Virtual Events: What Makes an Effective Speaker?

Live events have been put on hold as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. As a result, we have seen an increase in the adoption of virtual events as an alternative to in-person meetings, talks and conferences.

In difficult times like these, the access to reliable, cutting-edge insights is more important than ever. And – as with its live equivalent – having the right speaker is critical to the success of any virtual conference.

So, what makes an effective speaker for a virtual event? Here are some key pointers to help event organisers book the right speaker, as well as help speakers maximise their impact in a virtual setting.

Virtual Event Organisers: How to choose the best speaker

Content is key (but style still matters)

While a speaker can – and should – still be charismatic and engaging via video link, remember the immediacy of having someone occupy a stage in front of you will inevitably be somewhat diminished in a virtual setting. With this in mind, the strength of a speaker’s content matters more than ever in order to make the event engaging. 

When choosing a speaker for your virtual event, focus heavily on their expertise , the insights they offer and how well this relates to you, your brand, and your audience. This involves having a good awareness of the audience demographic (age, profession, company position etc) and knowing exactly which messages, insights and inspiration you want them to take away from your event. 

Presentation style still matters, of course, and different speakers will have different strengths in a virtual setting. Our expert advisors can help you assess whose style and content will be the most effective in your particular context.

Use the virtual format to your advantage

While the lack of a live venue of course has its drawbacks, there are certain aspects about  virtual settings that you can use to your advantage. 

Speakers won’t have to travel to your event, which means you might have more options with the same budget. Since you don’t have to pay for travel and accommodation for your chosen speaker(s), more of your budget is going to be freed up to be invested in other areas of speaker performances. This could mean inviting more speakers, or bringing on board a higher-profile speaker. With travel costs no longer a factor, you can also choose speakers from a wider selection of geographies to provide a richer variety of perspectives. 

So, make sure you make the most of the options a virtual event provides – don’t just fall back into old habits!

Virtual Event Speakers: How to Maximise your Performance

It’s a camera, not an auditorium

This may seem counterintuitive for speakers who are used to performing in front of big crowds, but a good way of ensuring maximum engagement from a virtual audience is by approaching the talk like a 1:1 discussion or small-group seminar. This is because, even though the attendees may be part of a large audience, in a virtual context they’ll be experiencing the performance alone, probably from their home. This means anything you say in this setting is going to be perceived more like a direct interaction. Ultimately, the key to success is to make each attendee feel engaged and at ease, which may mean giving a performance that is more relaxed, informal and conversational. 

If you’re inexperienced in delivering a speech to camera, make sure you’ve practiced it several times, perhaps for a friend, colleague or family member via video link. It may also be worth considering getting professional coaching specifically focused around delivering to camera. VBQ Speakers is happy to put you in touch with relevant coaches. Here are a few pointers in the meantime:

  1. Talk to the camera, not the screen – talking directly to the camera, with it positioned at eye-level, is much more engaging for an audience.
  2. Adjust your posture – if sitting down, slightly lean forward in your chair to show you are interested and engaged with your topic, it will cue the audience to do the same. 
  3. Keep your background in mind – Some people may not want a blank wall behind them the whole time. In fact, seeing a bit of your home surroundings can actually be a nice way to put the audience at ease – but be careful about what you show! Don’t have anything too distracting sitting behind you, after all, the audience should be focussed on you, not your decor. 

Perfect your set up

Picture this: you execute the perfect performance, exactly how you planned it – and the audience didn’t see a single second of it because your internet went down. To avoid this disaster, make sure your internet, camera and audio is set up and working perfectly. Not only does this mean testing all the equipment is in working order well ahead of the event, but it also means being aware of where everything is positioned to ensure the audience can see, hear and understand every part of your performance. So be sure to check the camera angle, lighting and microphone position.

Get creative with the technology

Technology will allow you to bring different elements into your performance, but do it sparingly and intelligently.

With a virtual event, you have access to a number of powerful tools that can really enhance a digital performance. Instead of physically moving from place to place, think about using audio effects or clever editing to create an illusion of movement. You could even think about pre-recording parts of the whole talk, enabling you to edit together different sections to mix up your performance and add a sense of dynamism (something that can be hard to achieve when you’re just sitting and talking to a camera). But only integrate such elements once you are fully comfortable with the virtual format. And don’t let any such frills stop you from getting your message across clearly. If in doubt, keep it simple.


We are fortunate to live in a world where technology allows us to share cutting-edge ideas with clients, colleagues and interested audiences without having to meet in-person. But it’s important to remember that virtual events are a different proposition to live events and require different considerations when planning them. Whether you’re hosting or performing at a virtual event, you will get the best results by making sure you play to the format’s strengths.