We are sharing Top Tips for Speaking at Hybrid events, because this way of speaking is here to stay. As well as these forms of speeches being hugely rewarding, they reach many more people. However, in order to impact and influence your audience – those in the room and the audience dialling in remotely, there are a number of points to consider. I share top tips to ensure you make the most impact in hybrid speaking events.
What are hybrid events and how does this impact speaking?
2 years ago everyone understood “Hybrid” to mean a type of car! Initially during the pandemic we had virtual events; and everyone worked virtually. But as some people returned to offices and life “opened up” a little organisers are tentatively organising hybrid events where the speaker is either in the room with some of the audience, with other members of the audience dialling in remotely. Or there are other combinations, where the speaker could be dialling remotely too.
There are so many different combinations of hybrid speaking. I have delivered speeches in all different formats. For each you need to be very well prepared but also focus on the core point: you are there to provide the very best quality experience for your audience. These combinations include:
- You are in the room with some audience members. And there are remote members of the audience
- You are in a room by yourself and the audience is remote. You might be able to see them. You might not.
- There are members of the audience in the room. You are speaking remotely. There are audience members dialling in remotely too. You might be able to see the audience. You might not.
- There are audience members in the room. All of the speakers are virtual and can see each other. there are also audience members dialling in.
The challenge for a hybrid speaker is how to engage both the audience in the room and the virtual audience, so they are involved in the topic as well as the speaker.
The audiences: acknowledging those in the room and those dialling in remotely. It is important to recognise that everyone who is listening to you has invested their time. You owe it to every member of the audience to deliver the best possible experience to them. When researching this article I asked fellow speakers about how they would ‘weight’ the in the room and remote audiences. One speaker had recently attended an event where he was in the room with a speaker. He had paid a lot for the event and there was a discounted price for those watching remotely. He felt that there should be added value for his ticket. Of course the audience has the chance to network with others. My feeling is to discuss this with the organisers. You will be in the room and members of the live audience could chat to you afterwards. But don’t forget the remote audience!
Preparation: first of all you need to consider what you need in order to deliver the best possible speech to both the ‘in the room’ and remote audience. Do you need to set up your studio with specific lighting; background and a microphone to ensure you come across well. Do you need to have additional WIFI provision to avoid an outage? Do you need to check if your slides will be seen easily by all audiences if you use them? If you are in the room, you will need to consider where the cameras will be; the lighting and even the slides. How are they going to show to the remote audience?
Here is the challenge: the organisers are unlikely to be as experienced at speaking to different audiences as you. They might not have thought about specific performance challenges or engaging with both audiences. You need to consider everything you need to perform and engage to the best of your ability. If the organiser objects or kicks off, my advice is to frame the request as “I wish to deliver the best service I can. In order to do that I need…..” Also, if you can speak to the technical team; they might have some great advice but whatever is agreed is put in writing. And show up early, JUST IN CASE not everything is in place.
Practice: you need to practice using your tech; practice being in the room; where are you going to stand; how are you going to use the slides and the polling APP. You can do some of this in your own studio; familiarising yourself with the slides; the content; when to use the polling APP. Keep doing run-throughs of your speech with your tech. This will help you be polished, professional and reduce the risk of last minute tech challenges throwing you!
Rehearsal – tech – what do you need. Remember this is about engaging the audience.I always remember a well known speaker appearing at a live event a few years ago. There was a technical problem and she had a strop. ON STAGE. IN FRONT OF THE AUDIENCE. Fast forward to last year, at a virtual conference. THE SAME THING HAPPENED IN FRONT OF THE AUDIENCE. In both cases, she was “Far too busy” to attend a rehearsal and didn’t have a tech check in the first event and wasn’t familiar with the specific tech and platform for the second event. I have no recollection of what she spoke about but I do remember how I felt when she had a strop. A rehearsal is an opportunity for you to familiarise yourself with the speaking environment; iron out any specific technical problems. If necessary review where cameras are, so that the live audience is able to see you. Review where the slides will be shown etc. Discovering this during the speech as said stroppy Diva (above) did does not serve your audience.
Performance: the problems of just looking at the camera for those in the room is they feel excluded. Yet this is something many media experts recommend. I have been at events where they were being filmed for remote audiences (and for social media content). The cameras were in front of the speakers and performers and as a member of the audience in the room, I was ‘excluded’ from the speaker. I might as well have been watching remotely. If you have an audience who has taken the time to travel to an event, you owe it to them, to speak to them directly; not via a camera. Arrive early at the venue; if necessary have someone with you to advise you on the best places to stand. If you are lucky, the tech team might have some good advice; but remember this is not about the remote audience but ALL of the audiences, so make sure the cameras don’t obscure the view for live audiences.
How you can engage all audience. Mentimeter and Sli.do are two great polling and engagement tools for audiences in the room and also remotely. The audience is able to ask questions and the audience will vote for the most relevant questions. the only challenge is that everyone has to download the app and login to the specific event account. There might be delays in responses – see the point on delays below.
Questions and answers: If you have people in the room AND remotely, there are going to be logistical problems about questions. If you take questions from the room, the remote audience might feel excluded. Likewise if you are taking messages whilst delivering remotely yourself. I mentioned polling and engagement apps. There is an option for the audience to leave questions and vote which ones would be most popular to ask. In order to manage this efficiently, I would recommend you have a member of the events team. You could always request that specific topics and questions aren’t asked, and the events person can then ask you the questions. This means that there is a level playing field with the live and remote audience.
Challenges of delays in remote speaking. This is something I have become more aware of as I have done more. As a speaker, we need engagement and feedback. Of course when there are people in the room, we can see quickly if people are engaged – and are able to adjust our delivery. If you are speaking remotely and/ or there is a remote audience, there might be a delay to a question you ask, or poll voting. Try to factor this in by structuring your speech so you ask the question or use the poll early on within a specific topic.
Additional resources to offer – We don’t know if WIFI will let down some of the remote audience. Certainly when I was recently speaking in Myanmar (remotely) there were speakers and audience dropping out and in of the event due to the wifi. If you could offer a checklist, summary or a short ebook, that would be of value to them. I have The SuperStar Communicator APP which is an invaluable way of adding value to my speeches. I curate additional resources for those who are interested in more information.
There are a lot of points to consider in this Hybrid Speaking world. But in the end it is about you doing your very best and focusing on the audience. If you you would like to discuss me speaking at your event here are more details of my topics.