Shifting from in person to virtual conferences

by Jul 23, 2020

Are you successfully shifting from in person to virtual conferences?

We are four months into confinement so if you are offering professional services online you need to dedicate time and training to engage with people online.


In the last few months since the start of lock down we have all attended dozens of online events. For those who have been ahead of the game and doing this for some time, their content, settings and personal delivery style were polished and engaging. For the most part, for many who were late arriving to this party and had little or no previous experience their results ranged from dire to sub-optimal. In the early days we cut everyone some slack. Now four months in, it’s time to get real. The honeymoon is over.

For each virtual event I have attended, I have been monitoring my reactions to try and make some solid and constructive comments. I made a note of what caused me to lose interest and either became disengaged or check out completely.  It’s important that everyone understands that shifting from in person to virtual conferences and training is now part of our professional landscape. We have to adapt or we will go under.


Shifting from in person to virtual conferences

These are the triggers for my digital turnoff.

1. Gimmicky or sloppy start

We are four months into confinement. If you are offering professional services online you need to have an impactful opening. It doesn’t have to be super slick and a production managed, like a news programme, but it does have to have a smooth kick off. I don’t want to see anyone fumbling around looking for their unmute buttons and looking flustered.

I also have an aversion to gimmicks such as praying at a non-religious webinar, or meditating before a topic not connected to mindfulness. Seeing a gallery of adults with their eyes half closed like kids being forced to take a nap, is not a good way to entice me into an event. I logged out before the event had started.

2. Too long getting to content

I attended a webinar of a network contact last week and if I hadn’t known the lead presenter I would have logged out. It took 13 minutes to get the content started. No one has that sort of time to listen to a preamble. Then when we split into breakout rooms we lost about 20% of attendees. There is a lesson in that stat for the organisers.

3. Setting and tech

There has been lots of discussion around authentic settings and overcoming bias about the type of background behind the speaker. I get why that should be. Virtual backgrounds on Zoom can flicker which is indeed irritating. But if you don’t have the ideal book case, and you are in your kitchen please make sure the dishes are cleaned away and the surfaces not full of the last meal. You have probably been told to close your drapes to block our direct sunlight – but hopefully they will be neutral and not massive pink cabbage rose window treatments.

Amazon should now be your new best friend and you can always buy a green screen very cheaply. You may also want to add an external light and mic to your shopping list. Don’t let yourself down because of the tech. You have had four months to get this sorted. Everyone is raising the bar.

Take a look at our Lockdown Learning Program: Personal Branding 

4. Text dense slides

Just no.

You have to adapt your presentation for an audience that not only has Covid Brain but the attention span of gnat with ADHD. Huge tracts of text will not engage your audience today, if they ever did before. If you haven’t had training you should seriously consider it. 3Plus works with Everything Webinar.

Shifting from in person to virtual conferences

5. Robotic delivery

Reading your presentation without maintaining eye contact through the camera is a sure fire way to lose your audience, especially if I’m in it. Know your content and being able to deliver it freely and in a relaxed way, is critical. This requires practice and even more practice, until it’s perfect.

6. Your own appearance

I get in the beginning it was challenging working from home. The kids were around and it was hard to get into a rhythm. You were chef, cleaner, gardener and teacher all rolled into one and coping wasn’t easy. That is all understandable.  Four months in, if you are working in a professional capacity – please brush your hair. Vaguely professional clothes are also a bonus.

Position your device so you are centred in the screen and we can focus on you so that you look as if you have a modicum of an idea about what you are doing. These are just small basics that people are still getting wrong.

Shifting from in person to virtual conferences and training is not easy. It takes dedicated work and a solid understanding of what is needed to engage people on line. It also requires hours of practice and specialised input. Lift and shift will not work. It’s impossible to transfer content from in-person to virtual, without some level of transformation.

This is the way things are now. Big events with thousands of attendees will not be around for some time. We all need to commit to a new future.

If you or your organisation needs support with converting to the virtual environment get in touch.


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3Plus welcomes any writers to join 3Plus as a Staff Writer. If you are an expert in Leadership and Competence Building or just want to share your experiences, contact us! We would love to give you a voice!

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