Hybrid events—conferences and corporate events that include both live and virtual audiences—have prompted speakers accustomed to presenting in front of a live audience to adopt some new practices to bring the virtual audience into the conversation. Speakers aren’t the only ones interested in appealing to a virtual audience. Savvy hybrid event organizers are looking for speakers with the skill sets to wow both types of attendees.
Bringing the virtual audience into the conversation
Robert Swanwick, founder of SpeakerInteractive.com, believes there is no “best” way to bring a virtual audience into the conversation. “Each audience, speaker, and the content of each speech is different,” he says. That said, he offers some good practices:
–Treat the virtual and live audiences equally.
–During the Q&A, address a good portion of the questions from the virtual audience.
–Display the avatars of the online audience on a slide visible to the live participants.
–Invite both the virtual and live audience to continue the conversation in another online location after the presentation.
–Participate in social networking with the virtual audience before hand to understand some of the issues.
–Keep the virtual audience engaged with activities such as voting, chatting, and reading additional information.
Midori Connolly, Chief AV Girl at Pulse Staging and Events, has some additional tips for hybrid event speakers. “Avoid walking too fast or too much. The camera sometimes translates that movement into a jerky or choppy image onscreen,” she says. “When referring to handouts, make sure the virtual audience has them also and if you have any hands on activities, encourage the remote audience to participate,” she adds.
Putting Twitter feeds into the mix
A Twitter feed presents yet another challenge for hybrid event speakers. Hybrid presenters have to multitask even more to bring Tweeters into the conversation seamlessly. Emilie Barta, Virtual Event Host/Emcee a.k.a. “Social Me-Jay,” explains how speakers can facilitate this interaction:
–Have a Twitter moderator constantly responding to the Twitter feed and alerting the speaker when a question, comment, or experience worthy of sharing is tweeted.
–Speakers should occasionally refer to the Twitter stream, repeat the hash tag, and thank tweeters for their contributions.
–Presenters should encourage tweeters to converse among themselves.
–If speakers are unable to address all of the tweets during the presentation, they should do so privately after the session.
What hybrid event organizers need to know
When choosing a speaker for a hybrid event, organizers should take a number of factors into consideration according to Emilie Barta:
–Speakers must be dynamic and interesting because the camera tends to “flatten them out.” Those that appear dull or monotonous will be unable to keep an easily distracted virtual audience engaged.
–Speakers must have excellent microphone technique to appear engaged and inclusive of the virtual audience.
–Speakers must be 100% comfortable in a hybrid setting because the camera will amplify their discomfort.
The Takeaway: The blending of live and virtual audiences is a challenge for speakers and event organizers. If you’re a speaker, supercharging your presentation won’t hurt and may help prevent the virtual participants from checking their email or Facebook accounts too often during your session. If you’re a hybrid event organizer, make sure you work with speakers that are experienced in front of a camera, able to multitask, and willing to keep the remote audience in the loop. When you think about it, why have a hybrid event if the virtual audience feels like second-class citizens?
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