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The RGI Blog

Setting Your Speakers Up for Virtual Success: 10 Tips

Virtual events aren’t new, but they certainly are getting a lot more attention as many in-person events have been cancelled – a pattern that will likely continue for a while. Attendee expectations of virtual events are just as high as they would be for an in-person experience. Just because your attendees are sitting at their desks and behind their computers doesn’t mean they don’t want to be entertained with engaging speakers and great content.

Now more than ever, your speakers, both professional and amateur, are the backbone of your virtual experience. As a meeting planner, it’s your responsibility to provide your speakers with all the tools, tips and resources they need to be most successful and to captivate their audiences.

Here are some tips to share with your speakers as they prepare for your virtual event.

  1. Stand Up! – This may seem like an odd tip to begin with, but the simple step of standing while you present changes the dynamic of your presentation so much. If you were presenting live and in-person, it’s rare you’d be sitting, so mimic that approach even for virtual.
  2. A/V Equipment – It is recommended you use an external camera (not embedded in your laptop) to host virtual events. It’s also recommended to get an HD camera for this purpose. The quality of these webcams is much better and allows you to place the camera at a better angle. For your sound, we recommend external here as well. A lavalier mic is a good option, or you can get a microphone that can stand off to the side of your camera frame, but can still pick up your sound. Issues with sound are the number one complaint of virtual attendees.
  3. Lighting, Lighting, Lighting – This is such an important tip. Turn on your camera, stand in front of it, and see how you look. If you look like you’re in shadow, you’re going to appear that way to your audience. Don’t position lights behind you, but instead in front of you, so you are highlighted by them. You can also explore a ring light to connect on the top of a computer screen.
  4. Backgrounds Matter – Although your background shouldn’t be the primary focus of your presentation, if it’s distracting or too plain it can detract from your message. You don’t need to spend hours meticulously planning out what your backdrop is, but keep in mind what it might look like. Not every event is going to use a digital background and we recommend not relying on that as those can often be distracting as well.
  5. Pass on Patterns – When choosing your clothing for your presentation, we recommend solid colors or simple patterns. Complex patterns with a multitude of colors may become distracting or appear oddly depending on the size of the attendee’s video player.
  6. Focus on Eye Contact – It may seem strange to push eye contact in a setting where you won’t see anyone at all, but virtual events actually bring you closer to your audience, making it all the more important. You are no longer a banquet hall or auditorium level away from them; they see you up close and personal. Use that to your advantage and make this feel like a one-on-one conversation. If you’re sharing slides, raise up your computer so that the screen is just under the line of your camera to give the appearance of eye contact even when looking at your screen. Or You can even take it a step further and have another person in the room with you who can stand behind the camera.
  7. Clear Your Screen – If you’ll be sharing a slide deck during your presentation, close all of your other windows, turn off your notifications and explore if the presentation software your meeting planner is using has the ability for you to present via a “clean” screen or just the single software application hosting your slides.
  8. Connect to Your Audience – Ask your meeting planner for information and demographics on the audience if they haven’t already provided this information to you. Now more than ever, attendees of virtual events want to leave your session with a concrete connection to their professional role or life. Don’t make them make this connection on their own. Instead, connect the dots for them and help them see how your knowledge will help.
  9. Follow the Instruction of Your Meeting Professional – Your meeting planner will send you a “know before you speak” type of document. This will outline all their specific tips, speaker requirements, expectations, recording formats and any other helpful pieces of advice they can provide. Follow these instructions as they have been designed to enhance your presentation and maximize your message. If you have a question on something they have sent, reach out to your meeting planner.
  10. Remain Calm – We know issues can arise in both a recording and a live virtual event. If something happens, take a breath, and trust your meeting planner to help guide you through the issue.

As virtual events continue to increase and attendees and audiences around the world continue to become more accustomed to this format, these tips will help you as a speaker to stand out and ensure your message is amplified. Meeting planners are excited to work with you and to continue connecting you with their attendees.