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How to Tackle Event Content and Vet Speakers for Virtual Events

September 8, 2020

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Virtual events are nothing new, but with COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders around the world, virtual events have become the way forward for the time being. This has forced many event professionals to radically shift their mindsets and planning processes to embrace the virtual format and everything that comes with it.

From researching the endless and extensive options of virtual event platforms, to deciding on and organizing event content, to vetting keynote speakers, pivoting from a live to virtual event will take more planning than many think. With over 60+ combined years of experience working in the events industry and placing speakers, members of the Worldwide Speakers Group staff are here to help.

We sat down with Kristy Kalo and Nanette Hinkle, two of WWSG’s Vice Presidents of Sales, and asked them about how to organize event content and pick speakers for virtual events.

With so many events and conferences being held virtually right now, it can be a bit daunting to think about session content and speakers. Where do we even start?

Kristy: First, think about your goals for the event. Have they changed now that the event is being held digitally?  Do you want to inform your audience, motivate and inspire them, address an issue or problem within the organization, provide an outlet for people to listen and share views about a specific topic?  All of this information will help in guiding you towards the right fit when it comes to the format of the event, the type of speaker you should have and the best platform for hosting the program.

Once we’ve identified our goals, how do we organize the content so it’s impactful and absorbed by our attendees?

Nanette: Great question. Research shows that online attendee engagement stays highest if the time spent at a computer is three consecutive hours or less. So, you may want to consider hosting your event over the course of several days and then rolling out additional bonus content following the event instead of hosting one or two marathon days.

Should those sessions be different from what we plan for in person events?

Kristy: Potentially – keep in mind that content has to be much more dynamic when presented through a computer screen.  Interactive aspects, like word clouds, voting, sharing appropriate photos and other interactive breaks in the talking will help keep attendees engaged.  Additionally, it is important to incorporate special moments into the program because attendees will be missing the in person networking and interactions.

Once we’ve identified which sessions we’re going to hold and how they will be organized, how do we select the speakers?

Nanette: Think about your specific audience and what will drive them to log on to their screen and watch someone. Would a speaker with great name recognition get them excited to attend? Are they interested in specific content? We’ve seen a lot of success stories from groups who hosted a well-known speaker who gives the attendees a good reason to attend, similar to the idea of a headliner for live events. Alternatively, if you have a group who is experiencing a certain challenge or needs certain information to do their jobs well, a speaker with expertise in that specific content is a great option. For instance, if its important to know how the election or certain legislation will impact business, a political speaker would be able to shed light on those topics or if your organization is facing a big change, a speaker who discusses disruption would be impactful.

Are all speakers equipped to present virtually?

Kristy: Not at all, and just because someone is a wonderful presenter in person, that does not always translate into a dynamic virtual presentation. You need to look for someone with experience presenting virtually.  We will help you identify speakers that are gifted in this particular type of presenting and often we can provide you with recent feedback from other groups that have hosted them recently or we may have video clips that can show a brief part of a virtual presentation to give you a sense of how they will appear on screen. 

Once we’ve selected our speakers, what comes next?

Nanette: Like Kristy said, we’ll help you find the perfect speakers to accomplish your goals and needs for this new virtual world of events. Once you know who those speakers are, we can help provide you with great tools to promote the event, sometimes speakers are able to film short videos that can be sent to attendees leading up to the event or we can share content that will generate interest in the event. And just like the live events we handle, we will be providing support leading up to and during your program.  Our event coordinators are well versed in various on-line presentation platforms and can work with you to set up rehearsals to ensure the lighting, sound, computer angle, etc. are all perfect.  We also will provide an opportunity for your organization to have a call with a speaker and discuss the content of the program to make sure everyone is working with the same expectations for what it needs to accomplish.  Our job is to make yours a little easier and we consider it a privilege to work with you and your team to make sure you have a successful speaker event.

Let our expert event planners help you find the perfect speaker for your virtual event!  We offer some of the best speaker options in the industry. Call us at 703-373-9974 or email to learn more.



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