A well-executed education program is the thread that unifies attendees at any conference. Nth Degree has a department dedicated to speaker and education management and we’re working hard to ensure success for both our clients and their audiences in the current climate. Let’s take a look at some of the ways we prepare speakers for a virtual event, and how it’s different from a face-to-face environment.
Moving to a new format (forced or voluntarily) can be a difficult process. Even the most seasoned speakers can struggle in a virtual setting. The key is to keep things simple, seek out an easy-to-use platform to reduce technical anxiety, and provide lots of support.
First, be sure that your speakers are familiar with the technology to ensure the smooth delivery of content. If they require training, set aside time to walk them through the platform you’re using to deliver the virtual event. The more comfortable they are in their new virtual environment, the more comfortable they will be during their presentation. It’s the equivalent of the speaker viewing the room they’ll be in at a live meeting – standing at the podium, knowing how large the stage is, seeing where the confidence monitor will be, etc. Only now, they're identifying where the mute button is, how to respond to questions and chats, what to do in case of technical difficulties, and more.
In the event your speaker is not comfortable presenting live, you can also opt to do a “simulive” session. These sessions appear to be live to your audience, but are actually prerecorded. This allows the speaker to record in advance and gives him/her the benefits of working out the kinks before the audience views the session. You can also enable the speaker to be live after the session to answer questions and chat in real-time with the viewers.
In either scenario, provide speakers with comprehensive information on the tools and equipment they'll need—microphones, green screens, lighting, and tripods. There are a few ways to do this:
- Provide equipment and setup instructions as part of a speaker thank-you gift
- Loan them equipment - provide instructions and return mailing labels
- Supply information on where they can source reliable materials on their own
- Share details on where they can go to do the live session or recording
If you’ve ever attended a webinar where the speaker is unprepared for the technical side, you know how quickly it can go south. The more prepared the speaker is on the technical front, the easier it will be for them to be relaxed and confident during their presentation.
Provide a speaker coach to assist in the transition from live to virtual events. Speaking to a camera is very different from a physical audience because the non-verbal feedback you get from a face-to-face encounter is removed from the equation. Coaches provide tips and tricks for presenting virtually and help speakers engage with their audience the way they would in-person, rather than just reading through slides. A few things they may help with include:
- Body language
- Top ways to engage with attendees
- Props to create engagement
- A plan to work through Q&A
- Chat management
- Help condensing content for a shorter session
- Recommendations on how and where to conduct the session
Rehearsal is important for an in-person event, but for a virtual event, it's critical. Require rehearsals from your speakers and record them. This allows you to watch the presentation and provide feedback on changes that should be made as they relate to corrections, a need for more interactivity, camera set up, sound quality, and more. Rehearsals help the speaker increase their confidence. Recordings can also be used as a backup for those speakers that chose to speak live, but something goes awry during the streaming presentation (a speaker’s loss of wifi, as an example).
Getting interactive with the audience in a virtual setting takes some practice! Speaker engagement with the audience should be mandatory for each session. In a simulive environment, the speaker should be prepared for live Q&A at the end. If presenting live, he/she should review and rehearse the ability to use tools like polls and live chat functions and identify the ideal placement of these interactive features within the presentation.
Change is always a bit uncomfortable at first. But with proper planning and a healthy dose of willingness to try new things, your speakers will be up and running in the virtual world in no time.