20 things virtual speakers want to know to deliver great experiences

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Your best speakers need limited support when preparing for an in-person speaking event. They have a base collection of stories, great slides to choose from, and no problems managing last-minute changes. However, they need more support for virtual events on nitty-gritty details when framing their session, producing/delivering, and the new realities of promotion and networking. Bring clarity to these twenty points, and virtual speakers will love you and be well prepared to provide great experiences for the audience. 

The main difference between physical and virtual events 

Speakers can not wing it for virtual events, a reality affecting both event organizers and speakers. This, combined with the fact that virtual events peak at the beginning of the preparation cycle, make them so much harder. Don’t expect speakers and their speechwriters to have it all figured out, help them by bringing clarity to the points that matter around your event. All topics below are relevant to handshake as early as possible, ideally when signing up a virtual speaker.  

This blog post does not cover contractual agreements such as compensation, IPR rights, and what you need as an organizer. Instead, it intended to cover everything affecting the speaker’s needs and their planning and performance. Thus, allowing you to see the world from your speaker’s point of view. 

Provide a razor-sharp context for each speaking session

As a virtual speaker, it is easier to “go” to any existing or new event. Therefore, speakers in the virtual world face more significant variations between their engagements. Pulling off a string of keynotes is easy compared to constantly moving between virtual audiences and formats.  

The first task for you is to provide a clear context of the journey ahead, and these ten points provide an excellent planning context:  

  1. Name of event – a few words on the organizer and the history of the event. 
  2. Type of event – virtual events vary from industry, corporate, investor, analyst events, multiple days, parallel tracks, or a single day in one flow. 
  3. Kind of audience – the industries represented, typical roles for people in the audience, their level of seniority, and they speak business, technology, or government language.
  4. Audience size – Committed invites / projected sign-ups / target attendees. Critical to get right on the ball-park level right.
  5. Session title – create one or two working titles that already from the beginning should be strong candidates to be included in the program. 
  6. Time in front of the audience – overall program 
  7. Key topics to cover – plan for one topic for every two to three minutes allocated on the agenda. 
  8. Session format – Keynote, Fireside chat, industry panels, or any of the twelve formats great speakers master. 
  9. Dress code – Formal, business casual, casual, corporate polo with logo.  
  10. Specifics of the virtual session – if it will be live or recorded, provided in 2D or AR/VR to the virtual audience, and if captioning will be added for non-native English speakers in the audience. 
  11. How you would like to use video content featuring the speaker – Live during event, accessible from the event website after the event, published and promoted by speaker’s home organization, parts of video footage for social media promotions.  

The production of virtual is complex for both organizers and speakers

Success for virtual events comes down to meticulous planning and execution. Paying attention to details pays off here. Be clear upfront on how you plan to produce and deliver the session: 

  1. Major Milestones – Define when scripts need to be locked, type and timing for tech-check, dress rehearsal, recording, Go-Live, and post-event release of recorded content.  
  2. Visual support – none, visual aid such as slides and pictures, videos to be integrated.  
  3. Recording tools – Visting crew, provided kit, own equipment
  4. Recording platform – a variety of options from local recording, synchronization through Teams and Zoom, or remotely recorded using something like Riverside.fm. 
  5. Virtual event platform – the platforms the audience will connect to and speakers when the event goes live, e.g., ON24, GoToWebinar, Hopin, SociaLive, Zuddl. 

Leverage speakers for promotion to and networking with the audience

  1. Promotion – addressing the pre-event, during the event, post-event, guest blogging, guest podcasting, by-line articles etc. 
  2. Applicable hashtags – both event-specific and topic-specific 
  3. Event influencers – share names on moderators, other speakers in the session, professional influencers, prominent people in the audience.  
  4. Networking opportunities – Chat during sessions, One-on-one micro meetings, virtual after hours.

Questions to ask yourself and your team 

  1. Are we clear enough today in the handshake with speakers for them to do a good job?
  2. Do we cover the suitable topics in our blueprint for speakers brief? 
  3. What additional topics have worked well for us in the past?
  4. Which of these ideas do we want to incorporate in our blueprint today?  

Additional reading suggestions 

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