Event Design

Can Virtual Speakers Meet the Expectations of Meeting Planners? 

Man speaking on stage

Skift Take

To assume a virtual speaking experience is the same as in-person is a mistake. However, including remote speakers does not make a meeting any less successful.

There are important and less obvious nuances between in-person and virtual speaking. “They will get the absolute best from a professional virtual speaker, but it simply cannot compare with the relationship that can be formed with a live audience,” said Roger Harrop, a global motivational speaker. And that is the critical point; it is different.  

Expecting the virtual experience to be the same as in-person can be a mistake. However, virtual speaking does not inevitably mean compromises need to be made in terms of success, according to international speaker and facilitator David Hyner. “I promise the same energy, fun, challenge, and interaction, subject to the platform used, as with a live delivery,” said Hyner.

Adapting to Virtual Settings

When speaking virtually, speakers need to make changes to their in-person performances to ensure they bring their energy and engagement front and center. One of the key reasons is that they can rarely see or hear the virtual attendees. 

Interaction helps, of course, but it isn’t easy. “One thing I learned when I was working in radio and TV was that you must feel you are being over the top to project a high level of energy,” said Jones. 

In addition to energy, engagement is key. “I focus heavily on interaction when I am remote, so I will stop using PowerPoint frequently and use tools like Mentimeter to increase engagement,” said Alastair Greener, a communications speaker, and consultant.

What Planners Can Expect

Most professional speakers command a fee, but ‘free’ speakers can be highly proficient in their virtual delivery. Planners need to be able to spot the professionals regardless of how they are sourced.

Getting the speaker set up and configured correctly is critical. Many planners have an innate fear that the technology will not work and will end up with a big problem. It is not an unreasonable fear, but the best professional speakers will alleviate that worry ahead of time. 

“I can present from a professional studio if required, but my setup at home is very good quality. I always connect with 5G on a secondary device,” said Greener.  

Some planners assume that virtual speakers will have a good connection and setup, but it can be dangerous to make that assumption. So instead, careful planners make it a requirement. 

Professional speaker and author Graham Jones makes it a priority to reassure bookers. “I am happy to provide a recorded version of my presentation in advance so that if there are troublesome tech issues, they can play that. And if that doesn’t provide enough comfort, I have access to a local TV studio where I can present from if they wish,” said Jones.

Designing speaker sessions, whether virtual or in-person, involves thought, care, and practice. Planners must collaborate closely with speakers on the intended objectives of the session. That means being clear on how much time is allocated for the presentation, questions and answers, and other interactions. The mechanics of each has to be timed and tested for the best results. 

Fees and Contracting 

Don’t think a virtual speaking gig will be cheaper than an in-person event. In many cases, if that is the situation, you will end up with a speaker who cuts corners. Harrop emphasizes, “There is even more planning and work to be carried out to maximize the takeaways.”

Rehearsals, technical run-throughs, and backup videos must be factored in. Planners can offset this by factoring in the savings in travel, housing, meals, and all other ancillary expenses related to having a speaker at an in-person event. 

“The additional virtual speaking requirements need to be contracted in,” said Samme Allen, CEO of conferenceemcees.com. “Only then can you reflect the differences and ensure planners and speakers are aligned when it comes to meeting expectations.” 

Virtual speaking is different from in-person event speaking. Trying to replicate one delivery form in the other environment does not work. Truly effective speakers celebrate the differences. 

Clients will continue to choose the best options, especially against a backdrop of global uncertainty and tumultuous economic times. The good news is that professional speakers can present in person or virtual, depending on your needs.

Photo credit: Sncr Gray / Pixaby