Some various activities and events involve people meeting other online people in real life (IRL). One of the most popular ones is a Virtual Networking Event. It’s an opportunity to have a face-to-face meeting with someone you never met or just wanted to meet.
When planning a virtual networking event, especially if it is professional and involves business talks, one should carefully choose who will be invited as guest speakers because their role is crucial.
They have to stand out from the rest of the panelists, and their presentation has to engage the audience so they can leave motivated and inspired by what they heard or witnessed during a presentation.
What Makes a Good Guest Speaker?
So who makes a good guest speaker at a virtual event? A good guest speaker can talk on the subject you are inviting them for, has experience working in the field and has some expertise. As mentioned above, they have to be engaging, but that doesn’t mean that they have to be funny or tell jokes.
Their presentation should present some fresh ideas to the audience. They don’t have to focus on giving “the secrets” every professional knows about their business, but rather share their thoughts and opinions on what works for them or stand out from others in general.
What is the Purpose of the Speaker?
Level of Knowledge
People expect different things in terms of content: some like getting an insight into how something works and why, others are more interested in numbers, some want to learn new stuff and be inspired by how other people operate. When choosing the speaker, remember to ask them for details on what content they can provide.
Relevance to Audience
Guest speakers must know who their audience is. They should be able to tailor their presentation accordingly. It’s not enough just learning about tools or techniques. You also need to think about your target group and the goals you would like them to achieve upon leaving the event (what do they need? support? encouragement?).
The budget plays a vital role in choosing a speaker because every company has different funds available for each activity. Let’s say you want to invite a well-known and popular speaker who is not local and has extensive travel and hotel costs. So make sure to consider this factor.
When choosing a speaker, there are many factors in diversity: gender, nationality, ethnicity, age, etc. When having a particular event in focus, remember that different people have different interests so try to include them in your talks or at least provide some content that would be interesting for everyone attending the event.
Finding Guest Speakers
Personal Contacts – Your Own Network
The best speakers can talk about things they know because they use these tools in their everyday work life, or these techniques helped them grow their business or helped them solve their problems.
Personal Contacts – Their Network
Find out what other people they know may be interested in speaking at the event. Ensure these people are available on that date and whether they have the content to present. Some speakers can also recommend someone who might work well for your event, so building a relationship with them helps you access other professionals’ networks.
Choosing the Right Guest Speaker Checklist
See Them in Action
If possible, try to see them speak live before you offer them to present at your event. It’s much better than just reading or watching slides online because this gives you an insight into their engagement skills, understanding of the subject matter, and how they make it interesting for others.
Visit Their Website
If you cannot see them in action, check out their website. What are the tools or techniques they talk about? What is their style of presenting? This may give you some ideas on how you can approach them with your invitation.
Check Slideshare on LinkedIn
What is in there? Is it relevant for your target audience? If yes, then have a look at slides in more detail, don’t just read through all headings but try to understand what the content is about so that when you contact them after checking this information, ask informed questions.
Speak to Them
Try to speak to the speaker before sending the invitation. Ask them about their availability and pricing, what content they can provide and how much time they will need for this presentation.
Check Out Their Twitter and Other Social Media Profiles
It’s always helpful to know who you are inviting. Is it someone who has a big social media following which gives your event more exposure? Also, don’t forget to check out their profiles on Twitter or Facebook themselves!
Some people provide daily insights into the industry, but most do not give too much information online. So feel free to ask them directly whether they are available, what kind of content they could present, how long they would need etc.
Are there people in your network who you can ask: “Would you be interested in speaking at our event?” and give them the speaker’s info? What do they know about the person, and what is their opinion? This way, you may get more information on whether your target audience would be interested in engaging with such a guest speaker.
It is essential to choose someone who has experience working with this particular industry or subject matter. It doesn’t necessarily need to be from events but also their professional life. It helps when the speakers explain complicated things easier because they have already experienced these challenges and solved them.
Choosing the Right Guest Speaker: In Focus
How well do they engage an audience? Do they have a personality that people enjoy being around? Are they the kind of people with charisma that put everyone in a good mood? Some speakers are great at creating an intimate atmosphere between themselves and the audience, while others are just more “fun” to listen to.
It’s not about being funny or entertaining per se, but rather engaging in a way where you feel comfortable talking to them. You can tell when someone is engaged by making eye contact with audience members. It doesn’t have to be short glances all over the room, but taking some time out in certain points of their presentation to look at specific people.
If your speaker keeps on looking down at their script during reading text (even if this is not their fault because they don’t know who will be attending the event).
How well can they adapt to any specific changes? This is equally important as engagement skills. You want someone who will be flexible enough to deal with last-minute changes. For example, if there are more attendees than expected, you may need additional time for breaks, etc.
The speaker needs to be aware of these possible scenarios and act accordingly. You don’t want your audience bored or exhausted because everyone has their limits when sitting through events like this one!
If the person uses slides, videos, audio files during their presentation, you need to clarify beforehand what they would use during the event. Especially if this relates to live streaming or recording, which means that if you’re not comfortable with that, you should be prepared to either unplug their equipment, take away the file or turn off the camera.
You want someone who speaks your language – so if you are organizing an event in English for native speakers, there is no reason to invite a speaker whose mother tongue is not English.
It matters whether the speaker is available on the date and time of your event. There’s nothing worse than inviting someone who then backs out because something important came up or they can’t attend at all.
The short notice doesn’t always give enough time to find someone else. Therefore, if you send out invitations this early, it’s very likely that at least some of them will not be able to attend, so there needs to be a contingency plan in place.
This goes hand-in-hand with the topic of your event, and it’s vital for an audience if their speaker addresses them personally. Many speakers don’t do this at all. They talk generically and don’t even mention why they’re talking about these specific things. Therefore it doesn’t matter whether they know who is listening or not.
It would be best if you had someone who would care and show that he cares. Many people like this approach because it makes them more open. They want to tell “secrets” and tips from their personal experience, which is precisely what you demand from an ideal guest speaker!
One last factor to consider is your current network. You need (and can ask) about the speaker’s connections. Once again, this doesn’t mean that they will use their connections if they are not relevant to your topic. It just means that you should know what kind of people could potentially be interested in what your speaker has to say.
How Do I Choose the Best Speaker for My Event?
When it comes to choosing all these features one by one may seem like a difficult task because there are so many different factors. The good news is that once you narrow it down, there shouldn’t be too many options left for deciding who exactly you want to speak to at your event!
There are plenty of ways you can choose the best speaker for your event. Plus, once you’ve chosen one speaker and he does an excellent job with his presentation – either live or recorded, then it is very likely that you won’t have to worry about finding the next one.
Most of the basic rules we covered are easy to remember, but two things are more important than all other factors put together. These are your budget for speakers because this will determine who you can invite to speak at your virtual networking event, and secondly, what is the speaker’s purpose?
Engagement, adaptability, technology, language, availability. If someone offers high-quality speaking skills and matches your budget – they’re probably the right person for your occasion!