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The professional speaker's playbook for virtual events

August 22, 2022

By Rachel Moore, senior director of content, corporate communications, and community

Professional speakers still find themselves presenting virtually in a world that’s not quite yet back to normal. Engaging a screen full of people takes different skills than connecting with a room filled with an audience, even if the content you use for each is the same.

Over the last year, as Hubilo’s senior director of content, corporate communications, and community, I’ve learned how to bridge the gap between appearing on stage, on camera, and on the mic as a virtual event host, podcaster, and in-person ambassador. Here are the top lessons you can apply to your virtual professional speaking gigs.

Prepare to log on

While there’s some crossover between virtual and in-person appearances for how you engage with event organizers and prepare, virtual engagements require a little more technical know-how from you. Start with putting together your ‘speaker kit’, and have it ready to provide to the event planners. This should include a document with your bio in multiple lengths––full word count for a website, short for social promotion, and a line or two for digital ads. Make sure you list your social media handles and any personal brand hashtags you use. Include a high-resolution headshot in PNG (transparent background) and JPG formats.

Next, check your tech. A little high-end tech can go a long way to optimize your presence while on screen. For instance, your laptop or desktop microphone should only be used as a last resort. To really come across clearly to your audience, use a cardioid microphone complete with a mic boom arm. Otherwise, Airpods or quality headphones will ensure the audiences catch every word. Similarly, an external quality webcam will serve you better than your laptop’s camera. Finally, connect online using a hard-wired or ethernet connection to ensure you don’t break up or lose your audience’s attention with a spotty signal. Focus your internet speed on your appearance by closing cloud-syncing apps and avoiding streaming or constantly refreshing websites.

Once your technical details are in order, check your physical setting. Make sure you’re well-lit from overhead or front-facing sources like a light ring. Windows or lights behind you will darken your appearance, often creating a silhouette effect, and will not help you look your best. Create a solid or staged background that avoids distraction. While your audience no doubt understands the video-bomb by a pet or child, seclude yourself in an interruption-free space using buffers or doors to keep all eyes on you.

Create attention-grabbing (and keeping) content

Your event planner hired you for your expertise and engaging presence, but you can ensure success with the audience by preparing to appear virtually. Familiarize yourself with the run of the show by talking through the engagement with the event planner. This will help you time your content, along with knowing when you’ll be introduced and by whom.

Set up a tech rehearsal with the event team or the A/V team before the event. This will help you avoid any day-of issues between your system and the host. Make sure you know where the buttons are to share your screen, mute yourself, access the Q&A or chat boxes, and any other pertinent tools. Also, share your deck and notes, or presentation with an outline, to the planners beforehand. This will help them introduce your session and let them load it into their platform ahead of time.

Be a self-promoter

You can help ensure the success of your event by working with the event planner to promote the session to drive registrations, attendance, and engagement. Use a trackable, custom URL to the event registration page (usually acquired from the event organizers) to send to your network. This will let the organizers know that you’re working to fill spots with interested attendees as well.

Promote the event using a custom speaker image for social media and email marketing. The event planner will sometimes provide this for you or will supply you with a template that they’re using. Post this multiple times with the details and your custom URL, and make sure you send multiple emails with the information. Additionally, many social platforms now prioritize video content. Record yourself sharing the who, what, when, where, and why, and post it to your social media accounts. Use the event hashtag, if there is one, in all online promos.

Work with the event planner to live-post your appearance on social networks. Create posts based on your content that they can push out during your session to collect audience questions that are relevant to what you're sharing in real-time. Make sure the event planner communicates any questions they’ve received so that you can answer them during the session. Alternately, you can follow up with answers in a post-event email to attendees that include your main takeaways, social handles, and ways to contact you.

Using these tips can ensure your virtual presence is as powerful as being on stage and making eye contact with audience members. While we’re all excited to be back in the room with our event attendees, virtual engagements allow you to still connect with wider, more diverse crowds than can currently travel to events.