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Virtual Essentials—Hosting a Speaker for a Virtual Event

The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has changed how we think about in-person events for the foreseeable future. However, some long-term benefits exist (not related to being safe from a virus) when considering hosting a virtual event. They include:

  • Cost effectiveness for a tight budget—hosting tools are inexpensive and fairly simple to use, speaker travel becomes a non-issue, venue costs are non-existent, etc.
  • Greater manageability (many logistics issues are resolved when you don’t have an in-person event, including searching for venues, managing meals/concessions, signage, volunteer staffs, set-up and tear-down, etc.).
  • Increased number of attendees—your audience will feel more secure in an online environment, and due to fewer travel costs, you may increase the number of people you reach with an online event.

Before you schedule a speaker, consider these questions:

Will this be a hybrid event—where the speaker is on stage with a moderator or other guests, and only the audience is online? Or will this be a video-only event? After choosing the video platform and schedule for your event, you can choose a speaker.

Take into consideration all that you thought about when choosing a speaker for an in-person event (see lesson one). You will also need to consider that your online event should have an interactive component; your guests should be able to interact in some way to the speaker, to the hosts, and other participants. The speaker’s flexibility within this environment will be important.

And you will need to work out the logistical details for an online event with your speaker:

  • Will she be familiar with the equipment you will need her to use for an online event?
  • Does she have access to that equipment?
  • Will she have someone she can rely on for technical support, if needed, or can someone from your team help her technically?

Your communication with the speaker before the event will not differ much from an in-person event, except for the technical details you will be sharing. Your speaker will still want to know the date, time, event topic, and your specific goals for the event. Refer back to lesson one for this unit, and adapt the lists of items you will need to share with a speaker for a virtual event.

You will need to adapt a financial agreement to fit the occasion as well. Consider that the pre-program promotion and preparation time for an online speaker will not differ much from an in-person event. Also, you will need to negotiate to make the virtual event available online after the event itself is over, and obtain the speaker’s permission for that to happen. Take all these points into consideration and plan an honorarium accordingly.

Reflection Questions

What other considerations will you need to consider for choosing and communicating with a speaker for an online event?


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“Hosting a Guest Speaker” is published by the National Women’s Department at women.ag.org, 2020. Permission granted for personal use or within a teaching setting. Do not reproduce.