Photo by Gabriel Benois/Unsplash

You just got invited to moderate a panel. Great! By the way, it’s going to be virtual. Oh dear. As a virtual event moderator, you are the stand-in for the audience. Your engagement throughout the interview or discussion will make a difference in how the audience perceives the experience. And if the recording will include you and your reactions and questions, it’s even more important to consider how you will appear on camera. Here are some tips for making your event more lively and interactive.

  1. Make sure your face is “alive”—your facial expressions, your engagement directly to camera, and your responses to the speaker are all essential for making the experience feel more personal for the audience. Practice in the mirror or in a private video call with no one but you on the line.
  2. For livestreamed events, let the audience know at the top of the interview and at regular intervals that you will be taking questions.
  3. Don’t expect the audience to immediately ask questions when you open the floor, so have a set of relevant questions ready for each panelist.
  4. Be sure you have a production team member save the Q&A and/or Chat so that any questions not answered live can be followed up by you and/or your interviewee. You can then post these questions and answers through your website and social channels–another way to promote post-event engagement.
  5. Come up with creative ways to engage the audience and make sure they feel represented, even if their faces do not appear in the livestream or recording. Ask people as they arrive to type in where they are tuning in from, if this is a nationwide or global event. Ask people to share one obstacle or challenge relating to the session topic.
  6. Promote virtual applause. One fantastic tip I got from my friend Jeff Greenberg who is an experienced virtual trainer, was to come up with a letter that stands in for applause. I usually change the letter depending on the topic. On a recent panel I moderated during the One Woman, One Vote Film Festival, Wonder Women Behind the Lens about visual effects artists and editors, we used the letter “W”. I asked attendees to “throw down a W in the chat pod any time you want to applaud the speakers or support what they are saying.” We had a lively discussion with lots of “WWWWWWW”’s in our chat that helped our panelists know there was an audience cheering them on.

Keeping an audience lively and engaged when you can’t be with them in person is a big challenge. That’s why being a virtual panel moderator is much more like being a television host or MC than it is like moderating a live panel. But with some advance planning and these tips, you’ll increase your audience engagement.

 

Amy DeLouise is a digital media expert, and virtual panel curator and moderator.

Well produced videos are essential for informing and engaging audiences during virtual and hybrid events.  In this article I’ll take a look at some best practices to ensure your pre-recorded videos support the success of your virtual event.

1. Make Video Content Snackable – At a live event, you have a captive audience. Plus the dynamic that occurs when everyone is together in a room.  In this world, a 5 minute or longer video can keep the room engaged. Not so for virtual events. Everyone who tunes in has other distractions in their immediate area—children, pets, emails, and work on their desktop that needs attention. Enter snackable content—short videos that engage, entertain and inform, while propelling the theme of your meeting or event. Roll-in videos for live events, with the exception of panels—and we’ll talk about them in a moment—should be no longer than 2 minutes.  Better yet, a series of 1:00 spots that work to set the stage for a particular session, or act as transitions between sessions.  This length will also allow your video to be hosted natively on Instagram during or after your event—an added social media bonus.

2. Video Transitions are Key – At a live event, when a speaker is late, you can ask your MC to take a few more questions from the audience. At a virtual event, remote feeds can fail and tech problems can result in your team needing more time.  If you lose your audience now, you might not get them back. Having a few videos of various lengths available to you to play at any time can be helpful. This could be a Year in Review video, a light-hearted video put together by staff, or a promo montage of upcoming sessions. Having at least two videos of 2-3 minutes in length on standby each day of your virtual event will give you a little breathing room for those unexpected moments. You should also create a little animated “We’re having technical issues but we’re working on it!” video that you can play if all else fails. After all, you are effectively putting together a broadcast and you don’t want any dead air.

3. Ensure Your Video Plays Back Properly – It’s amazing how often organizations spend tons of money producing great video content, but forget to test the delivery formats prior to output. If you are streaming your event from a platform like YouTube, be sure your video is optimized for that platform rather than asking YouTube to convert your specs. The conversion process will introduce garbage—technical term!—that you don’t want in your video.  Unless your platform is a professional 4K streaming system or specifies otherwise, I’d recommend a frame rate of 30fps and 1920×1080 as your video delivery size, with an audio sample rate of 44.1Khz and bitrate of 128kbps.

4. Provide an Engaging Home for Your Videos – Where will your videos live after the event is over? Can you set up a hub on your website or the event site? You can still host the videos elsewhere, such as your YouTube or Vimeo page. But putting the videos on your website—with and without subtitles—can ensure more hits post-conference. Be sure you have already created written content that explains the context for each video, and any action steps you want the audience to take after watching. For example, if your event was a fundraiser, a video featuring one of your organization’s projects can include a link to a Donate Now button. Don’t wait until after your event to set up your video hub. Be sure to write the copy and links in advance, and have it ready to go.

While we hope for live events to be back soon, virtual and hybrid events will be the norm for the future. And well-designed pre-recorded video content will be a big part of those events.

Amy DeLouise is a producer, interviewer and moderator for live and virtual events and videos.