5 ways to set yourself up for success as a keynote speaker at a virtual event

October 13, 2021

Having been a keynote speaker many times over the years, I wanted to take this chance to share some of my lessons to help other keynote speakers traverse the real and digital world of public speaking. Now that we have launched Virtuworx, a virtual MICE platform, we have learned that virtual and hybrid public speaking can be very different from that of a real life event. Here are five ways to set yourself up for success as a keynote speaker at a virtual event.


That isn’t to say that cue cards don’t have their place when preparing a speech. I write my speech and shape it on cue cards well in advance of the event. Then, I practice it enough so that I don’t need the cards at all. My personal technique is to use one significant word or phrase for each paragraph. This forces me to only look at my cards very infrequently. When you’re on someone’s screen, you especially don’t want to constantly be referring to notes. Since you aren’t there in person, maintaining ‘eye contact’ is an important way to connect with your audience without being in the same room as them.


And keep them warm, where needed. I am a big fan of kicking things off with a joke or a good story. My aim is to ensure that those in the audience are suffering as little mental fatigue as possible. Keeping things fresh and remaining in tune with your audience connects you with them beyond the topic of the speech. If you know that your topic is dry, or (and be honest here) that you can be a little dry at times, don’t be afraid to add snippets of humour, anecdotes and audience engagement throughout. If you aren’t sure, practice on your friends and colleagues and ask them for honest feedback so that you can adjust where necessary.


A mistake I have seen people make often is that they are too vague, holding back key information. Their hopes are that potential clients or customers will want to engage their services more if they feel there is something more to find out, an extra snippet. The truth is though, to appear the expert that you are, you need to show your audience that you know your stuff. They will always prefer to hire the services of someone who is confident in their knowledge.


This can be just as, if not more, important than presenting on stage. Take a look at yourself in your front camera on screen and consider your surroundings (you don’t want that laundry chair in the background), the lighting (not too dark) and what you’re wearing. Choosing something to wear as a keynote speaker is the hardest of the three, but if you get it right, it can make a winning difference on the day.


This is always a risk, as you may get the kind of audience member who hates this kind of thing, making you look a little silly, so you really want to give it plenty of thought. Warm them up by first asking for a show of hands to see how enthusiastic the audience is to interact. And maybe if you ask a direct question, don’t pick people out, but rather ask them to volunteer. Try and test a few interactive snippets and take note of what works and what doesn’t, and why. Slowly, but surely, you will get better at interacting with an audience and gauging how interactive each audience is likely to be. The better you are at this, the better you will look as a keynote speaker. 


Every event and every speaker is different, so some of the tips and tricks above won’t work for everyone, but this guide is a good starting point to develop your virtual public speaking skills. Feel free to get in touch with us about your keynote speaking needs and experiences so that we can continue to refine and improve our products.

Read more: Here’s how you can separate communication from chaos at your virtual event

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