Seven tips for virtual success

Jun 14, 2021

If you are involved in any way with an upcoming virtual conference, convention or summit, I’ve got seven great tips to help you give your audience a memorable experience.

The tips comes from my experiences as a professional speaker and performance coach, and from my most recent gig - emceeing a two day event with 25 speakers and more than 400 attendees.

1 - Be early

If you are a speaker, check in early with the event organizers. It’s not just a courtesy to let them know you are alive and ready to go. If they don’t hear from you, they may promote someone else into your slot.

At one summit I emceed there was no sign of the first keynote speaker of the morning, two minutes before the session was due to start. Speaking from experience, I can tell you the organizers are frantically asking ‘Do we start late?’ ‘Is anyone else ready to go?’ ‘What do we do?’

2 - Fix problems quickly

Any speaker can have technical difficulty. If you are the emcee or the organizer you have to be prepared to jump in and fix the problem. Don’t take a fingers-crossed-and-hope approach. Explain to the audience and the speaker what’s happening. At a summit I was emceeing, one speaker’s microphone was distorting badly - and he was unaware of the problem. So I stepped in, and asked the technical director to join the conversation. In a couple of seconds we’d identified and fixed the problem - much to the relief of the speaker and the audience.

3 - Help the audience

Make it easy for the audience to interact with the platform. If your speakers are taking questions and you are the host, don’t hesitate to repeat instructions for using the chat boxes. For the most recent event I emceed we had more than 400 attendees. But not all were there every second of every day. People float in and out. Don’t assume they know how to navigate the platform. Make it easy for them to have a satisfying experience.

4 - Don’t skimp on support

A virtual conference with multiple speakers and interactive elements needs a dedicated technical director, as well as an emcee and the event organizer. The emcee cannot focus on engaging the audience if he or she is trying to deal with technical issues, play in videos, put up slides or communicate with missing speakers.

5 - Lose the complicated slides

If you are a speaker, dump most if not all of your text-heavy slides. They really don’t work online. Find an alternative way of making your point. Use short bold phrases to reinforce a point, rather than putting whole paragraphs on screen. Better still, use images to show the reality of what you are saying. Or tell a relevant story. Trust your words and your enthusiasm to make a point.

6 - Be prepared

If you are the emcee, take the time in advance to prepare some material in case you have to add lib for a few minutes. Find some relevant quotes or stories and write them out on cards or paper you can keep close to hand. You may never use them - but if you do need to fill time for any reason, you’ll be grateful.

7 - Always have a Plan B

Anticipate problems. What will you do if a speaker has technical trouble and can’t connect? Do you play a standby video? Or put up a slide? It’s a fairly safe bet that some gremlins will strike at some stage. Have a plan for dealing with the unexpected.