There’s nothing like being in someone’s physical presence to ask questions and feel their vibe.Contessa Walker-Jackson, Exclusively By Tess
Virtual speakers totally differ from in-person speakers. There’s nothing like being in someone’s physical presence to ask questions and feel their vibe. In-person speakers tend to be more personable and more engaging with the audience. If there is a technology glitch, most in-person speakers can transition to another topic while keeping the audience engaged. Even if there are time constraints, in-person speakers tend to have more time to speak with you in person once the presentation is finished. Furthermore, you can take pictures and physically hang out with the in-person speaker.
Virtual speakers can be personable and engaging as well, but they aren’t tangible. When there is a technology glitch with virtual speakers, everything is thrown off. Yes, one can call or email them after a presentation is finished for more details, but it’s not the same as being in their actual presence.
Contessa Walker-Jackson, Exclusively By Tess
Online requires extra-motivation to complete tasks, stay engaged, and make progress.Zohe Felici, Felici Events, Santa Barbara, CA
Virtual isn’t the same as live, and in order to keep your audience engaged with virtual – yes, there is a difference, in my opinion – is to find speakers that are a great match.
I know I’ve seen amazing speakers who ‘command the stage’ and have a room full of people who are captivated and interested. Nowadays, however, (similar to at-home virtual learning for our students/children), it is harder to keep the attention span when we have so many distractions happening around our surroundings and also are experiencing virtual fatigue.
Online requires extra-motivation to complete tasks, stay engaged, and make progress. When you’re not surrounded by ‘the buzz of the room’ and energy of the speakers in a physical setting, it may be tempting to zone out.
Four things I have found to help and create/change the (virtual) energy!
- Dedicate someone to tech-support
- Use continuous interactivity during the virtual event
- Implement AR during the presentation
- Create a platform that provides immersion between attendees
Zohe Felici, Felici Events, Santa Barbara, CA
I now have to find speakers who do not need live attendees to motivate them during their speech.Andrew Roby, Andrew Roby Events, Washington, D.C.
When looking for a speaker for a virtual event I choose a different course of action than for a live event. I now have to find speakers who do not need live attendees to motivate them during their speech. Speakers who can be just as impressive via video is a key. I look to social media to see how motivating a speaker can be when it’s just them and a camera.
For the virtual world, you cannot lose the attention of your attendees. That can quickly happen if a speaker doesn’t have the experience online that they have in person. They have to have the same level of high energy in their videos which draws the audience further into the topic of discussion.
I also seek out thought leaders. We are all familiar with the speaker circuit where we see the same speaker(s) at multiple events discussing the same thing. I want thought leaders who not only have the experience but can tailor content specifically to my audience ensuring attendees have exclusive information. Many of the speakers I choose are because of the responses I get back from attendees and what they want to learn from a virtual event. Doing this answers their critical concerns and makes the event of more value.
Andrew Roby, Andrew Roby Events, Washington, D.C.
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In today’s virtual world, hiring an engaging and captivating speaker is the key to a memorable event.Dorie Beachmam, Echelon Events Group, Las Vegas, NV
In today’s virtual world, hiring an engaging and captivating speaker is the key to a memorable event. While the process itself is not that much different from in-person events, it does require an additional layer of vetting. Speakers who have experience presenting on stage and connecting with an audience in person may not be as skilled at doing the same virtually. Their personality and charisma must be able to translate on a virtual stage.
When we’re looking for a speaker, we make sure to ask the right questions… What is their experience speaking at a virtual event? How do they plan on connecting with the audience? What type of technology are they comfortable with? Examples of past virtual event experience and references? It’s also important that the speaker is willing to do a virtual run through prior to the event, especially if it will be broadcast live. This will allow them to get comfortable on the platform, technology, timing, schedule, and iron out any potential hiccups.
While there are a few additional steps in the overall process, there are also some unique opportunities when it comes to the caliber of speakers available. First, speakers that may not have been affordable are now within budget because there are no additional travel costs. Second, some of the most sought-after speakers are now available since so many events have been canceled or postponed.
At Echelon Events Group we will always work with our clients to find the most experienced virtual speaker to fit any budget, fulfill the business objective, and compliment the style of the event and audience.
Dorie Beacham, Echelon Events Group, Las Vegas, NV
When it comes to virtual events, it’s important to find speakers who understand the nuances and dynamics of working within a virtual environment.Beth Lawrence, Beth Lawrence Meetings & Events, Philadelphia, PA
When it comes to virtual events, it’s important to find speakers who understand the nuances and dynamics of working within a virtual environment.
For example, not every event has the same platform, so it is imperative to select speakers who are adaptable to different technologies and, especially in a work from home world, have the needed technology within their home offices to accomplish what is needed during their session(s).
With panel discussions that feature speakers who do not know one another previously, it’s important to provide an introduction and allow panelists and moderators to become familiar with one another prior to the session to avoid awkwardness on camera.
As event planners in the virtual space, it’s important that we provide clear directions for accessing and using the selected event platform in advance, and consider multiple ways of disseminating that information prior to the event. Additionally, structuring it so that speakers can test their tech and become familiar the day of the event.
Beth Lawrence, Beth Lawrence Meetings & Events, Philadelphia, PA
A great way to find speakers that match a virtual event is to leverage a speaker agency like Speaker’s Spotlight or The National Speakers Bureau; you can also stumble upon some great speakers on IG and LinkedIn.Alicia Jenelle, Alicia Jenelle Events, Toronto, Ontario
A great way to find speakers that match a virtual event is to leverage a speaker agency like Speaker’s Spotlight or The National Speakers Bureau; you can also stumble upon some great speakers on IG and Linkedin. When speaking with the Lead Agent within these businesses, I also recommend providing as much context as possible to help them best source what you need i.e. share what level of engagement you are looking for, how you want the content to be delivered: such as, in a humorous way, or pulling on the heartstrings, etc.
Speakers who have Broadcasting or TV experience are generally a great fit for a virtual event because they know how to spark engagement through one-way and two-way communication – whereas many speakers who just have live, in-person experience only know how to engage when an audience is physically in the room.
Lastly, look for speakers that know how to evoke emotion. This is one of the most impactful ways to maintain attendees’ attention throughout an event, as people will always remember how you made them feel.
Alicia Jenelle, Alicia Jenelle Events, Toronto, Ontario
Understand that not all live event speakers are comfortable in the online event platform.Heidi Hiller, Innovative Party Planners, Baltimore, Maryland
Begin with your why. Why are you hosting the event, who are your attendees? What is the purpose of the speaker’s presentation? Be sure that it is a good match. Understand that not all live event speakers are comfortable in the online event platform.
I am working on a conference right now where my contact is the rep at the speaker’s bureaus who represent the speakers. Start there and let their agents determine if your why and audience matches the speakers why and audience. Make sure it is a good fit for both.
I have had the pleasure of working with several top keynote speakers and yes, they all have reps. Interestingly not all speakers want to switch to offering virtual speaking. The ones I have been working with this week to prepare for a large conference are all very tech-savvy and have embraced the virtual platforms. Keeping the audience engaged is the real trick! You have to act for the screen.
Heidi Hiller, Innovative Party Planners, Baltimore, Maryland
Speakers that do well in a virtual environment need to be skilled in the intricacies of presenting in a more intimate, “broadcast-style” format.Heather Sharpe, Sherpa Group Events Inc., Vancouver, B.C
You definitely need to consider the virtual space when looking for speakers for your online event. Many excellent speakers are great in a large room – fill the stage and reach for the rafters when presenting. Speakers that do well in a virtual environment need to be skilled in the intricacies of presenting in a more intimate, “broadcast-style” format. Be sure to check out highlight reels that show the speaker presenting on-screen, as opposed to at past live events. Talk to them about how content needs to be “punchier” and more engaging when virtual. Attention spans are short and they may have to deliver their message in a whole new way to hold attention. It’s also a great idea to have an engaging MC/Host that knits all the pieces of your virtual event together. One of my favorites is Roger Haskett at Engagement Unlimited (www.engagementunlimited.ca). He has TV/broadcast experience and really knows how to keep the energy up!
Heather Sharpe, Sherpa Group Events Inc., Vancouver, B.C
What you really need are people who know how to talk on broadcast television and look at the camera to connect rather than rely on audience feedback.Valerie Bihet, VIBE, Miami, FL
With in-person events, you start by creating a clear objective for your event, then design a theme and program that will help you reach your objective. After you do that, you search for a speaker who fits the theme and message you want attendees to walk away with. This is still true for virtual, but what you now need to consider is that someone who is good with speaking on stage may not be good in a virtual setting. What you really need are people who know how to talk on broadcast television and look at the camera to connect rather than rely on audience feedback. That is very difficult and not everyone who is good on a stage can do it. You need to make sure that in addition to the content, they are qualified to speak in this new setting with little to no visual feedback from the audience, and if needed, do training with them to improve that.
Valerie Bihet, VIBE, Miami, FL
Speaking to camera is a different art form than speaking to a live audience.Venetia Harpin, Immersive Event Producer, Los Angeles, CA
Speaking to camera is a different art form than speaking to a live audience. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t book speakers who are more accustomed to a live circuit, but it’s a good idea to check if they have done any virtual events already and ask to see recorded footage. If they don’t have any existing footage, try asking if they mind recording themselves speaking to camera for a minute or two (using their laptop or cellphone) so you can get a sense of their tone and speaking style.
Venetia Harpin, Immersive Event Producer, Los Angeles, CA
The initial criteria for selecting a guest speaker for an event, live or virtual, remain the same: great credentials, relevant topic, good standing within the industry or area, solid references.Rene Kraus, Fete Perfection, Minneapolis, MN
The initial criteria for selecting a guest speaker for an event, live or virtual, remain the same: great credentials, relevant topic, good standing within the industry or area, solid references.
For virtual events, I would include a few additional criteria: technical savvy, good video presence (posture, radiant enthusiasm, good diction). Experience giving presentations within the visual format would be a good bonus!
Rene Kraus, Fete Perfection, Minneapolis, MN
This post was created in partnership with EventPlanner.com; some interviews have been condensed.