Speaker Jason Redman presenting for virtual event

Virtually Speaking ... the Pros, Cons and Mutual Benefits of In-Person, Virtual and Hybrid Speaker Events

Event organizing and speaking: two industries that have changed in ways that most probably hadn’t expected.

What else is new amid widespread economic muck and sluggish morale, right?

Yet even amid muck grows the lotus. And as a business- or thought-leader, there’s one vital point to keep in perspective: Although some of the logistics of life have changed, the stuff of life hasn’t. And that’s your specialty.

For as long as life serves up adversity, change and growth, it will require resilience, adaptation and innovation. And anyone who’s ever attended a well-executed conference, seminar or keynote speech knows the game-changing effects of powerful insights and perspectives laid out by people who have gone before them that pave the way for those who aim to succeed in shaping their worlds in meaningful ways.

Therefore such events must live on for as long as life itself, to accompany with hope, confidence and guidance all who walk through it. Don’t let a little thing like external circumstances stifle your growth, your morale or your ability to bloom and bear fruit. — Isn’t that what you would urge your own people?

The good news? As far as speakers and event coordinators are concerned, most of the change is rooted in a single realm: method of presentation. In light of that, organizers and speakers alike are tasked with putting their own advice and expertise to work for themselves, for one another and for their mutual audiences: Recognize and embrace the broader spectrum of opportunities brought forth by the change, and then adapt and innovate to deliver and optimize the win-win-win.  

When planning events and booking speaking engagements in the months and year ahead, those involved have essentially three options to consider: traditional in-person, revolutionary virtual, and a mix of the two, or hybrid. What are the pros and cons of each option to each party, the areas of mutual benefit, and the variables to consider when making your best decisions? Start here.

In-person Events

Organizer and audience pros

  1. Highest energy for highest impact: No matter how great the technology used, there’s no apples-to-apples comparison between the energy summoned in virtual isolation and streamed to a remote audience and the absolutely neuro-stimulating, cell-transforming high-energy buzz that prevails in a fully charged live-performance-to-live-audience environment.
  2. Live, in-person events can provide the most entertainment and best opportunities for event coordinators to complete business objectives because speakers have the ability to read their audiences and the nuances in their attentiveness and make small shifts and impromptu points as so inspired.
  3. The value of live networking: There’s hardly anything more magnetic and dynamic than the synergistic exchange of energies and opportunities among people with both shared and diverse interests, knowledge, goals and capabilities. This happens organically within and outside the formal agendas of in-person events. Facilitate these connections for your attendees, and add your speakers to the social mix, and you’ll be changing lives and business in ways you might never have imagined.   
  4. Most memorable: Due to the full-sensory experience and added value delivered, in-person events are bound to make for most indelible impressions all around, making these the most unforgettable events of all.

Organizer cons

  1. All that real-world electricity typically costs more than its virtual counterpart per tellmewatt hour. (But I’ll tellya’watt: It’s powerful stuff!)
  2. Event management: From arranging venues, planning meals, scheduling speakers and providing event-related marketing materials to accommodating attendees from registration to event end, in-person affairs involve a vaster array of event operations logistics to coordinate, produce, oversee and manage than virtual.

Speaker pros

  1. Highest potential for high-impact role in the success of the event: All the aforementioned points in organizer and audience pros apply to speakers. Study them from all three perspectives — organizers’, attendees’ and yours — and recognize and envision how you’ll optimize your role in support of creating those most memorable positive experiences for all.   
  2. Most effective organic marketing potential: You are your best, most authentic model, so take advantage of the unique real-world opportunities to express your personal-professional brand by demonstrating to others who you are, how you think and what you bring to the table.
    • With pure intentions and authenticity, mingle with organization representatives and attendees and, as appropriate, share genuine positive insights and observations about each to the other, about life, about trends, or whatever suits the setting, like a conversational bridge of warmth, common purpose and connectivity between them. They will remember the essence of your presence and interaction, and some may choose or advocate to invite you into additional professional circles where they know others would also benefit from your special brand of attentiveness and care.
    • From the moment you arrive on site, be sure to begin meeting sponsors and vendors, too. Pick up on something interesting about them, the products or services they provide or some commonality you share, and let positive, informative conversation develop naturally. Unless it’s against the rules (which it usually isn’t), personally invite them to attend your speech or presentation for whatever benefit it might deliver to them. Many vendors won’t think to carve out time to attend these valuable presentations without a prompt, so do them a favor by encouraging them to join you. Later, follow up with them for feedback on their key takeaways and if/how what you shared added any value to them in terms of their business or personal development. As conversations unfold, ask about what other conferences they attend throughout the year and what topics and speakers they find most interesting and why, and take mental note so you can research those events. If they don’t mind you asking, inquire whether or not their company or industry-related associations present training seminars or book speakers. Tell them you’re glad they benefitted from hearing you speak and that, if given the contact information, you’ll be happy send one of your publicly accessible presentations to the event managers or appropriate people at their organizations to share internally in support of their goals.
    • The bottom line: Make the most of the time and attention you’ve already committed to this event. During your “off” hours, try not to elude fans and activities or disappear from crowds. The awareness and connections you build with personal-brand marketing are bound to help offset speaker con #1, below, in the 12 to 18 months ahead.

Speaker cons

  1. No downside to delivering these, but keep in mind that they may be harder to book as the competitive arena has changed somewhat due to higher supply and demand for the lower-cost virtual options.

Realms of mutual benefit

  1. From a forward-momentum perspective, keep in mind that as a speaker or event coordinator you have no way to predict who among your attendees is what I call a “human battery,” a super-storer of the live positive, regenerative, creative energy released at your well-executed event. Human batteries have the natural capacity to hold the glow indefinitely and let it charge new initiatives and innovation — and even other people, including company personnel, association members, sales teams and existing and potential customers — well into the future. Ultimately isn’t that the crux of what business leaders and teams, event organizers, audiences and speakers would all deem a successful event?

Virtual Events

Organizer pros

  1. Significantly expands potential audience reach.
  2. Budget-friendly reductions of speaker fees, which reflect reductions in speaker time and travel costs.
  3. Event management becomes easier on the traditional fronts, with reduced or no need for large venues, meal planning, tangible marketing and educational materials, attendee check-in and accommodations, and other logistics to coordinate, produce and oversee. Much of it becomes automated, streamlined, digital or completely irrelevant as processes are replaced or managed by technology.
  4. Ease of replacing speakers who cancel very late in the timeline due to illness or unforeseen emergency: It’s easier to find a speaker who can stream in 12 hours from now from 3,000 miles away than one who can fly in. (And when you’re dealing with a speakers network, it’s even easier.)

Organizer cons

  1. Anticipate transitional learning curves and the need for temporary or permanent tech teams required during implementation and operations of streaming or broadcast technologies and equipment.
  2. While you won’t need to depend upon timely in-person arrival of your speakers and presenters, you will need to rely on them to have compatible technologies, connectivity and tech support in place for seamless integration with your event.
  3. Loss of the high-energy and live-interaction advantages of in-person events, as described in the list of organizer and audience pros in that section.

Speaker pros

  1. No travel time and costs. Those resources saved can be directed toward other areas of the business, such as content development, speech booking, and brand, book and merchandise sales and marketing.
  2. More time also liberates you for increased bookings volume. You can deliver more presentations in the same amount of time as you’re used to blocking out for fewer — even speak for two or more organizations thousands of miles apart in a single day.
  3. Digital events mean new and enhanced digital sales, marketing and incentives opportunities. Strategize well in advance with the event host to coordinate links, call-to-action incentives, free digital resources and more that will add value for attendees while helping to cross-promote organizer and speaker.
  4. It’s easy (and essentially free) to record your presentation in real time from your own equipment for an array of future marketing and/or redistribution purposes (as long as they’re in accordance with your speaker-organizer agreement).

Speaker cons

  1. Lower pay.
  2. The flip side of the opportunity for increased bookings volume is that you may find it necessary to schedule more speaking events to supplement speaker-revenue losses. Keep in mind that increasing the volume will likely require increased content development and booking and marketing efforts.
  3. No in-person book signings and sales.
  4. No off-screen walking, talking brand modeling and face-to-face networking or marketing opportunities among organizers, attendees and vendors whose companies and associations might be seeking to hire a speaker like yourself for a future training, conference or keynote speech.

Realms of mutual benefit

  1. Expanded shared audience.
  2. Potential for time flexibility.
  3. Chat-room and Q&A material: In-person presentations come with time constraints that limit audience participation regarding comments, questions and answers. With virtual events, an ongoing stream of chat-room questions and comments enables the capture of points and questions that still may not all get addressed during the presentation but can be addressed later by organizers and speakers however you’d like. Furthermore, speakers, you can ask commenters to email you directly with their questions or points and then reply to them directly. You can also develop new blog posts, industry articles, speeches or even books from the audience engagement that clues you in to what people want to know and why. A great question is worth its depth in gold. When possible, have an assistant monitor and document chat-room activities during your presentation and engage with those contributors on your behalf.

Hybrid Events

These present, quite literally, the best (and sometimes not) of both worlds — real and virtual. Considering the hybrid-unique fact that these events may represent reductions to (but not exclusion of) in-person attendance, the following points add to, elaborate upon or shift the leverage of what we’ve already covered:

Organizer and audience pros

  1. Come one, come all — each at your own pace! Hybrid events offer the high-energy exchange and face-to-face opportunities by which more “extroverted” types generally thrive, without excluding people who, for whatever reasons, cannot or would not attend in-person. Not everyone is energized by those in-person environments. In fact many people find it an energy drain to mingle, network and connect within large group settings, especially among strangers. Furthermore, people of all personalities have their own preferences for their own reasons. It’s all about resource direction and how people are willing and able to spend their hours, money and energy at the time. Hybrid events are inclusive of all who want to attend, and people can opt to do so however it best suits their schedules, budgets and personalities. Organizer bonus: Ultimately, happy attendees make for happy event directors (and their bosses).

Organizer cons

  1. Event coordination and management: Hybrid events involve the most logistics, combining all the real-world tangible necessities for in-person presenters and attendees with the high-tech equipment, savvy and support required for virtual.

Speaker pros

  1. This dual audience increases fandom probability. And all it takes are a few avid and vocal champions of a speaker and his or her messages to be raising awareness of that speaker within their own circles.
  2. Lower in-person attendance may mean more limited numbers of opportunities to connect with members of the hiring organization, audiences and vendors, but it also allows for more generous time and attention-giving. Shift any historical beliefs you may have about the power of volume connections to the power of quality attention to connections, and take advantage of the slower, more natural pace by which you’ll have the chance to converse with, listen to, joke with, and impart helpful insights, advice or assistance to the people you meet. And if you happen to connect with a fellow human battery or two, more power to ya’!

Speaker cons

  1. Limits to on-the-spot book and merchandise sales and signings will require you to either accept the consequential reductions to that revenue stream or adapt and innovate by creating alternative marketing funnels and initiatives to supplement the losses. The latter may involve some reassessment and a new focus on your ecommerce capabilities.

Realms of mutual benefit

  1. Audience expansion means that speaker messaging is reaching more people. This benefits the organization as more of its members gain the intended education, and it benefits speakers as the showcasing of their expertise and presentation skills, style and impact are furthered.
  2. A limited in-person-attendance setting is more conducive to increased and more in-depth one-to-one and small-group time and conversation, enabling a switch out from quantity to quality in terms of professional connection- and relationship-building.

What else to consider

Resource assessment and direction

Adaptation and innovation are indeed necessary through change. But the process requires new investments of resources. Give realistic consideration to the value of your precious time, thought, attention, labor, creative-intellectual energy, money and other resources and where and how to best direct and leverage it for your big-picture win.

Work together to meet all needs

Just as speakers are adjusting expectations, modifying behaviors and managing new tools and methodologies, so are the hiring organizations, their event directors and even the one primary entity you all aim to serve: your mutual audiences. Try to have faith in one another and take things in stride as people and teams make necessary adjustments on their individual ends.

The ultimate goal: a successful event

Regardless of size, industry, subject matter or presentation method, one principle always applies: A successful event delivers the win-win-win for event organizers, speakers and their mutual audiences.

The following testimonial excerpts for Eagle Rise speakers epitomize that quest. If you hit these high points within the context of your business objectives, you’ll own your win:

“Jason translated his personal experiences and challenges as a Navy SEAL leader into tenets applicable to anyone seeking professional and personal excellence. His story and message — and the way he delivered it — captured the attention of the room and kept it. I feel privileged to have had Jason Redman as our keynote speaker. If you’re looking for a speaker who will rivet the attention of your audience, bring them to their feet for a standing ovation, and keep them talking about your event long after, you want Jason Redman.”

“(Jay Dobyns) is not your ordinary dynamic speaker. A rare combination of grizzled lawman, yet compassionate and very human. Not many audiences are tougher than an NFL team, but Jay had the Cardinals hanging on his every word.”

“…We approached Inez (Barberio) because of her extensive experience cultivating strategies for business growth and success that includes increasing sales and productivity by building a strong diverse and inclusive workplace. Inez’s knowledge, experience, and passion about this topic along with her presentation and response to student questions turned out to be a perfect fit. Thanks to her, the result was a truly successful event! We particularly liked how she was able to intertwine her career and life experiences to engage the audience. Because she is so approachable and authentic, I found working with her to be a great life and learning experience. …”

Shape your people, business and world in meaningful ways

Your upcoming event or conference provides a chance to educate, inspire, motivate and transform lives. Eagle Rise Speakers Network will help match your event objectives and attendees to the right motivational speaker.

Go ahead. Exceed expectations.

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