If you’re currently reading this, chances are you fit into one of two categories. You’re either a planner eager to learn how you can set your virtual speaker up for success, or you’re a speaker looking to be trained in the art of virtual presentations. You might also just be a curious person, but for the sake of purpose, let’s assume you’re either a planner or a speaker. So let’s be real here – whether you like it or not, virtual and hybrid events are here to stay. If Darwin taught us anything is that only those who manage to adapt to the circumstances will survive. And that’s exactly what we’re all trying to do!
Depending on your standards, speaking at a virtual event can either be the easiest thing in the world or quite the challenge. Hopefully, your standards are very high. So that means that both preparing your virtual event speakers and being the one who does the speaking entails quite a bit of preparation and a series of best practices that wouldn’t apply to in-person events. But because we want nothing more than to help out, we put together this article. Keep reading to find out the ultimate hacks for virtual event speakers and planners who are looking to support them. It’s time for yet another Endless lesson!
For The Speakers
#1 Warm Up Your Instrument
You might not be a singer, but you are still an artist of sorts. Whether you’re providing education, entertainment, or both, your job is to connect with people and to keep them hooked from start to finish. And yes, your materials are part of it, but we’ll get to that later. The first thing we want you to consider is your voice – the instrument you’ll be using the most.
Your voice will play a huge role in keeping the audience engaged and coming back to you. There’s a fine balance between commanding and charming that you have to nail, and to achieve that, those vocal cords of yours need to be in top shape. So stay hydrated, refrain from screaming or using it too much in the days leading up to the big day, and make good use of that magical and sweet substance called honey. It goes wonderfully with a cup of tea!
#2 Prepare Your Background
During an in-person event, the set-up is something other people would take care of for you. But now that you’re presenting from a different location than everybody else, you’re in charge of your own background. And no, this isn’t something you can just ignore! Seeing the person who’s presenting speak against a background of piled boxes and old papers is an instant turn-off. Plus, it can be incredibly distracting and hurt your engagement right off the bat.
Make sure you keep it clean, simple, and organized. Like a wise woman once said, make it spark joy in those looking at it. A great place to seek inspiration is YouTube. Most creators put a lot of effort into this specific part of their video for all the reasons we outlined above. Hence, they can provide some cool and innovative ideas for your own background!
#3 Do Your Research
At their core, events are, and always will be, about people. You’re not speaking to the birds and bees or communicating with the spirits – you’re addressing human beings. An audience that signed up to this particular virtual event because they want to learn more about a certain topic, acquire skills, and be on the receiving end of a valuable experience.
This means that the attendees come first. So you need to know as much about them as possible. What audience are you addressing? Why are they there? What are their pain points, and the content they would find the most useful? What kind of approach would they respond to best, casual, or strictly professional? Be very clear about what you want to communicate and make sure you are providing these people with the kind of content and experience they can relate to and extract maximum value from.
#4 Be Mindful Of Your Materials
You know what’s horrible? Pinneaple on pizza. You know what’s even worse? Powerpoint heavy presentations. But in all seriousness – and pizza topping preferences aside – this is the worst kind of self-sabotage you can incur. Remember that the medium through which you are addressing people has completely shifted. Virtual means a shorter attention span, high chances of webinar fatigue, and a greater need for something that will keep the audience absorbed.
It’s with all of this in mind that you should build your materials. Take a good look at your slides. Are they too heavy on the text? Are they plain and boring from a design perspective? If yes, then something needs to change. The key here is to use your slides as a means to provide a visual representation and switch the focus from the talking head. Catchy titles, graphics, bullet points, engaging visuals, animated graphics…these are the things you should be looking for. No one wants to sit through a 2-hour lecture that consists of nothing but black and white slides with walls of text in it.
#5 Have A Script On Hand
No matter how good you are at improv night at your local comedy club, we still recommend that you arm yourself with a script. There’s nothing wrong with coming up with extra things on the spot, especially if they pertain to questions from the audience or something that will enrich your presentation.
However, the “just wing it” approach won’t be your friend in this case. Having some sort of pre-planned map of what you’re going to say, which slides/images/videos you’re going to show, and the movements you’re going to make is a big step to ensure everything goes smoothly. Plus, you’re only human and you can’t remember everything. There’s no shame in using a script – only wisdom.
#6 It’s All About The Tech
If the planners of the event did everything they could to ensure the success of the virtual event, they probably hired a production company. And the job of this company will entail something along the lines of helping you set up all of your tech, and provide you with state of the art microphones, lighting, and camera.
However, if that’s not the case, or if you’re doing your own webinar, this part is on you. We advise that you make some research on high-quality microphones so that the sound doesn’t suck (is there anything worse?). The same goes for the camera and the lighting, since you want everything to be crystal clear. It might not seem important, but remember – you’re trying as best you can to establish a human connection. Good tech goes a long way in helping with this!
#7 No Distractions!
When it’s showtime, you must be laser-focused. This means no pets, no people running around, no metal band rehearsing in your basement. If you live with other people, make sure you let them know exactly what time you’ll be on and for how long. Preferably, they won’t make use of the Internet in order to help your connection remain steady the whole way through.
Whatever has the potential to distract you or your attendees during the event, get rid of it. And that includes your phone, open windows, and a myriad of other things. You, better than no one, know your space. So clear everything up in time!
#8 Energy, Authenticity & Passion
Remember when we said you were an artist? Well, this is where your Shakesperean vein will come in handy. In-person events already demanded that speakers be energetic and engaging. But with virtual events, that need is multiplied tenfold. You’re in constant danger of losing the attention of your attendees, so commanding the virtual space like you would command a stage is something you need to do.
Sustaining an emotional connection in a virtual setting is hard, but it’s not impossible. However, it does require that you display more energy, authenticity, and passion for the topic you’re discussing than ever before. Thankfully, if you’ve become an expert in your field, that means you have plenty of these. It’s just about conveying them through raw emotion, empathy, and…
#9 A Story
Storytelling isn’t only the essence of events, it’s the essence of humanity. Just like we explained in one of our previous articles, stories are what unite us. And if our purpose in life as part of the events industry has always been to promote human connection and to foster powerful bonds, we can’t forget about the importance of storytelling.
Your presentation can’t just be a busy succession of disconnected points. It needs a beginning, middle, and end, a satisfying conclusion, and an overall journey that captivates the hearts and minds of those watching. If you harness the power of storytelling with the energy, authenticity, and passion we just discussed, there are very few ways things can go wrong.
#10 Dress It Up!
We’re not gonna lie – it would be pretty cool if we could attend virtual events in our pajamas. Heck, life in general would be a lot more comfortable if we could be in our pajamas the whole time. But there’s a reason why we don’t (and not just because it isn’t socially acceptable).
Dressing up reminds us, and others, of context. And context is important because, once we’re mindful of it, we act according to what is expected in that given context. So if during a virtual event we’re always trying to achieve that human connection, to replicate the elements of an in-person experience, putting on some clothes really does help. Whether it’s suit and tie or just a casual dress, make an effort to look good and professional, yet approachable, to your audience.
For The Planners
#1 Coach Your Speakers
Event planners of this world, remember the importance of empathy. The industry has been turned on its head, but you’re not the only ones who are dealing with a completely new paradigm and unprecedented challenges in your profession.
Just like virtual events are new to you, they are also very new to most speakers out there. If the virtual event speakers you approach need extra help, make sure you have the necessary resources to train them. There are plenty of resources out there you can share with them, and even though they need to do their own homework, it’s also on you to set them up for success.
#2 Look At The Materials Beforehand
Just because you trust your virtual event speakers, that doesn’t give you an excuse to be neglectful. A second pair of eyes is always appreciated, especially if you’re dealing with something that is different and unusual.
Not all speakers will be familiarized with the best strategies for a virtual presentation, so make sure you take a look at their materials beforehand, with enough time to make alterations if need be.
#3 Check Credentials
It also doesn’t hurt to check the credentials of the speakers you’re thinking about working with. Even though the advent of virtual events is still very fresh, some people might have previous experiences in similar settings.
Maybe they’ve done YoutTube and live streams before, maybe they’ve spoken at hybrid events, maybe they’re just very tech-savvy and know how to deal with the intricacies of virtual speaking. You shouldn’t disregard those who don’t have any of these credentials, but it’s definitely a plus if they do!
#4 Offer Them The Support They Need
Whatever resources your speakers need, do your best to meet their requests. We’re not talking about a bowl of exclusively brown M&Ms being sent to their home – no one likes a diva. But rather things like non-sensitive attendee data and information, quality equipment, the schedule of the event, and so on so forward.
#5 Hire The Right People To Help
At the end of the day, the best thing you can do for your virtual event speakers and your event as a whole is to hire a production company. We’ve already gone into detail about what these professionals can do for your event in previous articles. But when it comes to virtual event speakers, in particular, they can be a valuable resource.
They’ve been there and done that, so who could be better to train your speakers? To look at the materials and judge whether or not they’re good enough? To equip them with state-of-the-art technology? The more you think about it, the more sense it makes!
#6 Help Them Practice
Clichés are clichés for a reason, and “practice makes perfect” is one you’ll want your virtual event speakers to live by. Remind them of the importance of practicing, and offer to do a general rehearsal with them using the platform and tools that will be available on the day of the event.
Well, that was a lot! But it was a long time coming. And whether you’re a virtual event speaker or a planner looking for best practices, hopefully, you are now a lot more knowledgeable on the subject.
Are you ready to take the leap to virtual events? Download our free virtual event planning checklist today and learn what you have to do every step of the way to create an unforgettable experience for your attendees. And if you’re looking for the best virtual event production company out there, chat with us! The Endless team is here to help.