Tips for hosting a large Death Cafe on Zoom

Tips for hosting a large Death Cafe on Zoom


  • Everyone booked by email.  I was wary of a person attending with whom others might feel unsafe, so when a new person I’d not met before emailed and wanted to book, I engaged them in an email conversation a little first.  Asked where they lived, if they’d been to a DC before, what their name was if it wasn’t obvious.  

Once they’d chatted on email, then I sent them the link and extra info.

(One person emailed to book, then didn’t reply to my ‘chat’ and disappeared.  They hadn’t told me their name.)

This might sound harsh, but safety is paramount in small groups, especially, I think. 


  • We had the tech support person as the Zoom host as she could have more control over things then, and could also help people with tech issues while I was doing the intro.   


  • I was the Zoom co-host.


  • The Zoom host and I had a plan to text or ring each other if we couldn’t chat for any reason on Zoom chat.  We had each other’s numbers. 


  • I had a practise earlier in the day with the Zoom host and a few friends, practising dipping in an out of the breakout rooms, the small groups.


In the real-life Death Cafe, I ‘float’ around to check each group is working out ok, and if anyone might need follow-up afterwards eg if in distress / grief.

At the Zoom DC, I did the same.  I await feedback to find out how that was for those attending.  I stayed in each group for around 10 mins. 


  • Next time I’ll say in the invitation that if anyone thinks they might need guidance with Zoom, it might be wise to come within the 20 mins settling-in time.  (6.40pm for a 7pm start) 

Otherwise, I will save any important info for the actual introduction at the start of the session. 

If people do come early who are confident on zoom, then I’ll encourage them to switch their mics off and maybe even go away and come back for the intro/actual start.  Can be a bit of a spectator-time otherwise, which might feel awkward for some.  I actually enjoyed seeing people from our regular, established Death cafe and listening them all delight in seeing each other.


  • Next time I’d tell everyone in the invitation they will be expected to switch their video on.  If calling in on a phone, this can’t happen, but I’d encourage everyone who can attend with video to do so.  If they really can’t, I’d check their photo was ok when they arrive and ask them to change it if it’s clearly inappropriate eg intimidating. I’d have to make that judgement.


  • The tech support person, the Zoom host, stayed in ‘the Main meeting’ throughout, and didn’t join a breakout group. 

This was an excellent idea of hers, as I felt very well supported and she felt more able to hold the tech side of things.

Whenever I left a group, I’d go back to the main meeting and there she was!  It was great for me to have a minute’s break.

She, of course, missed the whole DC experience, however, other than the intro and the ending. 


  • 20 mins chatting was fine at the start, as people arrived.  Silence then felt fine too, though people were quite chatty!

I didn’t play background music, as we don’t so that at the real-life DC and I had a sense it would be fine without.  Kept it simple. 

It was good to have all that time for people to help each other sort out any issues with Zoom - some seemed to enjoy being the technical support for others!


  • We used the waiting room, so we could see who we were letting in, as a security measure.  Only the host and I could hear the entry bell sound. 

The zoom host and I agreed that if anyone came who we had a tricky feeling about (eg if they wouldn’t turn their camera on) we would leave them in the waiting room and one of us would speak with them once the groups had got going. 


  • I knew most people who booked, so I put people into their groups beforehand and sent that list of groups to the Zoom host.  On this list, I’d marked all those I knew would be able to ‘hold’ the space for any group, so she could make sure there was at least one strong, ‘holding’ person in each group. 


  • She then locked the door/meeting at 7.08pm and sorted everyone into breakout groups as best she could, according to my list.  That was tricky for her, as 10 people hadn’t arrived, so she had to rearrange my groups, but she knew that would be fine with me as we’d guessed that might happen.


  • Groups were of 4 or 5 people


  • In the chat, people could send a message to Everyone, myself or the Zoom host. No private chat.  This was an extra safety measure, we felt, to stop anyone who wanted to send inappropriate messages. 


  • I made it clear that if anyone felt unsafe with anyone in their group, they could leave the group and come back to the Zoom host who was in the Main Meeting.  Or if they didn’t want to be so obvious, they could send a message to myself or the Zoom host in the chat.

I told everyone we could and would intervene. 


  • Next time I would make it much clearer that the breakout rooms will come to a sudden end, and encourage people to heed the 10 mins and 5 mins ‘warning’ and not enter any deep personal stories at that point, and say goodbye to their group, if they would like to, as that’s the only chance to do so. 


My notes for the eve



Welcome.       Intro myself and Vicki.  V was the host, I was the co-host.


I’ve been hosting a regular DC for 3 years now, but this is all an experiment on Zoom.


Pattern of eve

I’ll do a short intro,

Then we will go into small groups - for most of the session. 8.20 come back.

Message at 8.10pm to let you know there are 10 mins left


Familiar with Zoom? Eg Mic off / on

Gallery view / Speaker view


Turn your Video on - feels more present


Turn off phone sound, notifications sounds - emails


I ask that you keep everything confidential.  If someone you know here talks about something this eve, don’t assume they want to talk about that at another time. 

Aiming to create a safe space, so we can relax and share openly. 


I’m not recording this in any way, so we all feel safe


My main concern  - one person in the group will dominate

Some of us are more confident in groups than others - please take responsibility for everyone having a chance to speak if they’d like to.


I’ll be dropping into some of the groups, to have an overview on things - fly on the wall

No need to stop talking or include me


Could start by briefly introducing yourself and where you’re speaking from.


You might want to say goodbye to your group when you see the 5 mins warning - otherwise there’ll be no other chance.


Let’s have just a 2 mins break now, to look away from the screen and give your eyes a rest, and stretch your legs.  When you come back, there’ll be a message to join a group. Just click it.


A couple of things because we’re on Zoom:


1). If someone is dominating the conversation in your group, please tell me by typing in the Chat box, with their name, and I’ll come and join your group. 


2). Importantly - if there is someone you don’t feel safe with, do tell me or Vicki in the chat  - with their name. We can intervene. 


Chat box/Participant - You can only chat with me,  Vicki, or send a message to Everyone - all will see it.



ASK V if she’s ready


I stay in main session but dip into rooms - I click ‘BREAKOUT ROOMS’ to go to the next room V has set up for me, then back to Main Session again before going to next group.






AT 8.10pm Send to everyone to show on the screen

10 mins before we come back to the main meeting. Your group will be invited to list / say a few topics you’ve been talking about, if you’d like to.

Or you could type these in the chat.”


5 mins warning too. 




Welcome any feedback or comments by email.  Me dropping in and out.


THANK all for coming - and tech-host-support


Lastly, take care of yourself, esp if feeling tender and open.   The end of a Zoom call can be very abrupt.


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