The future of public speaking is in the virtual world.
For many years, public speakers, presenters and trainers, were forced to travel up and down the country, for hours on end, sleeping in service station hotels, and eating at fast-food restaurants to have any sort of success as a paid public speaker.
Fast speed internet saw a slow move towards online delivery but not enough to make a living being a virtual presenter. Then covid-19.
Covid-19, for public speakers, has fast-forwarded the training industry creating a virtual market.
Most of the income, for a speaker, comes from being hired by an organisation. Previously, a business could never see the value of hiring a virtual trainer, when for a similar cost, they could book a live presenter.
The pandemic has created a new virtual workplace.
Covid has shown businesses how working from home is a viable option for their employees, helping the company to reduce overhead cost; premises, utility cost and office furniture.
Being forced, due to the coronavirus, to work from home has allowed employees to understand the ease of online meetings, conferences and training. Going forward, many businesses will be adopting the blended working approach; a mixture of working from home and in the office.
Professional development continued through the pandemic, showing managers how easy (and cost-effective) online training can be.
For professional speakers, they will see an increase in virtual bookings with a likely scenario of one trainer delivering to staff in offices across the country (a cost-saving solution for an organisation) which means paid speakers need to prepare for virtual presentations.
Preparing for virtual delivery.
For any public speaking gig, virtual or live, the presenter needs to think about the 3 key E’s; environment, equipment and engagement.
Whereas a speaker delivering to a live audience will consider the size of the stage vs the size of the audience, a virtual speaker will focus their attention on the framing of their screen,
The virtual presenter will decide between a close-up camera shot or a 2/3rd angle allowing the audience to see gestures and body language.
Setting the stage for a live speech, the speaker will set the stage; background, layout and lighting. The online trainer also considers the background – often preferring a clear background, but also has to think about ‘controlling the environment’ as we have also seen incidents of a presenters child walking through the bedroom door halfway through a motivational speech!
The new consideration for the virtual speaker is the previously unconsidered ‘introduction.’ For a live event, the host would introduce the speaker before passing over the microphone. Online, however, creates a new problem: the handing over of the ‘presenter’ control allowing the speaker to share screen, access the comments box and general control.
There is nothing worse for an audience member to have to watch a 5-minute panic of an unprepared speaker asking ‘can you hear me?’ ‘Can you see my PowerPoint?’ which only results in a loss of credibility.
A professional speaker is easily recognised by their preparation. A presenter preparing for a live event will be seen checking the audio, their PowerPoint presentation, and testing the screen. They will also have spare batteries for the clicker, a backup presentation on a Pendrive and even a spare shirt, in case they spill coffee on themselves.
Professional virtual speakers have the same preparation mindset.
To prepare for potential online problems, the virtual speaker will plan for a drop in internet signal often by having tethering set up on their mobile phone.
Prior to the event, they will test the audio and video images, as well as having tested their Powerpoint presentation. In addition, they will, with the help of the host, check and test all audience engagement activities; comments box, thumbs up and break out rooms.
Experienced online presenters will also use only downloaded videos as part of their event, as live-streamed YouTube videos are renowned to crash when used as part of a live event due to a live speaking event requiring the bulk of the internet data.
Audience engagement, from both live and virtual events, increases the likelihood of audience members taking up the speaker’s call to action – the goal of any speech or workshop.
Engagement comes in the form of rhetorical questions, open and closed questions, group exercises and demonstrations.
Online audience engagement needs to be planned for.
Timing is important here, as online engagement, especially for simple interactions such as a closed question, takes longer than it would during a face-to-face event. In a live event, the presenter may ask the audience to raise their hands if they agree with X statement; nice and simple.
Online, the presenter has to first state the question, then explain what online tool; thumbs up, tick box or Y or N in the comments box, the audience needs to use. During a live event the presenter, facing the audience, can see the majority answer, but online they have to count the replies or ask if everyone has answered?
Demonstrations are easier to control during a live event compared to being online. A highly extroverted audience member can be harder to control in terms of how long they can speak for, once they have the microphone.
Breakout rooms, which are ideal for group activities, present another problem. In a live event, the trainer will simply walk around the room, observing each group and ‘helping’ any groups that need assistance; they don’t fully understand the task, a group may have a question for the trainer or a group may have gone off-topic.
The virtual presenter has to prepare how they can handle each individual group barrier. How will the online trainer enter each breakout room, how can groups get clarification and how can the presenter ensure that each task is being completed as requested?
Speakers need to prepare for virtual sessions.
The fundamentals of speaking; speech structure, delivery and confidence, are the same for both virtual and live performances.
Preparation, however, varies depending on the online platform chosen for the requested workshop, if presenting to teams in offices across the UK or to individual employees working from home and on the style of workshop – either a presentation or a workshop with interactive elements.
Speakers, to be successful, need to think about presentation preparation in a different way for the virtual world, by considering the online barriers they may face during the session itself. Going forward more organisation will be hiring speakers, trainers and presenters to deliver activities virtually.
Currently, as online sessions are relatively new, speakers are getting away with not being as professional as trainers booked for live sessions But this will change. Businesses will soon be expecting the same level of professionalism and quality for virtual and face-to-face speakers alike.
Plan to Prepare.
Get the ‘Golden Rules of Public Speaking’ e-book
Project Charisma deliver online coaching and in-person courses on
confident communication, public speaking & personal development.