You’ve filtered your talk submissions, created an action-packed schedule (if you haven't - check out How to Craft the Perfect Schedule), and your speakers have confirmed their engagement. Now what? Well, your speakers will want to know where they join to present, what software they need to have available, how they are interacting with attendees, where they go for support, and much more. Events that do not cover this information often find that speakers spend a lot of their talk time trying to get setup and connected to the platform. They might not know how or if they can interact with their audience. At worst, some simply do not show up to the event to speak - putting the organizers in quite a crunch.
Let’s dive into 5 ways to interact, rehearse, and pave the way for your speakers to be successful.
Consistent communication is the single most important factor to a successful event, and the breakdown in communication is where many of the issues organizers have experienced stem from. Here’s a quick checklist of information to communicate your expectations to the speakers as quickly and early as possible in case there are updates:
Once they have agreed to the logistical information, send reminders - a lot of reminders. There are countless moving parts in organizing a virtual event, and you can assume your speakers are equally as busy preparing their talk on top of their day-to-day jobs. A calendar invite with reminders built in can be a quick way to ensure their time is booked off from meetings, and that you are both discussing the correct time and timezone for when the talk will be presented.
However, just sending a calendar invite isn’t enough. Encourage speakers to join your event’s Slack workspace well in advance of the event. They’ll be able to keep an eye on what attendees are excited about, have questions on, and to see if there will be a familiar face in the audience. A private “green-room” channel is a great place to start building your community of speakers in an exclusive space. Many times, speakers begin exchanging previews of their talks with each other for suggestions, tips, and as a networking tool.
Once your speakers have the rundown of the event, their efforts are focused on creating informative and engaging presentations. If you have an influx of first-time or newer speakers, consider providing them a list of resources to cover topics like:
Attendees will want to hear and see these well-crafted presentations - that’s where an A/V check comes into play. This can be a quick 5-10 minute check-in call with each speaker leading up to the event. The important questions to ask are: "Can I see you,” “Can I hear you,” and “Can I see your screen?” If one of those three elements are off, the presentation will suffer during the live event, so it’s strongly recommended to get these logistics nailed down in advance.
These checks are a great meeting to establish a rapport with the speakers and establish a communication pipeline in preparation of the event. Ensure you note where to communicate with the speakers in case of emergency, and flip the script to notify the speaker who to contact from the organizer and moderator team for more details or information that might be needed.
Speaking of moderators - to provide a cohesive experience between attendees, speakers and organizers, LoudSwarm encourages the use of moderators. This is a person who is in each speaker’s session, whether that be a Zoom speaker session, Face2Face post-talk session, or a hallway track. They provide introductions, answer speakers questions, and relay real-time feedback from attendees to speakers. A moderator can greatly help a speaker to create a seamless virtual event experience.
When the presentation time is imminent, organizers should request that speakers join the Zoom meeting 5-10 minutes before the start to do a final A/V rundown. This includes reminders to mute the platform in the browser to avoid a feedback loop, presenting in full screen mode, and muting notifications. The speakers will ideally be engaged and discussing with other speakers in the “green-room” Slack channel throughout the event (and seeing what did or didn’t work well for others), but this final walk-through will help to ensure the talk goes off without a hitch.
When it comes to engagement, the most successful speakers interact with the audience on a few different levels. This typically includes: interacting on social media to promote the presentation, prompting attendees for preemptive questions or topics to address on Slack, and requesting feedback on the presentation. During the live event, there are two main aspects to address with the speaker: during the talk interaction and post-talk interaction.
During the talk, attendees will be engaging in Slack and asking questions through the built-in SliDo feature. Unless otherwise determined beforehand, the session moderator will keep an eye on the Slack discussions and mention any important notes or questions when the talk concludes. In addition, the moderator will funnel the questions from SliDo to the speaker at the end of the presentation during the call for questions. The moderator acts as an intermediary between the speaker and the general audience, allowing for a single-person directing questions to the speaker rather than hundreds or even thousands.
When the live stream stops, the Face2Face session will begin for speakers to directly interact and network with attendees. Attendees are encouraged to turn on their cameras and mics to continue these discussions. This is a similar experience to attendees lining up in a conference hall to talk to a speaker. Post Face2Face session, speakers are requested to stay online in Slack as long as they can during the event so they can be available for additional questions, as attendees can watch the recording of the presentation in LoudSwarm. This also extends into requesting that speakers participate in any post-event parties or socials, and the conference as a whole. This is an event they clearly have an interest in if they are speaking, so it is very likely they will have the expertise to help other presenters out or even have an educated conversation with an attendee on a particular conference topic.
The event’s speakers are the main reason attendees, sponsors, and possibly other speakers participated in your event - make sure you thank them. It seems very basic, but with the other things on your list to follow-up on from the event, sending your speakers a heartfelt thank you message should be on the top of the list. If your budget allows, this could extend into mailing them a thank you gift from the organizer team.
Since they were such an integral part of the event, ensure you collect their feedback on what went well, what could be improved, and what notes they have for your team. They will provide a unique perspective of being more involved in the process than a standard attendee, but not quite as involved and “in the weeds” as the organizer team. In conjunction with asking for feedback, consider asking about their participation in future speaking opportunities your team has - it’s never too early to ask.
Now, if you’re going to ask the speaker to come back for another event, ensure you spend time promoting their talk anywhere and everywhere you can - social media, news outlets, or even in company meetings. If the speaker can receive good traction and attention for their companies or causes, they will be much more likely to return and participate in your event again.
Communication is key to ensure a positive experience for an event’s speaker lineup — from email reminders, check-in meetings, to providing assistance during the live event — and is the most important aspect to a successful virtual event. Implementing the tips and resources mentioned above can bring your virtual event to the next level, and we’re here to help. We encourage you to ask for help if you need suggestions, ideas, or just need to bounce something around with us to improve your event experience.
We are excited to help jumpstart your next event: let's make it amazing.