Whether it's virtual or in-person, speakers are one of the most critical elements of a successful event. There are numerous dos and don'ts to improve your relationship with presenters and maximize their impact.
Speakers share their knowledge, time and energy – frequently without a fee. In many cases, they're also helping to increase your event reach by promoting their participation to their extended network, so it's important to show gratitude for their contributions.
Below are seven ideas to share your appreciation with event speakers before, during and after the event.
A Speaker Information Kit
Develop a packet of information for your speakers so that they know exactly what to expect:
- Send a list of deadlines and create calendar invites for the practice sessions, as well as the event day.
- Share a social media kit, with promotional photos, recommended copy, links and event hashtags for speakers to share across their social channels.
- Provide any branded conference materials such as PowerPoint/Google Slide templates or virtual backgrounds.
- Forward a brief explaining all of the event technology that will be used, along with any set-up or download instructions needed.
It's become common to send out virtual speaker prep kits – including everything from webcams and better microphones to ring lights and even green screens. Not only does this ensure speakers look and sound their best, but if you allow presenters to keep the upgrades, it can also serve as a token of appreciation.
Even after a year of virtual presentations, a tech rehearsal or dry run is highly recommended. Platforms receive upgrades all the time, and you don't want a speaker to find out on the day of your event, at the start of their session, that they have a tech issue.
Use this time to familiarize them with the features of your broadcast and audience engagement platform too, and ensure they have optimal WiFi, lighting, background and sound.
An Option to Pre-Record or Present Live
While you'd expect speakers to perform well in front of all audiences, presenting virtually sometimes adds a wrinkle for even the most experienced speakers. There's something about the camera light staring back that makes presenting to a crowd just a bit more intimidating – not to mention missing the live energy that many presenters feed off of.
Consider giving your speakers the option to pre-record their session. You can always include live polls or Q&As during the broadcast of the pre-recorded session to increase audience engagement and add to the live event feeling.
A Back-Up Plan
The adage, "anything that can go wrong will," seems to apply even more to virtual events. Give your speakers peace of mind by setting up a back-up plan in advance of the event. For example, ask them to send you a copy of their presentation materials or record the practice session so it can be streamed if the presenter can't join the session. Collect each speaker's cell phone number, so you can contact them if they have technical issues and consider providing a back-up dial-in number for them to use for audio-only if needed.
During the Event
An Audience Engagement Platform
As mentioned previously, without physical feedback, reactions, or body language cues from an in-person audience, speakers may wonder if their presentation is resonating with audiences.
Don't add extra stress by asking speakers to use complicated AV or audience engagement technology that requires a lot of extra work from them. Select a virtual platform that will make it easy for speakers to interact, collaborate and receive feedback from virtual audiences.
Send a Thank You
This is the most obvious way to show gratitude. If you have an address where they are most easily reached, a handwritten thank you note is a personal touch that never goes out of style.
But beyond that, how else can you send thanks when it isn't possible to give a physical gift as you've done in the past? In the last year, there has been a rise in the number of creative and affordable gift ideas that can be shared virtually.
Here are just a few to consider:
- Craft cocktail kit: Let them raise a virtual toast to another great session by mixing up a special drink.
- A Cameo shoutout: Purchase a personalized video message from a celebrity to send a thank you that the speaker won't soon forget.
- Gift cards: Go beyond traditional merchandise gift cards and think out-of-the-box, such as gourmet food delivery options from Goldbelly or sending something from a local business in the speaker's hometown.
- Subscription box: There's something for every hobby or interest – whether it's Book of the Month for avid readers, Winc for wine enthusiasts, Cratejoy's food subscription boxes, BarkBox for canine lovers, or any of the other hundreds of subscription box services now available – these are a fun way to keep the gratitude flowing post-event.
- Charitable donation: If your speaker has a favorite charity or cause, consider donating in their name to give thanks and give back at the same time.
Ben Leikach is the vice president of strategic alliances at Evenium, an event tech company and developer of the ConnexMe platform. For the past 30 years, he has been focused on the implementation of innovative and often disruptive solutions addressing the live events, B2B communications and education industries.