prefer; there are many options. FYI, here’s an interesting comparison chart: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_web_conferencing_software

We’re doing our best to keep the tutorials accurate and up to date, but if you notice anything that might need to be edited, please leave a comment below. And if you got stuck, click the “How can we help?” link and let us know what was unclear. 

About this Tutorial:

This tutorial was created for ProlificWriters.Life by Ted Altenberg, owner and principal web designer at Agora Media Services. Ted was an educator (teacher, curriculum specialist and administrator) for 32 years, and has been doing web design for over 20 years. Until his retirement from education in the summer of 2019, web design was his “side gig;” now that he’s retired, Agora Media Services is his second career. 

Ted is also a host here at PWL, and has a number of offerings of support, training and coaching on WordPress and other topics related to website hosting, security and design. 

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