The COVID-19 pandemic is spurring major changes for many businesses, some more than others. Live events and future bookings— as a prime example— have come to a grinding halt, leaving professional speakers stageless nationwide.
But to say keynote speakers are without a platform to stand on? That’s inaccurate. While in-person speeches have stopped, virtual events are alive and growing— boasting record-high crowds of home-bound attendees.
Fortunately, the right virtual keynote could empower your audience in the same way a physical event can. But this stage-to-screen shift changes the whole speaking playing field. A great in-person speaker might not be a great virtual speaker, and those hiring talent need a different breed of performer: a digitally-savvy, flexible presenter.
When hiring a virtual speaker, be on the lookout for these crucial attributes:
1. Does the presenter have previous virtual speaking experience?
When screening digital presenters, it helps to look for someone with at least some prior on-screen experience. Have they ever spoken on camera? Check to see if they’ve been interviewed as television guests on talk shows, news outlets, etc. or if they’ve been recorded on reputable stages.
What about webinars? Has this speaker ever delivered a digital broadcast or online event similar to the one you’re trying to host? Ask the speaker to see their digital speaking resume and be sure to watch any clips that would have prepared them for your virtual conference.
2. If not, are they comfortable using technology beyond their built-in webcam?
Anyone can hop on a video call, but not everyone can lead a virtual conference. Video meeting etiquette matters when you’re presenting to dozens of attendees and your speaker will need to navigate their way around the presentation platform.
They’ll need to be comfortable operating slideshows for visual support. Plus, not all presentations enable audio for guests. Will your keynote speaker know how to leverage the attendee chat feature to answer questions, either in real-time or during the open-ended questions wrap-up after they present? If they’re using music or audio clips, will they be able to translate that into their conference? These are just a few technological considerations when conducting a digital conference.
3. Are they willing to work with a moderator or emcee?
While your speaker needs to handle a lot themselves, having a second virtual host never hurts. A moderator or emcee’s job is to help to introduce the speaker, steer the event with support questions, keep the presentation timely and on track, host the ending Q&A session, etc.
Not all speakers play nice with moderators, and we recommend asking your virtual speaker if they can share the digital stage before considering them for your digital event.
4. Do they create an appealing visual experience?
No matter if a presentation is on stage or on screen, it helps if the audience can see visuals so they’re not just staring at the person talking. But in the digital event world, visuals are even more relevant— since no matter how great a speaker is, there are subtle body language gaps the camera doesn’t pick up.
Ask to see the keynote speaker’s presentation decks, previous recordings, etc. to give you an idea of what graphics they’ll use to support their discussion.
5. Are they taking up too much of your audiences’ time?
In a sense, live audience members are captive for an entire keynote. It can feel rude to get up and leave when someone’s on stage, but this courtesy often doesn’t apply for users behind a screen. If a presentation is droning and attendees get bored, these guests are likely to simply leave the broadcast.
Consider asking if the speaker would be willing to cut down or adjust their presentation for a digital setting without compromising its value. Typically, 30-minute virtual events are a safe length to keep your audience engaged. Anything longer than an hour increases the chance of fall-off attendance.
6. Are you using the right video hosting platform?
There are a handful of excellent platforms for holding video conferences. A few of the top choices are GoToWebinar/GotoMeeting, Zoom, ClickMeeting, On24, Everwebinar, and Livestorm. Check out how these options stack against one another on Big Speak.
7. Are they willing to do a run-through?
Some speakers are great at self-promotion, but when it comes to the actual presentation… they fall a little short. Before showing off your great virtual speaker to your audience, see if they’ll do a live run-through for you and important decision-makers before final approval.
This is the perfect opportunity for you to offer feedback as well as ask for necessary adjustments. We recommend doing this run-through early enough to give the speaker reasonable time to revise before the actual broadcast date— and to give yourself enough time to find a new presenter should you be unimpressed.
8. Can you record the presentation and share it?
Just like any event, there may be people who miss it. Fortunately, digital events are easily recorded and shareable. Ask your presenter if they would be willing to share the virtual event with those on your team who can’t make it, or even externally on social media, should you want to promote it. Some speakers will include this as part of their baseline package, but others may offer it at an additional cost. They may even include additional promotional videos or materials. Generally, this part of a virtual engagement is custom, so find a speaker who is able to work with your needs.
On the Hunt for a Cyber Security Speaker?
If you’re looking for a cyber security keynote speaker, we’ve got an excellent resource for you. Download our complimentary Choosing the Right Cyber Security Keynote Speaker ebook for a checklist of questions to consider before picking the right talent for your digital event.
Learn from the world’s most famous hacker by booking Kevin Mitnick for your virtual conference. No one’s got a resume quite like this ex-hacker turned white hat. Review Kevin’s speaking experience here.