Addressing a virtual conference – some key rules.
I’ve been blogging recently about various aspects of virtual conferences.
And in case you think that I’m not a fan of the virtual world, let me tell you that I’ve already performed at almost two dozen events over the last three months – in cases where I was scheduled to perform in the flesh.
I now consider myself to be a virtual corporate entertainer, and if you’d like to know more about how this operates, you can check my virtual events page.
It’s fair to say that, like everyone else on the scene, I’ve been learning as I go along.
The learning has been very quick, however, the great thing about virtual events is that you’ve got a larger than usual audience, so you get better and more sizeable feedback.
From my own personal experience, then, here are some things that you should consider if you’ve been asked to address a virtual conference, whether as a keynote address or simply as a panel contributor – or even an audience member.
They’ve worked for me – and hopefully they’ll work for you as well!
Use your eyes
If you were addressing a physical room, you’d make sure to make eye contact with as many people in the room as possible.
This is an age-old piece of advice, and it works really well if you want to keep people awake and interested in what you have to say.
Just because you’re delivering a virtual address, there’s no reason why this advice doesn’t still stand. You may not be able to physically focus on the room but pretend that you can see everyone.
A pro tip is not to look directly into the camera, but at a point slightly above it and to the right.
It might also be helpful to place a small bright sticker just above your webcam cam as a reminder to maintain eye contact.
There’s a much greater chance of losing your audience’s attention in the virtual world than in the real world.
To counteract this, it’s a good idea to stay as animated as possible in terms of your body movements.
Depending on how much flexibility you might have in terms of how you’re being filmed, either move a few paces on a regular basis, or if this is not a runner, make sure that you bring your hands and arms into play to insert energy into your performance.
Tighten your script
We all like to think that every word that comes out of our mouth is an absolute gem.
The reality, however, is that the more demands we make – in terms of length of delivery – the harder it is to hold the attention of your audience.
Even if you have a script that you’ve delivered before at other events, don’t feel that it’s okay to roll this out again in the virtual world.
Instead, be absolutely ruthless in paring it back to the absolute minimum – but obviously without losing any of the key elements that you want to get across.
If you’re aggressive enough with a red pen, you should be able to cut back on your content by around 20% – and even more if you’re truly ruthless!
Rehearse in the real world as well as online
It goes without saying that you should rehearse in advance in terms of making sure that the technology works.
But you should also rehearse with some friends or colleagues in the real world.
The way they react will give you a good example of how an online audience will react.
So you’ll find out where the smiles might be, or where they’re most likely to nod off.
Keep it upbeat
Everybody is feeling a bit low right now – including the corporate sector.
So if you can possibly do so, try to inject some humour and some levity into your delivery.
It won’t downplay the seriousness of your key messaging, but it will mean that you’re more likely to be remembered in what may well be quite a long line of fellow performers.
If you can introduce all or most of these principles into your next virtual performance, I truly believe that you’ll get as much impact from it as if you were there in the flesh.
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