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5 tips to elevate remote speakers presenting to an in-person audience

Photo courtesy of Pexels.com/ANTHONY SHKRABA production.

On a number of occasions this fall, I managed meetings and events where a general session speaker was remote and a majority (if not all) of the audience was in-person. This can happen for a number of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Personal comfort of the speaker to travel/congregate with an in-person audience.
  • Employer travel/in-person meeting restrictions.

While this is completely understandable, and at any given time there will likely be countless individuals who are affected by these circumstances but have valuable insights and perspectives to share with audiences, I noticed that in almost every instance the remote presentations fell a little short in terms of energy and audience connection. 

While it may not be possible to replicate every aspect of an in-person presentation, with the right planning, coaching, and mentoring, I think that remote speakers can still be highly effective. Following are five considerations as you work with remote speakers presenting primarily to an in-person audience:

1. Help the speaker clearly visualize the event overall and the room specifically. While it may not be possible (or productive) to convey every detail, help the speaker get a sense of the full meeting agenda and how they fit into it. And whether you take and share photos of the meeting space onsite, or leverage a video conference platform like FaceTime to take them on a short virtual tour, help your remote speakers visualize the room they’ll be speaking in, the size of the audience, the layout of the space, the setup of the tables and chairs, etc.

2. Test the equipment in advance and again the day of the session. If you’ve facilitated one or more virtual events in the last two years (or longer), you likely have a checklist of tech items you run through with speakers for each and every remote presentation. This should include, at minimum, the following items both in advance of the event (when there’s no pressure for the technology to work) and again the day of the session at least an hour in advance:

Audio Checks Video Checks Tool Checks
  • Is the speaker using headphones?
  • Is the sound clear and consistent?
  • Is it necessary for the speaker to switch to phone audio?
  • Has the speaker silenced devices (e.g., office phone) and programs (e.g., Slack) that ring and ding?
  • Do you want the speaker to mute themselves when not speaking?
  • Have you tested any royalty-free music?
  • Can you hear any distracting background noises?
  • Is the camera at eye level?
  • Does the speaker’s head and shoulders fill the screen?
  • Is the speaker relatively centered?
  • Does the speaker have decent lighting on their face? 
  • If there are windows behind the speaker, can they be covered or the speaker re-oriented?
  • Is the speaker’s background appropriate for the presentation/audience?
  • Is the video clear and consistent with minimal freezing?

If the speaker will be using one or more of the following tech tools, have they been appropriately tested?

  • PowerPoint, resource material or website screen share
  • Polling
  • Chat/Q&A
  • Other apps

Have you confirmed that the video conference platform appropriately displays on the session screens?

3. Connect the speaker and a dedicated moderator in advance of the session. There are lots of details to work out. For example: How will the speaker be introduced? Will the speaker be able to see and interact with the audience? When and how will the speaker take questions? How will you queue the speaker with time remaining? How will any resource materials be distributed? And the list goes on. If you identify a dedicated moderator in advance, preferably someone who knows the speaker, they can discuss and coordinate these details (looping you in if/when necessary).

4. When possible, secure the technology needed for speakers to see and hear the participants. Clearly, this won’t always be possible. Cost is generally a significant factor, but there are other reasons why this may not be feasible for your group. However, when possible, the more your speakers are able to have direct contact with your participants, the more interactive and engaging the experience will be. Otherwise, your speakers have to work overtime to overcome this deficit. It’s akin to flying a plane through high cloud cover: It’s possible, but not preferable. 

5. Remind your speakers that more is more when it comes to high energy. This isn’t another Zoom meeting. So casual conversation is going to come across as exactly that: flat. And there’s something interesting that happens when we present on camera: some of the energy dissipates and just doesn’t translate to the in-person audience. So it’s incredibly important that speakers are aware of their energy levels and present with as much enthusiasm as possible. Presenting to an off-camera colleague who’s in the same room as them or presenting on a panel where speakers are able to feed off of one another can help.

 

If you or your team has been planning and facilitating in-person meetings and events with remote speakers, please share with us your tips, tricks, and recommendations using the comments below or by emailing us at info@eventgarde.com. 

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