January 14, 2021
By Mike Fletcher

Virtual events are only as good as the content they broadcast. Even the best platform and attendee experience cannot save lacklustre speakers and dreary presentations. However, without having to foot the bill for travel, accommodation and expenses, online event planners are now able to spend more on professional speakers or secure industry experts from anywhere in the world. 

Possible speakers who would normally be booked up, or who live too far away, now have greater flexibility to present remotely - increasing your event’s appeal and scope for content while presenting increased opportunities for marketing, reach and engagement. 

Once you’ve sourced a remote speaker line-up, how do you then ensure they fully contribute to the success of your online event? 

Here’s five pointers to build-in to your pre-event planning and speaker management

1) Discuss the technology 

Speakers who ask the right questions show their experience

Virtual event speakers should be asking planners about the nuances of the platform they’ll be using. 

  • Will they be able to see attendees? 
  • Will they be able to present and view questions simultaneously? 
  • How easy is it to upload or change content? 
  • Should slide design take into account the format of the screen layout? 

These are just a few of the most common questions to anticipate from adept online event speakers. 

If they don’t ask these or other questions about the technology they’ll be using, it may indicate their lack of experience presenting to virtual or hybrid audiences. 

Plan a series of briefing calls with speakers a few weeks out from the event to gauge their level of understanding and proficiency, provide as much detail as you can and help them to feel comfortable with how the event will operate.

2) Be clear on timings

Pre-record speakers who can't stick to strict timings

Virtual event planners need to adopt a mindset similar to a television or radio producer when it comes to timings. In the same way that people tune-in for (and set their clocks by) hourly news bulletins, online audiences will tune in at certain times, potentially from across different time zones, and expect the advertised content. 

Therefore, speakers need to be well drilled on how long they’ve got to speak and how long they’ve got to answer questions or to discuss audience poll results. 

If you’ve booked a speaker who is renowned for going over their allotted slot, consider pre-recording their session so that it can be edited to the correct timings and then maybe bring them online to answer moderated questions live. 

Just remember, any pre-recorded sessions whereby the speaker then answers questions live will need to focus on consistencies, such as ensuring your speaker is wearing the same clothes. 

3) Get the most out of your speakers

Offer remote speakers more than just a speaker slot

The popularity of online events has seen a speaker circuit evolve across different industries, involving those individuals who are more comfortable presenting to virtual audiences. 

In-house virtual and hybrid event planners have taken notice of who excels at speaking online and these experts are often inundated with offers to appear at multiple events for their particular sector. 

One reason these sought-after speakers accept is because they’re looking to develop their own personal brands or have something they wish to promote. So make sure you offer them more than just a speaker slot. Help them to achieve their goals by involving them in pre-recorded event promos, or post-session interviews. 

It will provide you with on-demand content, which can then be used to drive traffic to your website, promote future activity and build community. 

Share extra speaker content and behind-the-scenes interviews across social media channels in the knowledge that speakers will re-share it to their audience base, helping to build your brand alongside their own. 

4) Think live & schedule rehearsals

Consider lighting when doing speaker rehearsals

If you’re pre-recording speaker presentations, there is a small amount of scope for things to go wrong or adjustments to be made in the final edit - although no video editor will thank you if they have to do anything more than a light edit, so stress to presenters and panelists that they should perform as if it was live, even in a pre-record. 

If the session is being delivered on the day, insist on a rehearsal. Virtual events demand more attention to detail and hence rehearsals play a vital role in the success of your event. 

Your speakers, compere, tech support and anyone else playing a role has to know what to do and when to do it. They also need to know what to do when things go wrong. 

Elements to focus on during rehearsals:

  • How do speakers look and sound on camera? Consider their attire, backdrop, lighting, volume and screen positioning.
  • Do timings work? If a rehearsal flags up a presentation that is likely to overrun, work with the speaker to reduce the number of slides or make reduced content more engaging. 
  • Are slides readable and designed for the presentation platform? Consider how the viewer sees the screen. Do slides need to allow white space for the presenter’s image to fit the screen? Is the font size large enough? Are graphs and charts clear? Do embedded videos play full-screen?
  • Rehearse the running order fully so that you know where potential problems lie and can put in place contingency plans in case speaker Wi-Fi goes down, mics fail or technical issues occur. 

Remember, virtual event planners need to think like TV producers and that involves having greater control over how your speakers present, what they wear, how long they’re on-screen for and what other elements of your online event they’re involved in. 

Speaker direction and liaison is therefore an important role within virtual event planning. Communicate with speakers early and often in order to build rapport and secure their full commitment to promotions, rehearsals, pre-records and of course, going live on the big day. 

5) Say thank-you

However you say it, thank your speakers

Finally, don’t forget to thank virtual event speakers afterwards. At in-person events, you may have taken them out for dinner or spent time with them at the bar. When they’re remote, it’s too easy to forget to follow-up once their part is played. 

Why not arrange for a thank-you gift to be delivered the day after the event and schedule social media posts applauding their involvement. 

You’ve taken the time to woo them to your event, worked with them to create content your online audience will get value from and helped them to succeed with the technology, so don’t forget to thank them and follow-up afterwards. You never know when you’ll need to call on their speaker services again in the future.  

Cvent's Speaker Management software gives you the power to find great speakers and manage their details easily and in less time. For more information and to arrange a demo, click here.

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Mike Fletcher

Mike has been writing about the meetings and events industry for almost 20 years as a former editor at Haymarket Media Group, and then as a freelance writer and editor. He currently runs his own content agency, Slippy Media, catering for a wide-range of client requirements, including social strategy, long-form, event photography, event videography, reports, blogs and ghost-written material.
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