With most conferences and trade shows cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies and associations have pivoted to online events. Organizers of these virtual options are eager to ensure they provide a premium educational offering that rivals their live in-person counterparts. But what role do speakers play? Here, Speakers’ Spotlight’s co-founder and president, Martin Perelmuter, answers this question among others to help you transform your next virtual event into an extraordinary experience.
What value does a speaker add to a virtual event?
The goal of hiring a speaker is the same regardless of whether it’s an in-person or virtual event: behaviour change. An outstanding speech has three elements: education, entertainment and inspiration. A great speaker can deliver an important message and change the ‘energy’ in a room. This is obviously more difficult in an online setting (since there is no room); however, a speaker can still transform a virtual event into an unforgettable experience that leads to real change so long as they deliver on the three elements.
What should event organizers consider before hiring a speaker for a virtual event?
Just like an in-person event, you should begin with the end in mind. What do you want your audience to experience during the presentation? And what actions do you want them to take as a result of what they’ve heard, learned and felt? Once you’ve answered these two questions, the focus turns to the topics and speakers who can best deliver the message in the right tone.
Is there a difference between virtual and in-person speaking events?
Pretty much anything that can be achieved in a live presentation can be done virtually; however, the way in which this is accomplished may differ. Speakers need to ensure they are connecting with their audience and in an online setting this requires a different approach.
Interaction is the most effective way a speaker can connect. Speakers should shorten their presentation to 30-45 minutes and build in time during or at the end of it (15-30 minutes) to engage and interact with the virtual audience, so that the speech isn’t purely a one-way monologue. Some speakers provide a pre-recorded presentation to watch prior to the event and then use the time during the live event for a moderated Q&A or ‘fireside chat’ type format. This also allows the speaker or client to edit out mistakes and minimize the risk of technology malfunctions during the virtual event.
What’s more important, delivery or content?
Both! Great content without an effective delivery will put your audience to sleep. On the flip side, a dynamic performance without outstanding content may be entertaining but it is essentially a waste of everyone’s time. Fortunately, there are speakers who can deliver timely, relevant content in an impactful presentation. A great speaker will provide much needed information and inspiration to equip attendees with the tools and right mindset to navigate the disruption that most individuals, organizations and industries are currently facing.
How is the pandemic affecting the speaking business?
It’s been a challenging few months. Hundreds of events have been cancelled or postponed, and many speakers have seen their businesses evaporate almost overnight. However, there are also speakers who are thriving and have even seen their engagements increase during the pandemic.
Despite the challenges, it’s an incredibly exciting time as there’s an opportunity for event organizers and speakers to re-invent and re-imagine their events and presentations. I believe there will be more opportunities on the other side of this pandemic so long as we continue to learn, evolve and grow. I also believe that collectively, as an industry, we’ll emerge stronger, smarter and better than before.