Give Your Team the Direction They Need to Hold Successful Virtual Events
Updated: Jun. 1, 2020 | Categories: Meetings/Events
Your chapter wants to hold a virtual event. You have no trouble putting on an in-person event, but a remote one? How can you be sure your event will include all those aspects that will make it an event your audience expects, appreciates, and engages with? And it will be one that provides the human interaction that comes with face-to-face meetings?
For direction, we spoke to Lynda Katz Wilner, communication and soft skills specialist, who shared some of the best practices chapters should follow for delivering successful virtual events that get and keep that critical audience connection.
The 3 V’s of Communication
To be seen by your audience as polished, professional and credible, remember the “visual, verbal, and vocal.”
How you look. More than hair, makeup, and clothing, though they are important, the way the presenter carries herself is critical. This includes things like posture, facial expression, eye contact, and even your use of your arms and hands. And remember to smile! You may be nervous, but there are ways to keep those nerves from showing (more on that in a minute).
How you sound. As with in-person speakers, pronunciation, speed and the level of speech a presenter uses all affect audience perception of a speaker they’re watching on a screen. Include pauses and emphasis to let your message resonate and avoid using extra words like “uhm” and “you know.” Speak loudly, but don’t shout, and vary your tone, but not so much that every sentence sounds like a question.
What you say. If your presentation and message are unclear, your grammar wrong, you read right from your PowerPoint, or you ramble, you won’t connect with your audience. Talk to your audience like it’s a face-to-face conversation. To ensure you’re staying connected, ask attendees to respond in the chat that they can hear you or with any questions. (Remind them throughout to submit questions and you’ll respond as appropriate).
Issues with technology can keep your event from fully resonating with attendees.
- Lighting. Avoid standing in front of or near a window. Your face will be dark or completely silhouetted and your features, including your mouth, difficult to see.
- Background. A busy background can increase audience distraction. Consider a virtual background if your platform offers them; use one of their pictures or upload your own. Even your chapter logo works better than a messy pile of books and papers. Think about the image you want to portray and use a background that represents that.
- Microphone. Internal computers microphones aren’t always the best choice. If attendees hear static or a muffled voice, you could lose them before the end of the event. Sometimes a headset or external microphone provides better sound.
- Internet connection. Hardwire your computer to the Internet to ensure a strong signal and decrease the chances your screen will freeze. If you must use Wi-Fi, find the location with the strongest signal. If your bandwidth is strong but you’re still having issues, close the other windows that are using bandwidth.
- Platform. There are multiple platforms available, including Zoom, WebEx, and even your own chapter forum. Spend time figuring out which will meet your needs and then learn how to best leverage the one you choose.
Lynda recommends getting into your session early, to avoid last-minute glitches and greet attendees individually as they sign on, if there aren’t too many people. Ask a volunteer to manage the chat and Q&A and handle any technical issues, so your presenter can focus on the presentation to the audience.
- Send handouts and the agenda beforehand, to engage attendees before the event, to build excitement, anticipation, and interest.
- Eliminate potential distractions. Mute attendees and shut off email notifications and popups. And do what you need to do to keep phones from ringing.
- Don’t get unraveled by technology. Stuff happens and your response is critical to continued engagement. Acknowledge any issues that arise, as people can be very forgiving, as long as you follow up in the right way. Let them know you’ll send the presentation later or talk through the slides if they aren’t loading. Be sure to print out the slides, so you have your notes to refer to.
Calming those nerves
It’s common to be nervous, even for experienced presenters. There are things you can do so that your remote audience has no idea, and you turn those nerves into adrenaline. The most important? Don’t forget to breathe. Take a long, slow cleansing breath before you turn on the camera. (Lynda also suggests meditating right before or doing a quick burst of exercise to eliminate some of that nervous energy.) Think you’ll be extra uncomfortable because there’s no audience? Put a picture of someone you know and trust behind the camera to feel like you’re connecting with someone.
There’s a lot to think about, a lot to know, and a lot to practice. But maybe the most important thing to remember is that there’s no reason to let the idea of perfection get in the way of a perfectly good, effective presentation. Virtual meetings aren’t going away, so the more prepared and authentic you can be, the better that connection with the audience, will be.