In today’s constantly morphing world, virtual events – and, increasingly, hybrid ones – are now the norm. Whether your event is live, virtual or a mix, many elements need to combine successfully to make it fly. And none is quite as crucial as the content you offer. Which is why choosing and working with the right speakers is a make-or-break game!
SELECTING YOUR EVENT SPEAKERS
At any event you want to offer attendees something original, something of genuine value. And every event should have a measurable aim. So track down relevant speakers (internal or external) who are well-placed to help you achieve it.
Getting speakers right takes careful consideration. Think about your audience. What do they already know? What will they find fresh, interesting and motivational? All learning has value, but an emotional take-away can add even more impact.
- How to find the right speaker
Sometimes, our clients know their field and those experts within it that make sense. Other times it’s a case of scoping message, impact, tone and expertise required to provide a clear brief to an events expert or a speaker bureau. With so much event activity online today, there is also much greater access to see potential speakers within your field in action.
- Deploy speakers for the greatest effect
If you plan to ask colleagues in your organisation to speak, as well as external experts, consider the value each offers the audience. Aim to distribute the most popular or dynamic speakers where they can make the strongest impression during the event. Internal speakers may be familiar to the audience, so headlines on innovative content that will pre-engage can work well.
- Choose session/panel moderators and chairpersons tactically
Whose skillsets and knowledge can best complement the speakers they’ll be working with? Consider also to what degree your chair’s role is simply to facilitate, or whether you need more such as in a debate forum.
- Blow your budget in the right direction
Virtual events have changed things for everyone, top speakers included. They can now fit more into a day from their home! This means that the cost of top speakers can be less, and without travel costs there may be more to spend in your desired field. Respected, relevant contributors bring value to your event that lasts well beyond the day itself.
- Try before you buy
Before choosing an external speaker, watch videos of them in action to check if they’re a good fit for the session you’re planning. Then talk things through with your short-list individually before deciding who’s right for you.
Getting speakers takes careful consideration. Think about your audience. What do they already know? What will they find fresh, interesting and motivational?
Virtual events have changed things for everyone, top speakers included. They can now fit more into a day from their home!
GETTING THE MOST FROM EVENT SPEAKERS
Once you’ve signed up someone of the desired calibre and experience, find out what THEY need from you to deliver the meaningful presentation YOU need from them. Detailed briefing and thorough prep make all the difference.
- What’s the plan (Stan)?
Start with a chat about your ideas and objectives. Make sure your speaker’s style and preferences can sync with the planned session type. If they like to wander while talking, can you facilitate that?
- Spec the tech
Early on, find out each speaker’s technical requirements and ensure your AV set-up can satisfy them. Will their session involve audience interaction, breakout activities or voting? Do what you can to enable these and warn speakers about any venue restrictions.
- Do sweat the small stuff
If your event’s live, sort out transport, accommodation and dietary needs for speakers well in advance. Not having to worry about details like finding a cab helps them feel relaxed and on form – and marks you out as a great host!
- Plan ahead, plan together
If you can, gather all session participants together – speakers, moderators and panellists – ahead of the day to talk things through and decide how you’re going to make it flow.
- Practice makes perfect
Rehearsals can make or break an event, so try to fit in a full trial run beforehand. As a minimum (depending on how complex an event is), make sure everyone’s familiar and comfortable with the AV system and technical aspects. Consider coaching for less experienced speakers.
- Keep track of time
Tell all participants the timings in advance, be realistic about the time needed for questions and make sure your moderator is ready to take control if/when needed.
- Do the paperwork
If you plan to share a speaker’s presentation after the event, don’t forget to get their written agreement.
- Whip up the crowd!
To maximise the value of your pre/post-event marketing, your promo activities should focus on the best speakers. Build audience interest with advance features and highlights, then share follow-up interviews afterwards along with on-demand access to presentations. Consider also whether there are complementary subjects that could become short videos or online discussion points, as this will add take-away value for your audience – future or past.
- Let the speakers speak
Encourage speakers to interact with the audience, whatever type of event you’re running:
- LIVE – run Q&As and in-session polls through mobile tech
- VIRTUAL – run and monitor interactive polls and Q&A text boxes during presentations
- HYBRID – run a mix of both, monitored by the chair/moderator to support the speaker(s)
Once you’ve signed up someone of the desired calibre and experience, find out what THEY need from you to deliver the meaningful presentation YOU need from them.
PRESENTING AT VIRTUAL EVENTS – HOW TO GET IT RIGHT
Live and virtual presenting each call for different approaches. We realise we’re stating the obvious here, but in recent months we’ve had the chance to observe a wide variety of behaviour from speakers, ranging from extremely professional to frankly, not that good.
Yes, the speaker needs to deliver what you’ve asked for. But the key difference between formats is HOW they come across, as this affects how attentive the audience is – or isn’t!
- Time everything to perfection
We’ve said it before, but sessions need to be shorter online to hold attention and kept running bang on time.
- Film presentations before the day
This is an effective option, as these sessions can be played out as ‘live’ to an online audience, and you can still do live Q & A, and live panel discussions after the presentation.
- Set up presentations in advance
Ask speakers to send over their slides to be embedded, thus avoiding any clunky unprofessional-looking screen sharing on the day. Let them do a practice run with their slides, so they’re comfortable with the virtual set-up and know how to handle questions.
- Keep a consistent look and feel
Some speakers invest in equipment to use at home and their backgrounds can vary. Decide how you want the event to look and invite them to make adjustments (if possible) that bring their presentations in line with your vision. We always suggest that virtual speakers have a brief check in with our technical team either in the week before the event or just before their session. This allows the tech team to check internet connection, camera angle and microphone quality.
Virtual event sessions might seem pretty dry, but these guidelines can help make them a storming success.
If you roll out a top-notch selection of speakers who inspire, entertain or simply CAN’T be missed, everyone gets a headful of fresh ideas and an event to remember.
Want help with speakers and more – virtual or otherwise? Get in touch.