When the COVID-19 pandemic put an indefinite pause on global travel and meetings, event planners showed huge resilience and creativity to come up with online solutions. In fact their efforts were so successful that, since lockdowns ended, demand for virtual events has remained high.

Why use a virtual speaker?

Of course, a virtual event can’t replicate the energy and buzz of having everyone together in the same room. However, they do have particular virtues which are worth considering when you plan your event.

(i) Global connection
With virtual events, the reach of your event is constrained only by internet connectivity. It can be difficult to organise a time that suits multiple timezones, however this can be overcome by recording the event and broadcasting it to other timezones at a later date.

(ii) Quick response to current affairs
World events are volatile and move fast. Businesses need to stay on top of the latest trends shaping the business landscape, both when advising clients and shaping their internal strategy.

Virtual meetings cater brilliantly to this need because, with no need to find a venue or organise participants’ travel and accommodation, they are much quicker to organise than an in-person equivalent.

(iii) Lower carbon footprint
With the climate crisis looming, many businesses are looking to be good corporate citizens and reduce their environmental impact where possible. As such, when planning an event it’s worth considering whether it’s essential that it be in-person, or whether virtual could be a viable option.

(iv) Cost effective
Without venue hire, travel and accommodation expenses, virtual events offer a cost effective alternative to in-person events. Speaker fees will usually also be lower, since less time is taken out of their diaries in order to participate. This could also mean you can spread the same budget over a larger number of events.

Pre-recorded or live?

With virtual events, you have the option of pre-recording a speaker’s speech. While it may not have the spontaneity and organic feel of a live presentation, it has the advantage that any tech issues can be ironed out in advance, and the speaker can do multiple takes if you wish (but be careful to discuss this with the speaker before the recording session, as they may charge more for multiple takes).

Of course, you can also do a mix of pre-recorded and live. For example, you could pre-record the speaker’s main presentation, but do the Q&A live afterwards. This combines the security of pre-record and the interactivity of a live event.

Think carefully about visual structure

Curating the virtual event experience in detail can make the difference between a successful event and one that falls flat. Here are some questions worth considering:

  • Do you want only the speaker on the screen when they’re talking?
  • If they use slides, how will they appear on the screen? Together with the speaker, or separately? If the former, how large will the speaker and slide screens be respectively?
  • If there’s a Q&A, will the moderator be visible? Will other audience members be visible? How will the moderator take questions e.g. only on the chat function, or also verbally from participants?

Check the tech!

It’s been several years since virtual events took off during the pandemic and audiences have become as discerning about online experiences as they have in-person ones. Simply put, there is no excuse for poor picture or sound quality, nor for wobbly internet connections. Here are our tips for ensuring no tech gremlins disrupt your event:

  • Before you book the speaker, be sure to watch footage of their virtual presentations. This will allow you to check whether their tech is sufficient for your needs. A speakers bureau like VBQ will provide such footage and also recommend speakers who have top quality tech.
  • Make sure your AV team is well-briefed on the speaker’s tech setup. Alternatively, you can send your AV team to the speaker’s premises to run your firm’s preferred setup. Orn you can invite the speaker to present at your office studio if you have one.
  • If it’s a live event, do a tech check prior to the event itself and on the day make sure the speaker logs onto the platform well in advance (about 30 mins prior is a good rule of thumb), so that any issues can be dealt with .

Consider hybrid

Virtual speakers are also a cost effective and environmentally friendly way to enhance in-person meetings. For example, you may want to have your main keynote present in the room, but then bring in other experts virtually to join them for a panel discussion afterwards.