A Secret for Successful Engagement at Virtual Conferences and Workshops
Are you ready for it? .... I know one and I am willing to share with you.
So, we are now well into Q3 of 2020. A year for the ages and one, that on a daily basis, I look for the silver lining and blessings and sometimes cannot find. Also a year words like pivot, asynchronous, unprecedented, cohort and hybrid became cringe worthy. With me on that?
I recently coached a person, who had been hired to facilitate a two-day virtual workshop for a global board of a multinational corporation. Why did she want to work with me? She clearly had what it took to be hired for such a gig and had done it countless times before in the pre-pandemic days. The reason was she didn't feel she could properly facilitate the same level of participation online.
Well, I won't go into all of my tips and tricks here (that's what I cover in coaching) however, I will share with you the opening salvo I shared with her. "You are an amazing presenter in a room filled with live people, you know how to connect to and with people - you'll be fine in the rectangle."
We can talk about interactive this, poll that, yoga when, but if your presenters are horrible, your event is going to be terrible. When I was at BizBash, I worked with two of the best curriculum builders /speaker-prep people in the world, Brittany Bucceroni and Beth Kormanik, our department heads of marketing and editorial respectively. After considerable vetting by the education committee, they would confirm a speaker and then set up a call or series of calls with speakers to review and refine presentations. We'd make it clear to the educator their particular audience makeup and the objectives we were looking for them to achieve in their session. We'd rarely go beyond 22 minutes for a keynote talk and our workshops were under an hour. Why, because that was a sweet spot for content and attention. If we felt a speaker needed more work, we'd work with them as much as possible.
Our webinar presenters worked alongside us to prepare content and there was always an executive member of the company in the sessions to facilitate Q and A and interject appropriate content.
Same SECRET SAUCE here, you must hire/recruit speakers who are comfortable and GOOD AT PRESENTING. Period. Lousy in-person educators are going to be lousy online. The medium demands it more than in-person. After all, the comparative persons on screen are the likes of Meryl Streep, Morgan Freeman and Hugh Jackman. Prepare your speakers with proper lighting (perhaps send them a kit) and possibly even props/set. Many AV companies are offering this service and I am happy to connect you with my trusted partners. We are all enjoying the glimpses into people's homes and offices, but I am floored at the number of presenters who are poorly lit, wear stained shirts and have dirty dishes in the background.
Sometimes we need a reminder that the most obvious and simplest of steps in creating content may just be the most crucial step and should not be overlooked. Recruit excellence and communicate to your speakers your expectations and desires. The good ones will deliver in spades (and most likely wear stain-free clothes). They will engage your audience and will use the bells and whistles of your platform. It's not so much the platform, it's how your users use and are encouraged to use it. When these presenters execute on their role, attendees will walk away having felt that their time was well spent and most importantly, valued.
And did you notice I also snuck in a second secret above? In case you missed it. It's surround yourself with a talented team. They'll not only elevate your event, they'll elevate you.