“Virtual Events” and “Virtual Speakers” are the future of the event business – accept it or risk being out of work.
That is, if speaking accounts for the bulk of your revenue stream. If you’d rather not get involved and can still make a decent income from publishing books or teaching, then hats off to you. For those who were heavily booked as keynote speakers, and traveled to events all over the world up until March 2020, this article could offer some helpful advice about succeeding.
Various things are needed to enter this space. Below is a quick outline and a game plan. And remember, humanity hasn’t really changed. Human connection and the need for knowledge and for your ideas has also not changed. Corporations still need them just as much as they always did. What has changed is the delivery and the method of execution. And of course, the technology.
Let’s talk about technology first.
There are two technical aspects to this new world. The visual and the audible. You will no longer be relying on stage engineers, AV checks and some outside vendor to attach a lavalier mic to your lapel or blouse before you dazzle the audience before you. Those days are over for now. You will no longer take for granted the crystal clear speaker system, and the soft lighting that makes you look awesome. Because this is all on you now, another responsibility for the virtual speaker.
Bottom line? You need a virtual studio. Period.
The following gear is required. And remember, this is not a bridge to the good ‘ol days, so don’t skimp on quality. Buy the best, and only cry once.
2/ USB HD camera / or DSLR capable of live streaming
3/ High quality microphone, cost $300+ Budget mics lack depth and clarity.
4/ Lights and stands
5/ Green Screen Background, Stands and Clips for the real enthusiast.
6/ Countdown Clock
7/ Monitor for slideshow
8/ Dedicated T1 internet line for maximum power.
Content and delivery will be working in tandem now. The best speakers in this new world have to be experts in the latter. Low quality or tinny sound, poor lighting, choppy connections will drive you down the ranks. You want to be on top of this from the start, and have that reputation for delivering a superior product. We will only represent “best in class” and every speaker will be expected to have the technical side mastered before we consider pitching you. Rehearsals will be needed.
You will no longer be on stage, and body language, dramatic pauses, gestures, hand raises – these techniques will not translate so well in a virtual presentation. Think of the wonderful example of Richard Burton, who in his prime was arguably the greatest Shakespearean actor of his time – a huge stage presence with his booming, lucid interpretations of The Bard. But Richard eventually moved into film, which at first was a very difficult transition. Used to speaking loudly, he now had to adapt to the quieter art form of cinema, where delicate microphones recorded every breath with uneering clarity, with the camera right against his face to detect micro-expressions. It was a different, more unforgiving world to act on film – and we believe the differences are very similar to virtual speaking.
Practice until the video presentation is as compelling as possible. Your audience is watching on a small screen, and their attention span is in a more perilous place. You’re unable to rely on them for feedback, such as laughter, claps, and rapt attention. Be aware that you can quickly lose them, so ensure every minute of your presentation is gripping. There’s a maxim in the world of screenwriting, where most scripts are about 100-120 pages long. “How do you make a comedy script 10% funnier?” The answer is, rip out 10 unfunny pages. Treat your speech in the same way, sharing those pearls of knowledge at carefully staged intervals to keep everyone engaged.
On Dressing, Angles & Lighting
Camera angles must be on point. Straight, focused and shooting you in a way that allows you to fill the frame. Your head should be central and in the top third of the frame. Leave enough head room so the visual can breathe. The camera should be positioned slightly higher than your eyes, in a landscape position, and be filming a “three-quarter pose.”
Lighting should be butterfly lighting, which basically lights you from the front and leaves a very thin shadow just under the nose. The light must be higher than you, pointing downward. This also creates a shadow under the chin which is the most flattering lighting, and why it was so popular among the old movie stars. We suggest doing a search on this style of lighting so you understand exactly how to recreate it. Also, don’t have any windows or big light sources behind you. The background should be unlit, and the light source must be pointing at your face. The view, sunset, sunrise is irrelevant. A backlit subject will always look terrible on film. The light must be illuminating your face.
In terms of dress, select an outfit that matches your background. Have you ever noticed fashion magazines limit the palette of their photography to two colors? This is a real trick of the trade. Don’t wear multi-colored outfits, or have several colors in your background or wear a color that clashes with everything. Make sure the tones all match, and you limit the amount of colors in the frame. Spend some time looking at good photography and then configure your studio accordingly. Nothing is more unimpressive than a messy shot, and a mismatched outfit. Everything on the frame must align, and we strongly recommend dressing how Coco Chanel would have suggested, rather than say…. the Mad Hatter.
This should be enough to set you on the right track. Questions, comments and concerns are of course welcome, and great areas for inspiration can be found among the great portrait artists and the leading photographers of the last 50 years.
Good luck everyone with this very interesting future!