Virtual business events were common even before the coronavirus pandemic – but today, businesses are finding ways to hold most events and conferences online. Not only that, but it’s become the norm for entire organizations to work remotely, holding meetings over phone or video conference calls and collaborating with coworkers via Office 365, Google Docs, and screen sharing.
The tech industry is known for its many annual conferences around the world. Now that the global health crisis has made it impossible to travel and congregate in large groups, many conferences have turned to virtual events. Virtual conferences offer a few benefits over live events – such as unlimited attendees and no travel arrangements needed. If you’re used to presenting and speaking at live conferences, you may be wondering how to succeed as a virtual conference speaker.
Here are four tips for successful presentations at virtual conferences:
Prepare for Technical Difficulties
No event, whether in-person or virtual, run 100% smoothly. There is a greater risk of technical problems in online conference formats. Before the event, test your internet connection. Ask conference organizers to do a quick run-through of your session using whatever conference software the event will use to make sure you know how it works. It’s a good idea to create a backup of your visuals and presentations if something happens during your session.
Also, each speaker should anticipate technical problems for attendees, as well. If possible, prepare a few resources for common issues – such as being unable to hear or see the presenter and mute and unmute themselves if it’s not done automatically by the conference organizers.
Create Better Presentation Titles and Descriptions
During a live conference, people can chat and network during the breaks. Conversations naturally include what sessions attendees are going to and why they want to go to a particular presentation – helping speakers get some word-of-mouth referrals. Most virtual events lack the casual chatter between sessions, which means your presentation/talk titles and descriptions carry all of the weight in bringing attendees to your session.
Plan Your Presentations with User Engagement in Mind
One of the reasons people enjoy going to live events is their opportunity to network and converse with like-minded people. It isn’t easy to replicate that in a virtual environment. When planning your presentations, look for opportunities to engage with attendees. You can use tools to hold surveys, quizzes, or polls. Some video conferencing software allows for “breakout rooms” where you can group several people into private chat rooms to discuss a topic and bring them back into the main “room” for the rest of the session.
At a live event, an hour-long session is reasonable. In an online environment, an hour can feel like forever. People tend to grow tired quicker in an online environment as you’re sitting for long periods without movement breaks. If possible, keep your presentations to 30 or 45 minutes for online conferences. If the conference organizers give you an hour, you could consider adding 15 minutes of networking time.
There are many benefits to holding events online than live, in-person events, but they also result in different presenters’ challenges. Hopefully, these tips will help you have successful online conference speaking experiences and take advantage of the new virtual landscape.