5 things to know when choosing a speaker or MC for virtual events

22 September 2020 | Tips


1. It’s Your Job To Be Interesting; Not Theirs To Be Interested

The name of the game is: GETTING ATTENTION.

That is getting – and maintaining – the attention of your audience.

In live events in recent years, it was becoming increasingly difficult for event and conference programs and speakers to capture an audience’s attention.

With virtual events, winning the game of getting and maintaining attention is even harder because of the number of distractions that are available to your audience. It is also more difficult because there is no social consequence for your audience to be distracted. They can check their emails, texts, Instagram or fantasy football team without worrying what their colleague sitting next to them is thinking.

This new world we now live in means with your virtual event that:

It’s your job to be interesting; not theirs to be interested.

A speaker or MC with bucket loads of personality, humour, relevant content and edge of your seat stories can help you achieve this!

2. Choose an MC with Broadcast Experience and The Patience of a Saint

The Master of Ceremonies with any event – live or virtual – is the person who has the most facetime in front of the audience and hence has THE MOST influence over how an event will go (but often they are the last decision that is made in producing an event).

Given that virtual events are a lot more work behind the scenes – we’d suggest you choose a super engaging MC, with broadcast experience that has the patience of a saint. You’ll appreciate their skills and patience off camera as much as on it. 

It has been a steep learning curve for MC’s, as it is more difficult to feed off the buzz and energy from the audience. Virtual events now are more like television, so you need to have an anchor or host who is attentive, online, involved and who can handle problems if you have them.   

3. Is Your Speaker Interactive?

If your speaker is just going to talk your audience through their slide deck – they will tune out.

People are most present and engaged when they are involved in a session – even in the smallest way possible – so ask your speaker how will they make their session interactive?

There are lots of simple tools that can encourage audience interaction: live Q&A is a very popular way to hear from the audience and keep them in the moment; audience members sending pre-recorded questions via video; virtual breakout rooms; use of interactive polls such as Mentimeter; even something as basic as turning their camera on and asking audience members to respond with hand signs will keep your audience in the moment. 

4. Tech Rehearsals Are A Must

Zoom can seem so easy – just click the link and you’re in – so you can understand how people can underestimate the importance of rehearsing that the technology works like it should in the lead up to an event.  

Rehearsing things like introducing each speaker so they know when to start, making sure the speaker slides look great, the sound has no echo or feedback and effective lighting for each presenter so they’re not sitting in the dark. It’s all good to have a chat about a contingency plan in case the feed drops or something goes wrong.

This is all super important to get right. You’ll be surprised at how many seemingly small details on either end of the screen or audio can potentially ruin the whole event.

5. Check Your Speaker / MC’s Contract

If you’ve engaged a paid speaker or Master of Ceremonies, it’s important to understand the terms of your contract – especially in regard to their IP (intellectual property).

Speakers, MC’s and talent make a living off of their IP through speaking at events or publishing their content – so they are very sensitive on who has access to view their content. Unless it’s agreed on upfront, assume that you are unable to record and use the speaker or MC’s presentation after the live viewing.


About the author: Keith Harwood is the founder of Inspire Speakers and a great friend of AV1. Keith has been representing and promoting the world’s best conference speakers since 1998. Keith spends almost all of his time working with speakers and MC’s who have great stories with powerful lessons and can tell their story really really well. You can contact Keith anytime on 0450 077 997 or email keith@inspirespeakers.com.au


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