Be Your Best Virtual Self

Be Your Best Virtual Self

Our guest speakers share their advice for anyone doing a virtual presentation. 

Even before the events world pivoted to a virtual platform, the Women in Leadership (WIL) initiative at Cvent has been successfully conducting virtual meetings since last year. Today we are joined by WIL Coordinator, Amanda Greenspan-DSouza & Taylor Wertheimer, WIL guest speaker, as they share their advice for anyone doing a virtual presentation. They even share how they've been successfully managing a virtual book club along with their top tips on how you can launch a program similar to this and create it in your own environment.

Guest

  • Amanda Greenspan-DSouza, WIL Coordinator, Meetings & Event Planner, Cvent
  • Taylor Wertheimer, Learning & Development Program Specialist, Cvent

Hosts

  • Brooke Gracey, Senior Manager, Demand Generation, Cvent
  • Cody Liskn, Team Lead, Event Quarterback Team, Cvent

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Transcript

Brooke Gracey
Amanda and Taylor Thank you guys so much for joining us today on the podcast we like to start off with a little bit of background on both of you, how you ended up at Cvent, but also how did you become a part of these women in leadership initiatives.  

Taylor Wertheimer
Sure. So, I guess I'll go ahead and start us off here. I joined Cvent in 2017 and I am from Virginia but was living in Florida at the time. I was working for a very large theme park down in Orlando and I decided I wanted to move a little bit closer to home wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do but knew I wanted to be in the hospitality industry still and I didn't really know much about Cvent but my sorority sister actually posted something on LinkedIn. I applied and I've been here ever since and absolutely love it.
When I first joined, I actually went to women and leadership meetings before it was for the whole company at the time it was just for managers and it was an awesome event. I've really enjoyed it. And we were able to be guests that at that point. But we weren't able to be fully part of the group.
Join the meeting so much and was really excited about it and then about a year later, they announced that anyone could join regardless if you are a manager or whatever that was. Um, so that's how I got involved with it. I'm really enjoying it had been a lot of awesome people through the group like Amanda  

Amanda Greenspan-DSouza
So hi, I am Amanda. Um, I've been with Cvent it'll actually be two years in June. I actually was originally a client of Cvent so I was pretty familiar with the company and the products that we host And when I moved to Virginia from New York I saw that there was an opening for Cvent and I jumped right on. It sounds like a dream come true job.
With women and leadership, I was working with one of the sponsors Carrie Lambert really closely on booking rooms Originally, and I started working with her more on logistics and making these events run as smoothly as they can be. And eventually coming on the events committee for it and it's been a really fun experience so far and I love being able to work with great people all over 

Brooke Gracey
Yeah, and part of the women in leadership for those of the listeners that don't know who part of Cvent is, a lot of this is bringing in external speakers. People who can really give some great information back to the organization and really helped to inspire women and leaders and now that we're in the position we're in. You guys have really had to move this to a virtual experience Which has made you kind of experts, to say the least on this live presenter experience. And so, I wanted you guys to kind of dig into that a little bit more. What things should we be considering as a speaker and alive or virtual event? And is there any advice that you guys give to these speakers to be the best virtual presenter They can be 

Taylor Wertheimer
Yeah, definitely. And it's actually pretty funny because last year we moved one of our learning and development programs completely virtual Just to kind of cater more to our regional and remote employees all over the world because we just grew so fast that we needed to cater to their needs a little bit more than an in-person setting. So, we did this last year and it's so funny to see how big it is now.
Some of them I've learned a lot from that and some of the tips that I would say, giving to anyone doing a Virtual presentation, whether it's a small session or maybe it's a learning and development program. There's a lot, but some of the top ones definitely make sure you're still justice prepared For a virtual training or session I make sure you're preparing your fiscal space that good audio good lighting, but also just making sure that your computers and your screens are set up for maximum Effectiveness because if you've got your zoom window open, and you've got your notes, it can get a little crazy. So just kind of making sure you're prepared as much as possible.
And really a lot of that is making sure that you're prepared as all I said, do whatever you need to do to feel confident and ready to present. Now that's different for everyone. There's not one specific thing for that, but just doing whatever You know, makes you feel confident and ready to go and present 

Brooke Gracey
Yeah, it's really interesting, actually, I just did the thing you're not supposed to do and said I'm Ray. There's all of these things that come with Being a speaker, whether it's live or virtual. I've heard some real kind of fun tips about speaking virtually though just even the setup like it's such a different experience because when you're on stage. Maybe you don't have to think about all these things, but When you're doing it virtually like what does your background space look like, how is your camera position. What is the lighting like it's like you almost become your own little event producer to make sure that When you're speaking? It is a nice experience for the viewer, not just the content, but the look and feels as well. I'm sure you guys have tons of tips and tricks when it comes to that. 

Amanda Greenspan-DSouza
Yeah, definitely. So One thing with the women in leadership is that we've had A few external speakers coming on and now it's kind of a little bit of a learning curve to making sure that whoever is speaking is comfortable with the zoom platform, which is what we use.
You know, there's a lot of different platforms out there that and it can sometimes be like speaking a different language between the recording and sharing screens and seeing who's talking so definitely running a dress rehearsal, if you will is super important to make sure that your speaker is picking up on certain cues, they know where all the buttons are 

Brooke Gracey
like knowing what the platform is that you're even using and what kind of tools There are, I think you guys even use some interactive elements to help keep the audience more engaged.

Taylor Wertheimer
Yeah, definitely. And that's one of the number one things I would say. With these virtual presentations and training. I mean, it's important to make any training engaging and interactive, otherwise, you're going to lose your participants, because an adult learner's attention span Runs anywhere from 90 seconds to 10 minutes which is not that long. So if you're just speaking out them and just throwing a lot of content and information at them It's really hard for them to stay present and stay engaged in the content. And they might start multitasking and things like that. And on virtual everyone's in front of their laptops So it's a little bit easier for that to happen.
They see us an email notification or another notification pop up and then next thing you know they're working on a document or something like that. So, it's really important to engage or participate. Lots of different things So you can do here. I number one thing smile and then Call people by their name, that's really, really important. So, kicking people out in your audience calling them by name, making it personal. And also just sharing your personal stories as well, but also encouraging your participants to do that to we use a lot of different interactive elements, a part of zoom the platform that we use for teleconferencing like live polling Discussions so discussions, whether that's like how we're talking right now, or maybe that's just yeah the chat in zoom as well. So, there's lots of different things that you can do. You just have to get a little bit creative 

Brooke Gracey
And I know some of the virtual events that we've done recently at the Cvent. We've used, you know, a whole host of different technologies. It's almost like there's 

Brooke Gracey
This new tech stack. That's not totally different than what we would use for an in-person event, but there are some modifications and tools that you could be used for virtual I know we're using zoom For the actual live event experience. But what other technologies are you guys using as a part of this. 

Taylor Wertheimer
So I actually love using a mobile app. A lot of the work that I do is through virtual learning development programs. So, it'll be a three-day program with Over 100 attendees and so on the mobile app really helps with that. There's a lot of gamification and mobile apps and you can put All of the schedules and their content, all sorts of different information, you really can game a phi that experience as well and encourage some friendly competition among the attendees, which is great.
And there's live q&a in there too. So, there's just a lot of capabilities with a mobile app, and it kind of just keeps everyone organized knowing where they need to be at what time. That's my favorite Amanda. Do you have any that you use? 

Amanda Greenspan-DSouza
So well within the zoom, one of The Hot Topic tools that have we've been really utilizing is the breakout rooms, actually. And there's been a little bit of a learning curve with us like being able to use them to the best of their ability and it was kind of exciting. The first time that we did a breakout room for a large-scale audience with women in leadership, they Have like about 100 people and just did a speed networking round where we put everyone in like groups of five. Set them off to go and talk with whatever was on their mind for 10 minutes brought them back into the main room shuffled them up and send them on their way. Again, it was a way to go And one let people talk with someone that was outside of their usual work, their physical work environment like your roommates or your family, or in to even interact with people that you wouldn't normally get to on a day to day basis.
We had folks joining from all over or North America office and I believe we even have some of our European see vectors joining as well. And it was just a great way to go and build new connections and hopefully get people to interact, a little bit more with outside of their normal team. 

Brooke Gracey
that's also a huge problem. I think we're seeing right now, which is A lot of people are signing up for these virtual events. But the more you have sort of the less interaction, you can have in between attendees. So, having these kinds of smaller breakouts to allow people to network and talk is so important. 

Taylor Wertheimer
Yeah. BROOKE definitely especially right now in our current state, you know, people are in their homes, maybe only seeing their family and they want to connect. They want that social interaction that they're really not getting as they would in the office So being able to infuse that into training into virtual events is awesome, the breakouts are a great way to do that people do want to connect. They want to be social. So, it's important to be infusing social elements into your training and presentations. 

Cody Liskh
Yeah, I have to say. That's my, my biggest feedback with zoom. I love having zoom as an option, especially while we're all working from home. We have our happy hours where we all socialize. But it's one person that's talking at a time. And it's not like sitting around and having several conversations at once. So, I think using the Zoom breakout rooms is really, really key. For all of our listeners out there if you're not using zoom breakout rooms, while you're using zoom definitely look into that. So, it's going to really improve the experience and I have to imagine you guys came up with a lot of these cool tips Not just overnight.
You guys have been doing this for a while and I have to believe because you guys, we have our We call them an ACX which is our advanced Cventers experience meetings and we've moved those two virtual but this happened way before this whole work from home stuff happened. Why did we make this change as an organization and what did you find won everybody over? 

Taylor Wertheimer
I said earlier, we're growing at an extremely fast rate, and to keep up with that global workforce that we do have, it's really important to Find a way that is the same for everyone. I because you can have an in-person training and then you can have zoom attendees or virtual attendees zooming in, or whatever platform you're using You can have them as a hybrid type of deal.
But that kind of doesn't get the best experience for our regional employees that are faced elsewhere. So, we did it to keep up with that cloak, the global new global needs. And just to care more to a virtual audience. I'm most of our employees used to be based on HQ. So, in-person training worked great. But some of the things that work for in person. Don't necessarily work for zoom attendees and don't engage them as much So we created this new format a program to keep up with those trends and to keep up with the needs of our workforce. And it was a huge hit just because they felt that we were talking straight to them. So, I'm looking right into You know, the camera and I'm looking right at them on the screen. Instead of looking at people in person in front of me and not paying as much attention to the folks on the screen, if that makes sense.
So that's why we did it and we did it for the first time in August. I want to say it's a huge hit. So, then we did it again in November, and that's going to continue to be the norm, especially now as we continue to see more and more virtual training and events take place. 

Brooke Gracey
Cody and I certainly appreciate that. Right. Cody, because we're not in HQ, we're out on the other side of The United States. And so, it is when you're a global company. It's such a cool way to make sure that everybody feels like they're involved, and you're not just like on the zoom That's part of a room of 500 people who are also doing it in person. It's an entirely different experience when you're all doing it virtually 

Cody Liskh
 And I love what you said Taylor about how in a zoom experience. You are like face to face with people and that makes it such a more personal experience and I have to imagine that people are probably more likely to ask questions if it's a more personal experience.
So, but zoom experience. People are maybe verbally asking questions that are unmuted themselves. They're using the zoom chat, which is also super, super cool. But that sounds like it can get complicated to manage. How do you juggle the live questions in the zoom chat? 

Taylor Wertheimer
Yeah, it definitely can be tough at times, especially since those programs have 100 plus people in them. So, there's quite a few people. There's a lot of activity in the chat.
I would say just trying to be mindful of balancing the two you've got people that are perfectly fine with I'm muting themselves and in speaking up to ask a question or to comment on something. So, you've got those folks but then you've got those folks that are a little bit intimidated by that are going to be Writing in the chat as well. But you don't want to forget about that. You don't want to just ignore the chat. Otherwise, what's the point, right. So, I'm for me. I like to have a separate monitor or screen in our office, we have really awesome zoom rooms. So, we have a little tablets setup. So, I like to have that right in front of me and I just check it Throughout the training and the session and comment on things throughout and make it more of a conversation. It does take some practice. I will say just kind of balancing all of the different methods there, but you know little practice, it seems to work. 

Amanda Greenspan-DSouza
Yeah and if you Aren't as comfortable with using all of like being that person with 12 hands like Taylor, it might be beneficial for you to have someone dedicated to moderating the chat as well and You can even go and have a separate chat set up with you and your designated person so that you can communicate with each other and letting They can let you know, here's a good question that came through on the chat don't like one, make sure you don't miss it because that tracking if it's a very active, became Get lost really quickly and scroll. So, you want to make sure that you are that you're not forgetting about your online people.
Another thing that you could do for your chatty Cathy's Is even posing a challenge to them as, like, Okay, so tell me in 10 seconds or less your feelings on this. So, it kind of puts that limit in their head already so that you can swiftly move on to the next person. 

Brooke Gracey
That's a good idea. 

Cody Liskh
That's a good tip. 

Brooke Gracey
Last ask them the next question. 

Cody Liskh
Why do you have a good question for you guys because I heard that you have really cool women in a leadership book club and a happy hour that set up? And I imagine a lot of people out there are wanting to set something up, similar to that, you know, can you tell us a little bit, a little bit more about how our listeners could set one up on their own. 

Amanda Greenspan-DSouza
Yeah, definitely. So it's really important to first know your audience and you know pose that question out to the group, is this something that you want to do, just so that you're not wasting your time, you're not feeling like you're obligating people to join. And what we do for Cvent is we try to focus on, you know, everyday books. It doesn't have to be specific to You know, a self-help book or something that is on a specific book club you know we want to open it to all genres all authors all narratives. So, to do that you don't also. You also don't have to own it all on your own. Feel free to go and let people volunteer to crowdsource to see true would be interested in taking on this role, um, people. People love to go and share things that make them happy. So what we do is I did the crowdsourcing got a few volunteers to assign them out for different months and Those volunteers post a slack poll and you can do this with any sort of platform that has a poll on it. Posing to the group, you know, out of these three books Which one are you most interested in reading and discussing for this month. And so that way. It's like, you know, both, both sides are being heard both sides are getting a little bit of what they want. 

Brooke Gracey
Like that crowdsourcing ask people what they want to listen to or read or discuss. I mean, that's definitely going to get more people involved. You guys are Really running so many programs here at the event that is pivoting to virtual and this new environment have been going for a long time in a virtual way Also very engaging. And, you know, really some cool stuff that you guys have come up with
I know you also had these like top 10 tips and maybe I won't have you go through all 10 if you don't want to, but can you share some of the top tips that you did come up with how people can launch a program similar to this, and created in a virtual environment. 

Taylor Wertheimer
Absolutely. I mean, I would be more than happy to go through all 10 tips with you. In fact, I have way more than just 10 but I would say the top ones. we kind of touched on a few already, but I think it's really, really important to be comfortable with Zoom in to be comfortable presenting virtually it is different. It is a little bit different. Some people don't really You know, feel comfortable on camera, so it's really important to get comfortable on camera.
Get comfortable with whatever technology that you're using to put on this event this training because you need to be good at that. You don't want to be in the middle of the training and not know how to troubleshoot something or to do something you want to you want it to flow and you want it to be a Graceful experience. I guess I should say. And so, it's really important to test everything out ahead of time run through the training start from the beginning, run through like you would in a dress rehearsal, do the full thing out. Do your entire facilitation because you don't know if you took this in person. You don't know where there might be something that doesn't work, virtually so it's very important to be practicing that And as I said I, you know, making big decisions you feel ready as well and that you feel confident and you feel ready to present.
Again, being super interactive as important as well. I would say this is It's not the top tip. Definitely Second, making it an interactive and engaging experience in order for it to be valuable for your attendees. You don't want them to attend something and then just beyond 30 emails, the whole time. You want them to be actually adding value and Part of the actual event in training itself and not observing if that makes sense. There's so many different ways that you can make it engaging a lot of folks are intimidated by that. They think, oh, that since this is virtual we can't do. We can't do group activities. Well, that's not true, because we can use zoom breakouts. Or maybe we want to have a discussion. You can do that. You can do that through obviously just regular audio, but also there's other alternatives like the chat feature as well.
I think something else. It's super important to be over, explaining, and over-communicating when it comes to participating. People may make it on somebody to buy it or may not know. Oh, I'm supposed to do this at this point. So, it's really important to over-explain. I like to send out participation instructions ahead of time, and I encourage my participants to read these instructions outlining all of the steps that They can take to participate in the training so that they're fully prepared when the training actually starts. But of course, do you think everyone reads those, So I always go over that in the intro as well. And then I infuse instruction slides or cues five throughout the training to ensure participants know when they're supposed to take a certain action. 

Cody Liskh
I really love what you said about us over-explaining things we use zoom all day every day and I forget that there are a lot of people out there that maybe are brand new to zoom and they don't really know how it works or how to like You know, even join really necessarily. So that's a really good point. I think You guys have been so awesome to have on the podcast I got to ask you, our favorite question. If you had to leave our event professionals with one takeaway on how to be your best virtual presenter self, what would that be 

Amanda Greenspan-DSouza
So I would say, you know, take whatever makes you feel confident and comfortable in a physical space and apply it to the virtual space for me when I stand in front of an audience I like to wear power heels. So, you know, just because The heels might have been gathering little dust lately That doesn't mean that they still make you confident presenting over zoom for fellas If you have a tie or a shirt, you know, Go ahead and were that as well and just going and treating it like you're having a conversation 

Taylor Wertheimer
In my top tip. Take an I say don't let it intimidate you. Don't let virtual scare you off, look at as an opportunity. And right now, we are all adapting, and we have We're having to do so many things differently than what we've done in the past because what works in a virtual environment doesn't necessarily work in person. So, we've had to adapt in so many different ways. And I would say leverage this as an opportunity. So, use this opportunity to add some skills to your toolkit to take with you after, this whole experience.
Any training any session event can virtualize it just takes a little bit of extra planning. I will say there's a little bit of extra planning involved with this. Adjusting your mindset. So just thinking in a different way, thinking outside of the box, and then just adding some creative thinking into that as well.
But overall, I would say use this as an opportunity because it's a really, really cool thing. Our world is more connected than ever, so it's cool to be able to do this and it's great that we're able to do virtual training and virtual events. These days it's great to see the technology that exists out there to you that 

Cody Liskh
I don't know. I was thinking about that, Amanda. I need to get my suit out always, you know, it's either one that since like 2017 Was like Yeah. You know I love what you said to Taylor. I think it's really important to You know, embrace the fact that we have all this technology to connect. I was just thinking this morning. What if this whole situation happened like 10 or 12 years ago. How would we have survived it? So, I'm very grateful that we have a zoom and ways to connect virtually 

Cody Liskh
Last question I have for you guys, do you have anything you want to promote or share with our listeners. 

Amanda Greenspan-DSouza
Um, so, you know, obviously at Cvent We're all about events and just because we are no longer meeting, face to face, or having those Lunch and learns that we all know and love, you know, doesn't mean that the industry still is in thriving still isn't meeting and communicating and just connecting in general. So be sure to Check out www.cvent.com for the virtually posted events that we have, we've got a whole new repertoire that we're unleashing out with virtual happy hours and on online customer focus groups. So, and, and anything in your industry just is on the lookout LinkedIn is a great way to stay up to date.

Brooke Gracey
And a lot of these things are now free to like Cvent connect is going virtual and it's free to attend. So, there's a lot more opportunities out there to maybe get in on some of these things were previously you didn't have the budget or couldn't travel. Now, why not. Yeah, you can. 

Amanda Greenspan-DSouza
Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I remember that I had spoken to a few clients, where, you know, sometimes they had to choose, they had only within their budget of going to one annual user conference a year so, To your point, just a lot of conferences are free now. So definitely take advantage of it. And I'm echoing what Taylor said This is a great time to learn. And it's a great time to get creative and innovative and connecting with the people who you might not have normally on a chance to  

Brooke Gracey
Well, thank you guys so much for joining us. This was a great conversation. You guys have a wealth of knowledge. I'm sure we just scratched the surface. So maybe we can have you guys back on later to talk about some of the other innovative things that you've done.
And for listeners will put more information about what both Amanda and Taylor were talking about on our session description or the description for this episode, and you can get that at www.cvent.com/podcast. So, thank you again for joining us.