Virtual events are becoming more common whether it’s a meeting, webinar or a conference.  Moving from an in-person to a virtual event, you’ll still want high quality content for your audience and still maintain engagement and interaction with your audience. Speaker preparation for your virtual event is a key element to success.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your virtual ducks are in a row.  You show up on time, ready to speak to your virtual audience and then lights, camera, action!

However, it’s not that simple.

If you’re thinking of hosting your own virtual conference or you have been asked to speak at a virtual event, we’re sharing tips to ensure organisers and speakers are well prepared as you both venture into the virtual realm.  One thing about virtual events is that nothing can be done in isolation.  You’ll need to collaborate with all parties that are involved such as organisers, audio visual specialists and technical support.

So, let’s begin!

Event organisers choose your speakers carefully

We all have come across inspiring and motivating speakers, whether at in-person events or online.  So, when it comes to the time to approach your speakers it’s important to keep this in mind.  There are speakers who are good speaking at in-person events but not virtually and it’s the same vice versa.  However, you may be lucky to come across speakers that do well in-person and virtually and that is an absolute bonus!

Speakers at an in-person event can visually see and read the audience.  However, pivoting to a virtual event, speakers need to be engaging to maintain the audience’s attention, even though they can’t see their audience.  You may be thinking that this is impossible!  Well keep on reading.

What does an event pre-run involve?

in the week leading up to an event, the event organiser will do mandatory checks with speakers to minimise glitches.

Lighting and background check

Lighting is an important element and the best kind of lighting you can have is natural lighting.  Natural lighting should be beaming onto the speaker’s face and not from behind them or from the side and cast a shadow across the face.  However, the day you go live the weather may be dark and gloomy!  No need to worry.  It’s as simple as using a lamp, or a ring light and position it a few metres in front of you.

Speakers, don’t forget your background is important and it will be seen by hundreds!  You want your audience’s attention to be on you and not what behind you. Don’t let your background be more interesting than your presentation.  Keep your background clean, organised and tidy.  Remember you’re inviting hundreds into your personal space and first impressions count!

Sound and visual check

You may assume that the camera and microphone of your device will do the trick!  It may not be the case all the time.  If speaking virtually is something you do or will be doing quite often, then you may want to invest in a camera and microphone for a better-quality output.  However, don’t go breaking the bank!  It’s not necessary to spend a lot of money on a camera and/or microphone.

If this is something you may want to invest in, then it’s good to explore this before the pre-event run through with the event organiser.

If you have a video, audio or a PowerPoint in your presentation it’s important that this is sent to the event organiser as a backup.  Worst case scenario if your visuals and/or audio are unable to load on your end, we’ve got your back!

If you’re planning on speaking on virtual stages, it’s important that you’re well prepared ahead of time.

How do I interact with a virtual audience?

Let’s not forget about your audience.  On a virtual platform you’re unable to visually read your audience as well as you would in-person.  However, when speaking at a virtual conference, your event planner should have tools to help you with audience engagement and the opportunity to have interactive moments throughout your session.

One successful tool is the ACE Event App it’s durable enough to host your virtual event all on one platform.  Inside the app you can interact with your audience by using the live Q&A and poll features.  Your presentation could be streamed on a few platforms however, if Zoom is the chosen platform at least you’re able to see the audiences comments in the chat box.  This is a great way to acknowledge your engaged audience and their questions during your presentation.

Should I pre-record or do a live presentation?

A good place to start is to ask yourself what is your purpose?

If you’re planning to take questions after your presentation, then you may want to pre-record.  If you do decide to pre-record your presentation, then you should utilise your presentation time and jump onto the live Q&A and/or the chat box if Zoom is being used.  This will give your presentation more value and be more personal.

If you decide to do a live presentation it will give your presentation a personal touch in real-time.  You too will also have your eyes on the live Q&A and Zoom chat box to acknowledge your engaged audience during your presentation.  For any speaker that has chosen to do their presentations live, it would be good to send your pre-recorded presentation to the event organiser as a back up.

What else do I need to know to prepare myself?  

Upon engagement talk with your event organiser to find out what they’re expecting from you and what the audience expectations are – you can also convey your needs.  It might help you to craft your presentation, so expectations are meet.  During this time your event organiser should inform you how much time is allocated to you.  This is very important!  On a virtual platform you must keep to your time frame, there is no wiggle room for presentations to go over time here.  In saying that it brings us to our next point.

Practise, practise and practise some more!

There is no such thing as over preparing.  It will be good to practise with a visible stopwatch even when you go live.  Keeping in mind to allocate time to answer a few questions during and at the end of your presentation.  One tip we have learnt is if you’re using a PowerPoint presentation, it’s good to prepare your last four slides as your last slides.  So regardless on which one out of the last four slides you have to end on because you’re out of time, you have prepared in advance to end on any of the four slides and you’ll successfully do it with ease.  The audience isn’t going to know that the slide you ended on was not the original slide you had planned on finishing off with.

One thing you need to ask the event organiser is the order of  the agenda, including transitions.  What’s happening before you, leading up to you and after your time slot.  The best kind of preparation on a virtual platform is preparing right to the last minute.  This will give you the confidence on your preparation on what to expect and what is not expected.  Don’t underestimate the information that is given to you.  Worst case scenario if something was cut short or couldn’t be played due to technical issues, you could be presenting earlier than planned. 

Planning and practising are so crucial and an extremely important responsibility for a speaker and event organiser and both will reap the rewards of your preparation! 

Another way for an event organiser to help prepare a speaker, is to come up with questions that cover many scenarios that may occur before, during and after your presentation.  Then you’ll follow up each scenario with a solution.  For example, your computer speakers might fail and you’re unable to hear an audience member ask a question.  So, you would have prepared to have a pair of earphones close by and quickly plug them in. 

This will help a speaker prepare with confidence for the best possible outcome and trouble shoot on the go!

Once you have a Virtual Conference under your belt you’ll be amazed at the virtual possibilities and the opportunities it provides because it’s opened to a wider audience AND you’ll see that interaction and engagement at a virtual event is absolutely possible!