10 Tips for Online Event Speakers

In 2020, we witnessed an increase in the popularity of virtual events. Due to the global pandemic, we have limited options of organizing regular conferences and for the most part, we’re left with online. Out of necessity, event organizers grew to appreciate the benefits of organizing virtual events.

10 Tips for Online Event Speakers

As a consequence, there is a demand for virtual speakers and many experts will present in front of a laptop for the first time. If you want to keep participating in conferences as a speaker, there’s no other way - you need to learn to work in this new medium. This kind of presentation is quite different from a regular session at a conference and it’s easy to make mistakes that will impact attendee experience. How to avoid them?

1. A proper frame

Let’s start with the basics. The camera should be at eye level - it makes the face look the most natural.

Second, pay attention to the composition of the frame. Eyes should be at the line dividing the top and middle part of the frame, according to the rule of thirds.

Perfect frame for virtual event speakers' camera

2. Neutral background

The background should be homogenous and bright; white would be best. Why? So that it won’t draw attendees’ attention away from you and your presentation, which is what they should focus on. There are exceptions from this rule. We saw very creative uses of the background, which resonated with the theme of the conference, even though it took attention away from the presenter. Remember that these were exceptions and it’s safer to stick to the rule “the less the better”.

3. Light

Your working area needs to be well lit and it’s best to use sunlight. Only professional lighting equipment can provide as much light as the sun. And the sun is free. Remember that your face should be lit equally on each side.

4. Headphones

Use them or not? There isn’t one good answer to this question. On one hand, you will surely look better without them and headphones are a distraction. On the other hand, we have seen too many situations where the speaker’s laptop couldn’t handle processing the sound from the conference and caused a very annoying and unprofessional echo effect. If you don’t want to use headphones, you absolutely need to attend the test run. If you cannot attend, wear headphones.

5. Ensure peaceful environment

Silence your phone, inform other residents or coworkers that you are not to be disturbed, close your window. You want all the attendees’ attention (which is hard to win) on you, not on the sounds of a lawnmower or notifications. If you like to sip coffee or tea, make sure you have enough before it’s your turn to speak.

6. Prepare the working area

Taking into account previous tips, prepare your working area. If the laptop is too low and the camera is not at eye level, prop it on some books. In addition, it should be aligned with the wall, so that the background is level. With the laptop set, turn on the camera and check where the boundaries of the frame are. You will avoid unprofessional situations, where only half of the speaker’s head is visible.

Example virtual conference speakers' working area setup

7. Prepare the presentation

A presentation for a virtual conference is different from speaking in front of an audience. First of all, you usually have less time: 20 to 40 minutes. The longer the presentation, the harder it is to keep attendees engaged. Make sure to use different forms of presenting the content.

8. Before the conference

We recommend that you always rehearse the conference before the actual event. All speakers should be present. It allows us to eliminate problems in a safe environment, when we still have time to react. Please, be there. After the successful test, do not change the computer or the place where you present. Too often we saw problems resulting from hardware that just wouldn’t work. The only reason we had to face this problem is because the speaker didn’t comply with this point. You should care about your part because you represent not just the event’s brand. You also represent your own.

9. Look at the camera

Yes, it can feel awkward to talk to the camera but it’s the only way to look natural and make attendees feel they have direct contact with you. If there are more people in the studio during a panel, then you should look at them.

10. Panel discipline

Discussion panels require order. Just like at live panels, the moderator is responsible for keeping it. In the case of online events, the discipline is much more important because two people speaking at the same time can cause chaos and not even realize it. You should always wait for the moderator to give you the floor and after you speak, give them time to take initiative. When other panelists are talking, it’s good to react to their speech - nod or shake your head. First, you show that you’re engaged in the discussion, and second, the tech staff can be sure that the transmission is working.

Closing words

The virtual event is a form that is here to stay. If you don't want to fall behind, you need to learn to use this new form. We already have and we share our experience. I hope that this article made you feel more confident about your upcoming online presentation and I hope it turns out great.

Tomasz Chrościechowski