COVID-19 has rocked the world, causing many events and conferences to be postponed and sometimes even simply canceled. Some, however, have adapted to the pandemic and moved their events online and into the virtual world to keep both their presenters and their audience healthy.

Now, virtual conferences are by no means a new concept and there are even many large and well-known events held online every year, but for most presenters and meeting planners, they are a relatively foreign idea and require some extra planning. They are inherently different from physical, face to face conferences and it is important to remember this when preparing your presentation. Below are a few tips on how to properly adapt to the virtual side of things to help you maintain a smooth and engaging conference.

Use video if possible

Even when a presentation is delivered by expert and experienced speakers, without something to look at, a viewer’s attention span is significantly reduced, even if you are using slides they can still bore audiences. When attendees can actually see the speaker, they tend to be far more engaged with what is being said and therefore, will remember the information being provided.

You can even use virtual backgrounds to either maintain a professional appearance from your bedroom, or you can use them to add some fun to your presentation depending on what you pick and which app you are using. For example, there are plenty of choices for a zoom virtual background. In the unfortunate situation where the video is not an option, try to keep the speaker sessions shorter, the standard length is around an hour but without video consider cutting it down to 30 minutes or less. These shorter sessions will help to keep your audience engaged and are more likely to make them want to come back in the future.

Make sure your audio is good

Another extremely important aspect is your audio, if your audio is of poor quality or in any way unclear, many viewers will tune the speaker out if they don’t outright turn off the feed. This issue is something that most speakers likely will not have dealt with before due to live events using professionally controlled, high-end equipment. When broadcasting a presentation from your own home you will have to make sure you’re outputting good quality audio yourself.

The first part of ensuring high-quality audio is using a good microphone, if you are a regular speaker it is absolutely worth spending a couple of hundred dollars on a high-end mic as well as ensuring that your internet upload speed is at least 50-100mbps. Of course, the audio and video quality will also depend on the viewer’s internet speeds so, if possible, make sure that they are prepared and in an area with an optimum connection to their home internet.

Make sure anyone speaking has tailored their presentation for a virtual audience

Speaking to viewers online is vastly different than speaking to an audience in person and many speeches that work well in a venue with a live audience will not necessarily be the same when presented virtually. This is important because most speakers do not realize this difference and will instead stick to their original material. For example, things like visual cues and hand gestures will probably not make sense in a virtual setting. To avoid any issues or embarrassment, be sure to update your material and use things like slides to convey information and emotion that may otherwise be missed.

Keep it interactive

This point is a little more subjective because depending on the size of your audience, the amount that a virtual conference can be made interactive will vary. However, there is always a way to get the viewers involved which will not only keep them engaged but will also help them to retain the information being conveyed. For smaller audiences, you can use a designated Q&A period and for larger ones, you can use polling features that come with most online conference platforms. The biggest difference from a live event is that you will need to ensure that you and your speakers keep a close eye on questions coming in so that you can answer them as soon as possible.

Test your equipment thoroughly

Testing your equipment should be something that all event speakers and presenters should be very familiar with, the difference here is that instead of having a technical team to help, speakers will have to do the testing themselves. As usual, the tests should be done well ahead of time but be sure to test absolutely everything that you may use during the event, no matter how confident you are that it will work first time. These tests should cover the camera, microphone, internet connection, and any applications or features that will be used. Everything can likely be tested alone in your computer settings, but it’s always a good idea to do a live test with a real person as well.

Prepare for technical issues

While you should be testing thoroughly to minimize the chances of issues coming up, unfortunately, anything is possible. Be sure to always plan for the worst-case scenario to keep things running smoothly. For example, try to always have at least one other person on standby who can step in and take over or stall in case the speaker at the time has problems.

Give the audience something to take away from the presentation

The biggest disadvantage that virtual conferences have compared to their in-person counterparts is that you simply can’t replicate the overall experience of attending the event itself. In order to combat this flaw and stand out in your audience’s mind, try to always include something in your presentation that viewers can take away with them. For example, things like coupons to a speaker’s book or even something as simple as a written summary of the conference can help add some value for anyone attending the event.