How to Pull Off a Winning Virtual Studio Presentation

January 28, 2021
How to Pull Off a Winning Virtual Studio Presentation

 Tracy Judge, founder and chief connector of Soundings Connect, is as poised a person as you’ll ever meet. A former corporate meeting planner at Maritz Global Events, Judge runs her own company, a network for freelance event professionals, while contributing to many industry organizations and causes. She has an uncanny ability to build relationships and rise to any challenge, and is a popular speaker for events.

So, when Judge admits that the process of putting together a presentation in a virtual studio spooked her, it is noteworthy. “I had terrible anxiety,” she said of prepping for the 2020 Intrado Digital Media Summit in December. “I turned into a completely different person. I have not felt that scared or vulnerable in a long time.”

Such feelings are normal in the new world of meetings and events. Judge should be commended for admitting her fears. The point of her story is not that she was scared, it’s what follows.

While asking, “Why did I do this to myself?” in her head, Judge powered through the TedX-like talk on adapting to changes in the COVID-era. And as someone who encourages her employees and peers to step out of their comfort zones, Judge took her own advice and lived to tell about it.

“I felt really good I got through it,” said Judge, who used Rev Studio in La Jolla, California.

Tracy Judge virtual studio

Nikkole Couture, Intrado’s vice president of go-to-market strategy who planned the December event, knows that a presenter's first venture into the digital studio realm can be daunting. “We don’t know we don’t know,” she said.

While COVID-19 vaccines are being deployed, the days of virtual events are not behind us, Couture predicts. Health concerns and economic realities may cause many speakers and attendees to remain remote post-pandemic. Many hotels and convention centers are adding virtual studios to accommodate those needs.

With that in mind, we sought advice from Judge, the presenter, and Couture, the planner, about how to temper down fears and deliver a strong presentation when not face-to-face with a conference crowd.

Before the Show

1. Turn back your clock. Experienced speakers on the events circuit sometimes walk in 10 minutes before their time slot and hand over a memory stick to the planner. Most of the time, it works out fine in-person, despite the planner’s added stress. Couture says such turnarounds can’t and won’t cut it virtually. “A couple days before an event, I need to load the presentation into the platform,” said Couture, who threw Intrado’s staff for a loop with a similar request for its sales kickoff event. “I need to test it and make sure everything works.”

2. Find an audience. Couture wishes she were joking when noting that her cats and guitars have sat through many a dry run. But to be the cat’s meow to your audience, a speaker needs to find that perfect rhythm. And while you won’t be talking on a stage, that mindset needs to be there. What works? What doesn’t? Your cat might not be able to tell you, but honest team members definitely will.

3. Make a list. Always ambitious, Judge chose a new topic to make her return to speaking while entering a foreign environment to her. “We needed to have me prepared way ahead of time because it was new content and a new delivery method,” she said. As mentioned above, there’s nothing new about practicing a speech (though it must be done). But making the move from your home computer to a studio puts the onus on the presenter to ask what equipment is already provided. Do you need your own laptop? Are the HDMI and USB cords long enough? Do you need a TV monitor to watch your presentation? Many facilities in hotels and convention centers will have what you need, but ask ahead of time. For instance, Judge brought her own monitor with her, only to discover the studio already had what she needed.

4. On-Site Inspection. You’ve made your list, now check it twice with a practice session at the venue where you’re presenting. Keep in mind what color background you’ll be using (see below as to why) and get a general feel for the space. Stay until there is some familiarity—the last thing you want is for your audience to know it’s your first time in a virtual studio. “If I did it again, I could do it so much better now because I’d be more comfortable,” Judge says.

5. Tech check. The time in the studio is when you want to go over the presentation with the planner. Any experienced organizer like Couture will be able to offer good tips on anything from pacing to lighting, and also know how to explain the engagement features at your disposal. The planner should go over the platform with you, but don’t be afraid to ask questions for clarity or simply to practice. And don’t forget basics like checking for audio feedback!

Congratulations, you’re now ready to speak to a real-live virtual audience. Couture says now is the time to remember that speaking through a TV camera or computer is not the end of the world. “It’s not impossible, but it’s very different from the in-person experience,” she says.

The Day Of

6. Don’t ignore the technology. A speaker is going to want to be as natural as if he or she is on a stage in front of hundreds of people. Unfortunately, that is not going to be the case, so own it. “The chat is my favorite part as a presenter,” Couture says. “It’s where I see people interacting and firing off comments in real time. If the chat is dead, you’re not quite bringing it.” A first-timer may be gun-shy about reading such comments, but it’s best to pay attention. The most likely scenario is you’ll be getting encouraging feedback that will boost your confidence.

7. Dress wisely. There is a major practicality side to a speaker’s wardrobe. Remember when we mentioned noting the color of the background? If it’s white, don’t wear white or else “you’ll look like a floating head,” Couture warns. Bright colors, stripes and polk-a-dots tend to be distracting. Ditto for large earrings. Muted colors keep the focus on you, not your clothes. “Don’t take away from the main event,” Couture adds.

8. Have a teleprompter. Nerves can cause temporary amnesia. A teleprompter or monitor with slide cards is a great way to overcome forgetfulness.

9. Be prepared for anything. Judge was expecting to do a pre-recorded session—a little less stress-inducing—but a COVID-19 scare threw a wrench into those plans. Ultimately, the decision was made to go live. A challenge in its own right, broadcasting live meant Judge had to adapt mentally, arguably more difficult than the act of presenting. This is just one scenario in which an original plan can deviate. “You need to be flexible,” Judge says.

Ultimately, a speaker must remember to communicate. It’s not much different from preparing an email versus a video chat. There are benefits to all modes of communication, as long as you know what you are in for. “This stuff is not as hard as it looks,” Couture says. “Most of it is the exact same—we’re just going to accomplish it in a different way.”

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.