By Joe Cogliano
With the COVID-19 pandemic raging on, and traditional face-to-face trade shows in jeopardy for the second consecutive year, your company has likely taken the plunge into the world of virtual water events. When done properly, the ROI from engaging a targeted audience at one of these online sessions can be massive.
On the flip side, using the same approach for a virtual event that you’d take for a physical tradeshow is likely to waste the investment.
Whether you are part of the team putting together the presentation, or pulling it all together and presenting yourself, consider these tips from Water Online Product Manager Bill King to maximize the impact of your next virtual event appearance:
#1 — Topic Selection
Identify what your intended audience is going to be interested in. Unlike an in-person event, where attendees are less likely to be distracted, you will quickly lose your audience to email or side conversations if you fail to be engaging. Unless there is a clamoring for information about a specific product or service you offer, it’s best to avoid being overly promotional.
Instead, think about how you can help the audience. What problems are they trying to solve? Where are the opportunities for them to improve processes or lower costs? Providing attendees with valuable insight goes a long way toward keeping your audience engaged and building their trust in you and viewing your company as a thought leader.
#2 — Selecting The Presenter
Put some thought into who will give the presentation. Does the subject-matter expert or marketing manager make more sense? Who has the most experience in virtual events or webinars? Who is most comfortable fielding a wide range of questions on the fly?
It’s best to avoid asking the question “Who is willing to do this?” and far better to either identify the topic and determine your best speaker to address it or identify your best speaker and create the topic around their knowledge and expertise. Convincing the ideal presenter that virtual events are valuable to them and the company may take some work to secure their commitment, but it is worth the effort.
#3 — Building A Connection
Generate a presentation that keeps your audience engaged from the beginning. For example, share a story about a problem they’re likely familiar with. Even if your presentation is product-focused, start with some use cases that are relatable. Another popular method to keep a virtual presentation interesting, at any point, is to interact with the audience by asking a poll question that’s related to a common problem. If possible, measure the range of responses and briefly discuss the results.
#4 — Don’t Push Your Time Allotment
Avoid the temptation to fill every second of your presentation slot with information. Pushing the limit means you are likely throwing too much information at the audience, increasing the risk you’ll lose their attention along the way, while eliminating any time at the end to answer questions. Not filling every minute of your allotment also reserves time to reference or build on interesting points made by other panelists or previous speakers to bolster the relevance of your own presentation.
#5 — Generate Appealing Visual Aids
What are the best visual aids? Attention-grabbers include visuals that tell your story: before-and-after project photos work really well in the water market. Many times, easy-to-understand charts, graphs, and schematics speak louder to an engineering audience than words. Conversely, if your visuals are too complex to be grasped quickly by your audience, you risk using valuable time to explain them. By comparison, reading verbatim from a PowerPoint slide deck is the surest way to lose an audience quickly.
#6 — Practice And Test
Practice your presentation multiple times in the days leading up to your virtual water event. At the same time, test your webcam technology to ensure it works properly and record so you and others can evaluate. This will also allow you to tweak the lighting and background selection. A simple blank wall or screen with a company logo makes a good background. If doing the presentation at home, avoid a personal background that’s too busy (i.e., lots of books and/or photos), which can be distracting. Also, avoid using a virtual background, which can be distracting and/or cause technical issues with the way it presents.
#7 — Relax
When the time comes to present at the virtual event, relax and go with the flow. Over the last year, we’ve all experienced the hiccups of live online meetings, some within our control and some completely outside of it. There’s a small chance that there will be at least one glitch, so be prepared to adapt the best you can and move on. As they say where I come from, Keep Calm and Carry On.