speaker

5 Qualities to Look for in a Virtual Speaker

By Scott Cullather, President & CEO, [INVNT GROUP] and Co-Founder, INVNT

Even though COVID-19 restrictions are beginning to ease around the world, it isn’t time to shift your focus away from the virtual experience just yet. We can now expect to see the rise of phygital events, which combine physical and virtual experiences—think satellite events for small face-to-face audiences, where the majority continue to tune in virtually. An experienced real-world speaker may not automatically translate so well in the phygital realm.

So, how do you find a great speaker that can balance these two environments, and importantly, engage an audience that isn’t there in person? Here are five questions to consider when curating your content program.

Is the speaker tech savvy?

If your speaker isn’t accustomed to delivering their session into a camera in a studio style setting, or they aren’t familiar with the various video conferencing platforms out there—those they’ll need to leverage to take live questions from the virtual audience at a minimum—this style of presentation might not be for them. It simply won’t be worth the risk as you could become susceptible to real-time tech issues.

Do they have the right home set-up?

If you’re doing your live or pre-records in a studio then you can curate the space, ensuring a mix of different sets and cuts to keep things fresh. But chances are, your speakers will be located all over the country or globe, so a home set-up may be your only option due to travel restrictions. For the latter, make sure they’ve got a quiet, well-lit space to deliver their session in, plus some event branding and bright pops of color will help to keep viewers engaged. Make sure whatever they wear complements the space, too.

Does their session enable interactivity?

The topic might be both interesting and relevant to your customers, but if the speaker can’t deliver it in a way that invites both live and virtual audiences to contribute to the experience, chances are one—or even both—will tune out fairly quickly. Speakers may need your help here, so get creative. New rules apply. Think breaking a 30-minute session up into three 10-minute ones, which feature live Q&As with the speaker and physical (socially distanced) and virtual networking opportunities, live polls where audience responses are used to frame and personalize further discussions, or live demos/activities which people can re-enact both at the satellite event and from their homes.

Does the speaker have assets?

Even if they don’t usually rely on assets when they deliver sessions in face-to-face settings, they must now be complemented by engaging slides, visuals and sizzles. A virtual audience is subject to significantly more distractions than a physical one (from home schooling kids to barking dogs and the neighbors lawn mower) so engagement boosters like these are a must.

Are they at ease?

It’s important to act as natural as possible, as the audience will clock any awkwardness straight away, and it will put them off. When you’re engaging in your pre-event conversations, look for things like posture (slouching is not a good look), body language and facial expressions (are they oozing confidence?) frequency of eye contact (are they looking beyond the audience to their script, or at them?).

As we shift to phygital experiences, speakers have a new challenge ahead of them. They must not only know their content and confidently present it in either a physical or virtual realm, they need to do so in a way that resonates with both audiences.