How To Put Your Best Virtual Foot Forward

How To Put Your Best Virtual Foot Forward

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John Knightly is Chief Marketing Officer at BlueJeans by Verizon.

With more people getting vaccinated, we are all hopeful that the pre-pandemic “normal” will eventually return in the coming months. Even still, certain behaviors that have become ingrained are likely to remain.

Chief among them is the videoconference. As the world begins to move out of the grip of the pandemic, many companies have decided that working from home will continue as one component of a hybrid work model that organizations are rolling out.

While many of us have missed the networking and live demos we experienced at face-to-face events, we are less likely to miss the time away from family or the investments required to plan and host these physical shows.

Even when it’s safe to convene again in person, we’re likely to see more organizations embracing hybrid events where people can either choose to meet in person or choose to stay virtual for safety, efficiency and financial reasons. If you’re an event host, why not increase ROI by opening your face-to-face event to virtual attendees and boosting the size of your audience?

But as the chief marketing officer of a company that offers a video conferencing solution, I know that putting on a successful hybrid or virtual event means delivering a great show: one that keeps your participants engaged and entranced. You may not be able to walk down into the audience with your mic to juice participation, but you can use the power of a digital medium to entertain in other ways.

While you may not be a professional video producer, there are a number of tactics that are relatively easy to implement and can go a long way toward creating a successful virtual event.

Ditch The PowerPoint

Although it has long been standard for many during live get-togethers, forcing your audience to watch a slide deck on their computer screens can become torturous. Small images, unreadable text and poor graphics can quickly bore your audience. If you can, consider other formats, such as fireside chats, interviews or panels. If it’s just you speaking, consider going slide-less. Instead of building slides, invest your time in thinking through how you can provide value to your audience in a compelling way, whether that’s through storytelling, sharing customer examples, demoing your product or offering fresh data and insights.

If you need prompting, work with an on-screen moderator who can ask the right questions and is comfortable in front of the camera.

Open up your conferencing platform to enable Q&A and live comments, and don’t wait until the end before you answer questions; if you do so, your audience may have already lost interest. Having someone on hand specifically to monitor and flag these questions live as they come in is another way to engage your audience.

One caveat: if using a slide deck is a must, never recite the text that’s on each slide verbatim. Everyone in your virtual audience knows how to read; they don’t need you to do it for them. Instead, write just a few key words on each slide and then substantially expand on them verbally while you explain each one.

Keep Your Presentations Short And Sweet

The Lincoln-Douglas debates were about three hours long. But those days are long gone. With video, getting an attendee to pay attention for five minutes can be a challenge; in my opinion, time in front of a screen feels much longer than the same amount of time spent with someone in a live demonstration. The shorter you can keep your presentation, the more likely you are to hold your audience’s attention.

That’s true for both the live and video parts of your presentation. Incorporating a video can be a great way to liven things up during your presentation, but keep it short and sweet to keep your audience engaged and wanting more. Try to limit your pre-recorded video segments to two minutes (or even less) in length. And break up your live discussion with opportunities for attendees to ask questions.

If you’re using music, make it a personal reflection of you, but also make sure it’s appropriate to the mood of your presentation. Whatever you do, skip the canned “elevator” music.

Don’t Announce That Your Session Will Be Available For Later Viewing

Once potential attendees know that your presentation will be available to view afterward, they’ll often find other activities that they’ve decided are more important and say that they’ll watch your event at a later date.

Unfortunately, many will never get around to viewing the event, as new tasks often start to take precedence.

Therefore, I’ve found that it’s best not to announce a recording is available until the actual live event is over. 

Keep It Lively

Switching up visual layouts, asking questions and initiating activities like polling are great ways to keep attendees engaged. On digital screens, our eyes have too many opportunities to wander. Asking your audience what they think about various topics and the direction of the discussion can make them feel (and in turn be) more involved. It will also help you guide the discussion in the direction that will most interest those watching.

Furthermore, remember to use a proper camera angle and bring your best energy. If you’re enthusiastic about your subject, your audience is more likely to be as well.

Create Opportunities For Networking

Live events are great for lead generation. But in this age of virtual gathering, many are feeling the loss of the ability to mingle and get to know our colleagues.

When planning your event, consider how virtual audience members can connect digitally and make sure your potential attendees know they’ll also be able to socially network to meet those with similar interests and needs.

These strategies are all easy to implement but too often overlooked. It’s time to act on all the lessons learned from attending and hosting virtual events over the past year. Doing so could make your event one people will want to remember.


Forbes Communications Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?


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