Shifting from Stage to Screen: 4 Tips for Virtual Speaking

Few people have had their professional lives more up-ended by this virus than keynote speakers. 

I personally haven’t been off the road for this long since college after having my entire in-person calendar wiped beginning in mid-March of this year. In fact, I had a paid keynote cancel on me as far into the future as May of 2021. 

The past few months have brought with them a lot of uncertainty for both speakers and the conferences, associations, organizations and groups that normally book them to provide value to their membership. Each side has been looking at the other trying to figure out how to create a new post-pandemic speaking paradigm.

It’s been said that the pandemic has sped up the adoption of technology by 20 years and I have seen that in action on the speaking/teaching side. My father is a Law School Professor at Baylor Law School and he has had to quickly learn the ins and outs of Zoom to teach his class mid-Pandemic.  

And students aren’t the only ones learning from home. Work-from-anywhere has gone from a rare perk to accepted norm – even among the most-old school companies, many of whom are now actively seeking to re-deploy budgets that used to go to in-person conferences & trainings to virtual learning. 

And I’ll throw this one in as well – organizations who in the past scoffed at paying a speaker for a virtual presentation are now eagerly pursuing such engagements.  They have become among the most important ways for organizations like YPO, EO and others to show value to their membership. 

Now that momentum is building, how can you set yourself up for success with virtual presentations? Here are four things to focus on:

  1. Revise the speaking page on your website – Have you updated the speaking page on your website to highlight virtual keynotes, workshops or other presentations? This is super simple but very important for those considering whether or not to book you.  If possible, include a sample video showing you in a dynamic environment on a virtual presentation and give examples of those you have spoken to in the past.
  2. Beat out distractions – It’s hard enough to keep an audience’s attention when they are sitting in an auditorium but understand when you speak to a virtual audience there are infinitely more distractions in play. As such, we only give our full attention to really good speakers who are prepared, dynamic & find ways to involve the audience with poll questions and other tactics. The best way to hook a virtual audience is to win the first five minutes of the presentation.
  3. Go back through your rolodex – One thing I’m seeing work well for quick turnaround talks is to go back through those you have spoken to in the past and offer up a virtual presentation that either expands on what you previously spoke on or revises it for a post-COVID environment. This is often the lowest hanging fruit in terms of quick turnaround opportunities because they already know you can deliver.
  4. Convert your keynote to new virtual offerings – In addition to a traditional keynote-style virtual speech, what else can you offer in a virtual environment? Think about creating virtual workshops, audits or other sessions you can sell that provide similar value as an in-person version. For example, we have converted our Brand Strategy Days to virtual versions and we’re seeing widespread adoption of this option. 

I do expect in-person conferences to return in the future but it’s likely this disruption will result in a permanent lane for virtual presentations, which should help you expand your reach beyond where you have spoken in the past. 

In fact, I just got a request from a group in Saudi Arabia to give a virtual presentation on Authority Marketing in January – something that probably wouldn’t have happened without a willingness to host me via Zoom. 

What lessons have you learned from virtual presenting (good & bad)? Comment below!

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