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One of the first things you realize as a virtual speaker is a shift from theatrical to cinematic experiences. In the physical world, you are always live and in contact with the audience, like in a theatre. In the virtual world, you are connecting with your audience, like in a movie theatre. This shift requires you to develop into a movie star with a set of new skills to master.
The urgency to move to virtual fast last year pushed some to take the easiest route, recording what we would have done for a physical meeting or event. A theatrical experience captured with video, with improvement potential.
Virtual speaking is about moving towards creating cinematic experiences. We engage with our audience through small or big screens. our audience expects you to deliver exciting stories. We appear more like in short movies. We should consider adopting speaking and production skills used by movie makers. Today our virtual speeches are consumed on a flat screen, and soon we can expect demand to appear in more immersive experiences. Two transitions are vital. First, there is a shift in mindset, from being a star on stage to a beginner and aspiring movie star. Second, the addition of the video production element. Both will be key to your success.
Live and recorded virtual sessions
In the virtual world, speakers face two different types of speeches, live and recorded. Live sessions are like TV talk shows or news—the design aim for one perfect shooting at a pre-defined time slot. As a speaker, your success comes from tight scripting and extensive rehearsal efforts—load, aim, and fire of a single silver bullet. Your whole sessions need to be perfect from start to finish with efforts to eliminate speaker anxiety, technical glitches, and possible overruns.
Recorded sessions offer more flexibility. You can record your videos when it suits you. You can divide it into relevant sections and retake each section until it is perfect. Here the final product that meets the exact length you have committed to, and event organizers can focus on the live additions required to bridge between sessions. Your contribution becomes like a short movie adding to the short-film festival vibe.
You are just a screen away from your audience
On stage or in a conference room, you and your audience are at an equal distance apart. Your audience is closer to you in the virtual world, a couple of feet on a smartphone or two to four feet away from a PC screen unless they have decided to enjoy your speech in their media room. In addition to your visual appearance, expect the sound quality at their end to be excellent.
Virtual speaking moves you from the social and public zones into the personal zone. Being so close to your audience is worth reflecting on and how you play it to your advantage—experiment by talking to a family member or friend in your personal zone.
Build up excitement when talking to a small camera lens
It is tempting to look at your audience on the screen in front of you. Watching the screen gives you energy from the audience. But that is missed opportunity for your audience to connect stronger with you.
Your opportunity is to create eye contact with your audience through the camera lens. As black and as dull as it might look to you, this is the link to your audience. Build on your internal energy and look at the lens. Imagine the audience through the black lens and practice to keep your eyes focused, laser-focused on the lens. Expect the camera to have you in focus at all times, but all of us have seen speakers looking slightly sideways and seen how that affects the virtual connections. Consider using a teleprompter for speeches that are hard to memorize to allow you to keep the focus on the lens and your imagined audience.
Add to the experience with alternative camera angles
Your audience is stuck with one view of you in a live environment – their assigned seat defines your visual appearance at a conference or in a meeting room. A virtual event or a virtual customer meeting gets boring if all speakers sit down and speak to a camera on top of their computer screen. Camera angles are essential tools in delivering a cinematic experience.
There are three alternatives you can consider. If you decide to go with a single camera set-up, put your camera on a tabletop tripod between you and the screen. It is great insurance to keep you from dipping down your eyes and watching the screen instead of the lens. Second, consider standing up and talk; to most, you will come across as more engaged, and it is closer to your speaking pose in physical settings. Third, you can start to experiment on multi-camera set-ups at home or work. Best suited for recorded sessions as shifting cameras adds complexity and risk.
Find a theme/category for your virtual speeches
Movie stars get boxed into different movie genres like comedies, action/thrillers, and love stories. After a few movies in a specific genre, they possess a personal brand and can be the star that adds cred to the film. Expect your virtual speaking journey to follow a similar pattern.
You can aspire to master one of four categories of virtual speeches. You can become the executive is taking on the virtual delivery of the big picture to executive peers. A business-developer can become great at leading discovery conversations in the virtual domain—perhaps the most demanding virtual discipline. You can become a marketer that is a master at educating and sharing insights. Finally, you can be the sales professional mastering the virtual convincing and closing. Pick the virtual theme/category that is closest to your comfort zone.
Good questions to ask your self
- Where will my speeches be consumed? – smartphone, laptop with an external monitor, or in a media room.
- Where is my cinematic skills gap? – few of us did what we do now before the pandemic. Start with low-hanging fruits.
- Do I have the support required for live engagements? – go recorded when you can and live when you have to.
- Which speech category should I pursue first? – pick something close to your heart.
- Shifting from keynote to virtual speaker [BLOGPOST] – by Robinson speakers bureau
- Eight ways to rethink virtual events for the age of social distancing [ARTICLE] – by FastCompany
- A cinematographers guide to looking good in web-based video conferencing [BLOGPOST] – by Bob Sacha
- How to use zoom like a theater or film professional [ARTICLE] – by New York Times
- 20 best inspirational speeches from the movies [BLOGPOST] – by Mike Martel at Life Hack