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Setting your Virtual Speakers up for SUCCESS

Event organizers have always had to deal with handling speakers, but – as always – hybrid and virtual events bring new challenges and opportunities to the process, as we have been covering in our hybrid event survival series. With the following ideas in mind, you’ll be able to help your speakers easily make the transition into the virtual world.
Event organizers have always had to deal with handling speakers, but – as always – hybrid and virtual events bring new challenges and opportunities to the process, as we have been covering in our hybrid event survival series. With the following ideas in mind, you’ll be able to help your speakers easily make the transition into the virtual world.

It’s surprisingly easy to hire a celebrity to make a virtual appearance at your virtual event! A quick online search will connect you with companies specializing in offering celebrities for video clips, live streaming videos, direct chat questions, and moderated Q&As. Interacting with a celebrity can be a once-in-a-lifetime encounter for event attendees, and can be a part of your virtual event that would be difficult to reproduce due to economical and logistical constraints in the real world.

Celebrities can be hired for a wide range of prices, depending on who they are and what they are being asked to do. One way to reduce the costs of hiring a celebrity is to schedule your event during a celebrity’s promotional cycle. Many celebrities will be happy to make appearances to promote their own projects, making your event a part of their publicity tour. In the past, booking a celebrity was expensive with costs including artist and agency fees, entourage travel, hotel rooms, and catering – and, scheduling was always a serious factor in arranging a high-end guest speaker. With the move to the virtual world, these deterrents to hiring top talent are greatly reduced.

Along with an introductory speech, celebrity talent might be successfully incorporated into your virtual event in a number of ways. Consider the following options:


  • The celebrity could act as an emcee,  introducing the event, other speakers, and doing a final wrap-up;
  • Keep attendees’ attention by holding one-on-one conversations with your star during virtual breaks. Choose fun, non-controversial topics;
  • Have attendees submit questions to the celebrity with the goal of including the maximum number of short interactions;
  •  Hold a ‘fireside chat’ led by a moderator that includes your company’s executives and features customized content; and,
  • Have the celebrity speaker talk about an interesting topic, such as leadership, teamwork, or overcoming adversity.

Providing a speaker instruction manual is an excellent method of helping your speakers be successful and increasing the chances of creating a smooth and professional event. Some things to be included are:

  • Simple instructions on navigating your event platform: how to register as a speaker, create a profile, upload materials, and use any built-in tools available. Be sure the speaker knows how to contact support people in your organization for any questions they may have;
  • An event program that gives details of the agenda, such as when each presentation will start, how long each one will last, and who will be moderating. Describe the format – will it have a Q&A session? or a panel? etc.;
  • How to deliver the content of their presentation effectively. If they have a slideshow or prerecorded presentation or clip, explain where and when to upload files. Provide information on design guidelines, such as fonts, colors, number of slides – or design a slideshow template to include;
  • A list of the technical equipment that the speakers will need – such as a laptop, webcam, and reliable internet that can handle high-quality video. Explain how to test everything in advance. You can also explain best practices for setting up equipment,  such as using an external mic instead of a built-in laptop mic for optimal quality; positioning the webcam so it’s slightly above eye level and directly in front of the speaker; and, using ample natural light and making sure lights are above or in front of the speaker, not behind;
  • If you are seeking continuity in your presentations, review the speakers’ background setting, lighting, positioning of any conference signage provided or required backdrop, and dress code is required. Some examples of virtual dress codes include: not wearing green in front of a green screen so they don’t disappear into the digital background, and avoiding very busy clothing – such as small stripes – so as not to produce strange visual effects;
  • Show the speakers how to enable and interact with chat functionality, such as quizzes and polls, and any other methods of audience engagement that are provided; 
  • If they have a moderator, have the two of them talk beforehand to know the roles they will play and the cues involved within the presentation.

One of the most challenging aspects of the shift from real-life to virtual and hybrid events is dealing with experienced speakers. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when bringing the stage veteran into the virtual world.

Many experienced speakers are accustomed to presenting live and being able to fine-tune their presentations right before going on stage. But, virtual platforms often require pre-recorded presentations at least 30 days in advance to provide enough time to preload and test them. Pre-recorded sessions do not typically afford the luxury of last-minute changes, as such changes can cause delays and technical problems. 

Rehearsals are crucial, even for experienced speakers. The speakers must be comfortable presenting the content and, most importantly, with the production aspect. The event team needs to be available beforehand to ensure that they have tested their equipment, have the right lighting, sufficient broadband, are familiar with how to start/stop their camera and mute/unmute, etc. Preparation and rehearsal are key.

Even the most experienced speakers need coaching on the best practices for virtual presentations. Lacking live interaction, the speakers must be able to present as if there was a live audience in front of them. This may mean gathering a small group as their audience in the real world for some. For others, simple tricks like where to look at the screen when presenting, standing up, and moving about will bring more energy into the presentation.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, creating a virtual experience does have limitations, but it also can create rewarding and amazing content with the proper preparation and attention, Be sure to follow our previous post for tips for a successful virtual event.  

Speakers can make or break an event and we want to ensure that you are well prepared to get them set up for a memorable speaking engagement!

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