Supporting your Speaker for your webinar or virtual conference requires a greater attention to detail than you would if you were engaging them for a live presentation. And while it may not require the same location resources, you need to walk in the shoes of your Speaker, to make sure you offer the appropriate level of support to enable them to give their best performance.
I recently interviewed Dr. Monique Beedles from Teak Yew who has been presenting as a professional speaker for many years, and most recently across a variety of online platforms. I wanted to get a firsthand view of what Speakers need in this environment, and Monique has had some great experiences she was happy to share.
Monique is a specialist in the area of asset management and works with companies encouraging, supporting and facilitating innovation. Monique is engaged as a Professional Speaker across a variety of settings both locally and internationally and has presented online for organisations, as well as produced her own in-person and online events.
First, we talked about platforms and which ones seemed to be working well in this environment where everyone is grappling to get online quickly and continue to deliver on their strategic objectives. Monique has had the pleasure of presenting through a variety of platforms and has concluded that for the most part, of the platforms she has used, Zoom seems to offer the variety required to get as close to possible at simulating a live event experience.
With the ability to present “lecture” style such as a one-way conversation, Zoom can also take it through to a “meeting” style where everyone can see each other and contribute. Additional options also include where the Organiser and/or Speaker can choose the level of interaction in which the audience is encouraged to engage. It seems that the platform handles many scenarios, similar to a conference experience where you might have a plenary (lecture), workshops (meetings), chat rooms (networking) or a Q&A session (panel).
Conferences are often designed this way to meet the engagement and learning needs of a diverse audience. Ensure you consider your audience when choosing not only the platform for your online event, but the level of engagement you want for them.
As Monique is an experienced Speaker and has had to pivot her earlier presentations from a live event structure to an online structure very quickly, I asked her if she thought she needed to change her presentation style, content, slides or delivery method.
I was delighted to hear Monique say that in fact, yes, she did consider whether she needed to change her presentation and looked at the audience experience and learning outcomes in the new format. This is music to my ears as I have been watching a lot of webinars and meetings over the past few weeks and the majority are not making any changes, and it is boring, not to mention disengaging.
Monique’s approach to always consider the learning outcomes of the audience enables her to consider what engagement strategy the audience now needs. A recent positive experience she shared was presenting to an audience where a live scribe was also providing the audience with a summary of the content. Knowing this in advance enabled Monique to add some tracking content to her slides so the graphic artist could keep up, could see where Monique was up to in her presentation in case , and provided anchor points along the way to improve the outcomes for the audience.
What Should be Visible on the Screen?
What has been evident across both what I have experienced myself and what Monique has shared is that we need movement to stay interested, and the easiest way to do this is to show your face.
I would encourage you to resist the temptation to go full screen with your slides, and just have a voice over. The audience not only needs a break from the white space, but they need something to which they can connect their emotions. If they can see the Speaker’s face, they can get a better feel for the message that is being conveyed. Again, do your best to offer an environment that is as close as possible to the live experience. Right now, people are craving face to face conversations, do what you can to facilitate that experience for them.
Monique shared this visual example of what the audience saw on their screens, from a recent experience. She was presenting with slides, and the graphic artist was live scribing as she presented.
Permissions, Recording & Distribution Rights
The issue of copyright and the recording of the presentation was next on my agenda. Recording meetings, presentations and seminars is a common occurrence in the online environment, but one where unlike the live environment, the “permission slip” can sometimes be missing.
In a live environment you would not only have signage up advising of photography, etc., it would also form part of your registration process for the audience. For Speakers, you would ask if they agree to you recording their presentation, as well as permission to distribute if you are considering doing so.
This is particularly important if Speakers are presenting research or ideas that may be constrained by intellectual property rights, future publications in journals, or other conditions the Author or Speaker has placed on the content.
It is still necessary to ask for these permissions and possibly necessary to make even more clear, your intention with the recorded material, both for the audience and the Speakers. Where will the material be distributed and who will have access? Will the Speaker get a copy of their presentation and/or stills? If the material is to be distributed via a website, will there be a charge for the viewer? If so, have you considered whether the Speaker, Author or Creator should be compensated for the distributed material?
I have seen some examples of recorded webinars where I suspect participants may not be too thrilled to see themselves on the screen! Always check with everyone they are happy to be recorded and more importantly, published.
While these are but a few insights shared, the overall message from Monique is that her experiences have been good given the forgiving nature of audiences in this current environment. She has been supported by the majority and received timely information, sometimes having to ask for it, but typically receiving the information she needed.
Top 5 Things to Help you Look After the Speaker
To help your Speakers through this transition to the online environment, I would encourage you to consider some key tips on how to give your audience the best experience.
- Connect with your Speaker as soon as they are booked and provide them with a checklist that outlines your expectations of them, what resources you will be providing, any technical requirements, and where they can get help. You might like to include tips on the studio set up, angles of cameras, backgrounds and décor, not to mention personal presentation expectations. How to keep the dog out, or the partner wandering in, and how to speak to the camera.
- Ensure you use the right bio, photo and profile links for your Speaker. If they have not provided them, the safest place to link to and download pictures from is LinkedIn. Most people, particularly professionals, keep this platform up to date. If they are not on LinkedIn, blank is better than wrong or outdated information. They will soon send it to you.
- Check in with them again after they have had time to review your initial communication, to discuss the technicalities of their presentation. Talk through what they intend to present, look at their slide framework if it is available and collaborate on the presentation style and audience experience. Discuss the layout of their studio, check microphones and cameras and discuss how they are going to maintain a professional environment.
- Consider sending them links of great examples of set ups, if you suspect your Speaker lacks experience creating an online presence. Consider of course, if they are highly experienced, they may be able to offer you some tips on how best to support the less experienced Speakers on the program. Know your Speakers’ experience do not hesitate to ask them for tips.
- Check in with them on the day, at least 1 hour prior to their time slot. Consider this a “sound check” and if you have more time, offer an opportunity to go through their presentation with you, if they wish, so you can ensure the best “performance” possible for them and the audience. Professional performers rehearse and soundcheck, encourage your Speakers to do the same. Audiences are in a forgiving mood right now, but as skills improve, the ability of your Speakers to engage an audience and “perform” will set your event apart from the rest.
Be Innovative, Courageous and Inquisitive!
As we move through this global event, the way meetings, events and conferences are delivered is changing permanently. Innovation is happening every day and it is unlikely the landscape will revert to the way it was before. Gatherings may take a long time to come back to the size and scope of live events past, and the way they are delivered is now more innovative and attractive to a wider audience and meeting the needs of a diverse audience. Some things will be here to stay.
Monique’s experiences have given us an insight into how much more collaborative Organisers need to be with Speakers, that an increased level of support going both ways is advantageous, and that shifting meetings, events and conferences from face to face to online, can actually have a greater impact on the learning outcomes you are looking to provide for your audience.
If you are looking for ways to take your meetings, events or conferences from the now into the future, get in touch to talk about innovative solutions that may be of benefit to you. https://redlanyard.com.au/contactus/