Virtual Events Will Suck if Interactive is the Goal

Virtual Events Will Suck if Interactive is the Goal

Interactive virtual presentations, interactive virtual events, interactive webinars. Interactive democratic and republic virtual conventions…

We’ve all heard it. I don’t care if you’re a speaker, you’re an event, organizer or even if you’ve attended a webinar or a virtual event of virtual learning, everyone is pitching how interactive their event or experience is.

But the real thing they want is the presentation not to SUCK. So the question I’ve been asking when someone tells me they want something interactive is:

Is your audience prepared for interactive and is that what you really want or do you want to maintain the audience’s attention and include them in the virtual experience?

Here is the thing, there are very few ways to truly make something interactive. Not every presentation needs to be live – nor should it be! In reality, the only thing that a presentation needs to do 100% of the time is to keep the audience’s attention.

That’s it. Easier said than done, but that’s really it. So, how do you do that? In this 12 minute video not only do I cover exactly why this is wrong and the mistakes most are making but I breakdown how we can do this differently and some virtual presentation examples that are changing the virtual game.

Here are a few of my top tips that I cover in this video!

  • ???? Manage Expectations (success is 50/50)
  • ????‍???? Educate Your Audience
  • ???? Co-Consumption
  • ???? Choose Your Own Adventure
  • ❓ Answer All of the Questions
  • ???? Participatory Content and Conversations (when necessary)
  • ???? Have an Event Guide

Full transcript of video here.

I’ve done 48 of these, this year, I’ve done 3,500 live streams. If you’re building a presentation to be interactive, which means the content is going to be going back and forth and you’re using the Q and a, the chat.

And you’re going to use all of those things. You have to build a presentation specifically for that. Funny enough, almost everyone when we’re talking about webinars and virtual events, especially for the free ones, which a lot of them are. They’re like, Oh, don’t worry. Give us the same presentation you do on stage. Just make it interactive.

I mean, it’s like, where’s the interactive button. Is there an interactive button, like on my board or something that I can, doesn’t exist. And so here’s the, here’s what we have to think about. Right. What does interaction mean? How are we going to make an interaction part of this event, and is interaction what we want? Because here’s what I know for some people, there’s probably making them a little nervous seeing the monopod over here. Still, I can use the five cameras that I have set up here in my, in my office production of one to provide a very, you know,
change, different angles.

We can change the intimacy, you know, the empathy of that, you know, emotional connection with the audience, and I can maintain their attention without having them to be active in the chat or using what they’re saying too, you know, to, you know, impact you know, the presentation itself.
The other thing is I find very interesting on this concept is that we’re hearing lots of things about this is going to be a very interactive online event. And yet everything’s prerecorded. And now I will say I’ve done some interactive sessions where I knew that I was going to be prerecorded. And what I did was I knew I would be in the chat answering and engaging during my recorded session. And so in my recording, I actually was like, okay, you’re going to see me in the chat. I’m going to pull up a question in the conversation, and based on whatever your answers are, I’m going to get, you know, give you guys some direction from this part of the presentation. Still, I don’t think that’s what they’re looking for.

And so the reason I think that the, when someone says, Hey, you know that someone when most people say,
Hey, I want to interact with the presentation. What they’re really saying is we don’t want it to suck. We don’t want it to be boring. We don’t want it to be robotic talking head. And I think we’ve learned this the hard way, right? Like a great utuber is not often a great speaker. A great speaker is not usually a great YouTube or high on video or understanding live video. But here’s what I think of when I think of virtual events and reinventing virtual events. And the events that I’m working with. This is a lot of what we’re working into the content strategy, as well as the strategy for the overall event is if you want interaction, if the interaction is your goal, which means you want your audiences full attention, here’s what you have to do.

The first thing you have to do is you have to manage expectations. What I mean by that is you need to make sure the audience knows that there are 50% responsible for the success of this event. And the presenter is 50% successful at this event because I don’t care how amazing interactive a presentation is set up to be. If the audience isn’t planning on it, being on their laptop, maybe they’re just listening to it in podcast mode on their phone. I don’t care how great of an interactive presentation. It’s not going to matter. So you have to manage expectations. And the second part there is you have to educate your audience on, Hey, why is it interactive? What is the level of participation? Are you going to ask them to be on video? Do they need to be on their desktop so they can open a second tab?

Does it work on a mobile device? Right? Like, how am I going to make those connections? The other thing about this is, you know, if you’re doing like a multi-hour event, most of the events that I’m hosting or emceeing now are three to four hours. Some of them are eight hours. Here’s the thing. You don’t want an interactive event that entire time, you want presentations that are educational and
entertaining and, you know, and, and engaged, you know, and even that participant or element. But here’s what I think we also do wrong is that we just say, Hey, everyone stay in zoom. Or everyone stayed in Cisco WebEx throughout this entire day, but there’s only really one session that’s going to take advantage of that, right? We’re just gonna play the replays. What we need to do is we need to be very strategic with them when we send someone to an interactive hub so that they understand it is a different type of consumption, right?

Because one of the most significant missing pieces with virtual events is coal of content. I have a whole nother video, all on coconut assumption of content, but that’s a big thing that’s missing. We don’t have anybody to share our content consumption with, which is definitely something that we have to keep in mind. But with that being said, I can maintain the audience’s attention without having it to be fully interactive. And one of the ways that I do that, and here’s a, here’s a real practical one is I actually do a choose your own adventure, or I call it, choose your own experience. We’re about five minutes into my keynote. I put up three different pictures on the screen, like just like this. And I’ll. Actually, I’m using the same tool that I’m using to record this on right now. He cam live and I’ll say, okay, I want you guys to vote on one, two or three for the story.

I’m going to tell at the end of this presentation. And then I’ll say, while you guys are voting, I’m going to throw this too, a quick little transition video, which would probably be a three 60 video because I’m using a lot of three 60 videos of my three 60 bros. And what that does is it gives people, all the stuff, new attention. We’re like, Oh my goodness, this is what’s going on. The next thing I do right after I asked that participation, I set the expectations myself as a speaker, Hey, for the next 15 minutes, I’m going to be very, you know, education. I want you guys to be taking notes. You don’t have to worry about the chat. I will see the chat. So if you guys are asking questions, don’t worry about it. And you can really manufacture that another secret of mine.

And this is probably one of the ones maybe I shouldn’t give away. And my speaker agent might be a little upset if I give this away, but I’m going to do it. Anyhow. When the other things that I love to do is that you want to make sure that you let the audience know that, Hey, because here’s the thing we always say, we want questions and answers. Please bring all your questions. You’ll use the Q and a box. Use the chatbox for chatting and Q and a for Q and a, right? Like we’ve all done that, right? Here’s the thing.

There’s a, there’s a level of what we’ve been. We used to in webinars where we’ve all done it, right?

There’s, we’ve, we’ve submitted three questions ourselves. They tell us they have 45 questions and they have time for two. One of the other things that I do is very early on.

I say, here’s what I’m gonna do for everybody. I want you guys to you use that question box, ask me every question under the sun. And here’s my promise. If I can’t answer all of your questions during this presentation, or during my allotted time, I’m gonna do a personalized video answering every single one of these questions. I don’t have it up on my Instagram account or have it on my Twitter, even yet, I’m going to send it to the event host so that they can send it out to you.

Therefore you have no worries about your question, not being answered. Bring me on your questions, right? This is a big piece and I can, I can’t harp on it enough. And funny enough, if you want an interactive presentation, the entire piece back and forth is extremely important. But if you want an engage, you know, and get the audience’s attention, you also have to figure out that back and forth.

So here’s the language that I like to use. I believe all virtual events must be participatory content. If it’s just broadcasting, if you’re just doing a live stream and there’s no interaction, that’s called YouTube a Ted talk or TV, but if it’s going to be, Hey, these are prerecorded sessions, but we’re going to have the speaker in the chat. And then after their session, we’re going to have them jump on Q and a. Because remember I liked that, you know, check out that other video of mine, where I talk about the three types of video content that every virtual event must have. But here’s the thing. I believe that every virtual event must focus on participatory style content and conversations, not interactivity because participatory means, Hey, when I see you guys in the chat, make sure, you know, I’ll see your chats, bring them on here.

Some speakers are really good at seeing the chat, others aren’t for the event that I’m speaking at tomorrow, I’ve actually already, I have my community manager and she’s going to be editing and adding the questions to a Google doc that I’ll have on my screen right here behind the camera. And so, as I’m presenting, she’ll bring up those questions. She’ll highlight ones that I need to do that I need to answer.

She’ll delete them if I end up answering it during my talk. But having that, that, that element is extremely important and making sure the audience knows what to expect. I firmly believe the number one failure, maybe. Well, there’s two number one failures. The two failures that I believe virtual events are, are struggling with right now. The first one is they don’t invest in a host or an MC. I believe a host, an MC as the face of a virtual event is more valuable and more important than any speaker or any event platform technology.
I have a whole video on that, breaking out all those resources. But the other piece of this that I don’t believe we are focusing enough on is the education of our audience. I must educate them before the event, the day of the event, letting them know, Hey, for the first three hours of the event, we’re just going to be broadcasting some of our presentations. So feel free to listen to it on your phone, but around 1:00 PM, we’re going to have Brian Fanzo come on here. And he’s going to have an interactive choose your own experience, a presentation where we’re going to want to bring some people on video.

We’re going to want you guys to answer the polls because you’re going to be able to participate in the actual event. You’re going to be able to be part of Brian’s presentation. You’re going to actually shape how my presentation is delivered, because I believe if it is live, then it should be shaped by the audience.

If you are not allowing the audience to shape a live presentation, the question I asked you is why is it live? And I will leave you with this. I believe another shortcoming here that we have to think about is why is someone feel like they want to attend a live presentation? What’s the value for that? If I can just get it, the download later, we all are busy, right? And we all, we’ve all done it, right? Like we go like, Oh, I’ll just download it later. We download it. We never watch it again. And it goes into that saved folder.

What I believe how this should all work is that if you are educating your audience and you are understanding the differences between interactive and maintaining the audience’s attention, right?

Having that episodic feel the preview and the teasers with a great host and MC then what I believe this all comes down to is that the things that will give the audience a reason to attend live is that they will be able to shape the content and the conversation of the virtual event, because it’s participatory content.

Virtual Presentation Skills – Going from Passive to Interactive (Reinvent DON’T Recreate)

Virtual Presentation Skills – Going from Passive to Interactive (Reinvent DON’T Recreate)

No matter what you call it “pivoting to virtual” or “forced to work from home on video,” the one thing that won’t work is merely doing the SAME thing we do offline just virtually!

That is what causes content shock and adds noise to the already noisy world. We can all think of painful recent examples where a 60-minute zoom calls with one person talking into the camera puts us to sleep. The webinar that shares slides in full screen with a robotic voice speaking to us as though we can’t read what’s on the slides ourselves.

Here’s the thing…

I don’t believe virtual will replace what we do offline!

But I believe that by reinventing how we think about virtual and what a virtual experience is, we will discover new opportunities and experiences we never knew were possible.

One of my most popular talks over the years is titled: “Limitations Inspire Creativity,” which is especially true in this current environment.

What we can’t do is combine offline limitations with the new limitations we are presented within the virtual world.

The reason most virtual presentations suck and many fail when making this transition to virtual is they don’t reinvent; they repurpose. They create based on the old limitations and then blame the new for not being as good or the right path to the future.

  • Virtual experiences require a paradigm shift embracing a 360° perspective of what’s possible, rethinking everything from:
  • How we share our knowledge?
  • What format do we deliver our message?
  • How long do you require the audience’s attention?
  • What visually is best to convey the emotion and impression we desire?

Virtual experiences aren’t about having multiple cameras, or 3D avatars or interactive overlays flying across the screen.

It’s about discovering what is possible in the virtual world and reshaping the experiences we create to capture, maintain, and scale TRUST with today’s hyper-connected virtual audience.

Find more Virtual Presentation Resources on these pages:

How I’m telling stories in my presentations with Prezi Video Interactive on video overlays

The live streaming tool I went all in with in 2020 to live stream to Facebook Live, YouTube and Linkedin Live

Virtual Experience Media Hub and Resources

4 Immersive Virtual Presentation Styles to Create with Prezi Video

4 Immersive Virtual Presentation Styles to Create with Prezi Video

I’m a big believer that Limitations Inspire Creativity

Created with Adobe Spark highlighting my Prezi Video Presentations

Forty-three days ago, I “googled upon” Prezi video, and although I had used Prezi in the past (2016 last logged in) I hadn’t heard about them launching a video tool in late 2019.

I tweeted them:

Since that tweet, I’ve delivered 18 virtual presentations and created 25+ videos using Prezi Video. On top of that, I also have another 6 Prezi Next templates in the “design brainstorm phase.”

The only limitations with virtual presentations are within our creative minds!

The feedback after each presentation has been fantastic, but I’ve also appreciated the access I’ve had with the Prezi Team. I’ve had multiple calls with the co-founder, the head of the video product, VP of Strategic Partnerships, and other members of the team to share feedback and have a better understanding of the use cases and roadmaps of Prezi Video.

Below are 4 of types of dynamic presentations I’ve given using Prezi Video.

But honestly, the most exciting part has been exposing Prezi Video to friends, executive clients, and fellow virtual speakers and seeing the unique ways they are leveraging it for their presentations, video meetings, and virtual keynote presentations.

If you are still working on the strategy for your next virtual event make sure to check out this post on what it takes to create a successful virtual event.

1. Customized hologram overlays with a shaded background

Customized a Prezi Next presentation and then converted it to Prezi Video as the video becomes the background.  This can be used to create the desired emotional connection needed to maintain audience attention and drive interactivity within virtual events.

2. Branded speaker program transparent overlays

Custom graphics and overlays for Brian’s Press The Damn Button Virtual Keynote Program.  As speakers, it’s important to stand out from the noise, be memorable but also demonstrate the high quality and value you provide with each virtual presentation.  This is a great way to do just that!  This screengrab is from the Socio Hackathon you can watch the replay and read the recap here.

3. Sponsored overlays with brand colors

Zoom presentation live-streamed to Facebook Live using overlays and interviews.  This is one of the 3 main types of video content needed when building a dynamic virtual event. You can watch the replay on Adobe Sparks Facebook Live Page!

4. Video templated graphics replacing webinar slides

Created from a Prezi Video Template much easier to customize and adapt for a virtual video presentation.  This can be done with pre-recorded, produced, and even live streaming video content.   When thinking about live streaming it’s important to go beyond the average Facebook live.  This screen capture is from Kerwin Rae’s K2 Business Accelerator event and you can watch it here.

Why Prezi Video?

For me what excites me the most about Prezi Video for virtual presentations as you aren’t limited to standard templates or just video overlays as you can leverage all of the Prezi Next catalog or even create your own from scratch.

The advanced editing functionality has really allowed me to up my game and the virtual cam connecting directly to Zoom, GoToWebinar, Facebook Live and every other platform I’ve presented on virtually makes Prezi the number 1 tool in my virtual presenting toolbox.

I’m sharing all this not to get you to try Prezi instead to open your mind to what’s possible as you never know what you might “google upon” if you are determined to shift the perspective and transform the way you share your message virtually. 

If you want to see how I created one of these Prezi Video presentations I did a walkthrough using eCamm Live directly after a virtual event hackathon for Socio where I shared the steps and mindset I leveraged here:

I’m such a fan that I’ve signed up as a reseller and created a landing page that I will update after each presentation with tips, tricks, and lessons learned with Prezi over at

Ps. I’ll be sharing more info over the next couple of weeks around the reseller partnership and services that we are working on together… In the meantime, feel free to send me an email if you want to jump in and give Prezi Video a try!

Why Virtual Keynote Presentations Must Convey Raw Emotion & Empathy

Why Virtual Keynote Presentations Must Convey Raw Emotion & Empathy

Telling stories is central to what we do as keynote speakers. It draws us to our audience and makes what we teach and deliver within our keynote presentations memorable.

With the rise of virtual presentations, that crucial emotional connection has become harder to sustain and even more important. While at the same time, the future of virtual innovations such as augmented reality and virtual reality are all about reinventing how we convey virtual emotion. But sadly when most speakers, event teams and brands talk about virtual events or online keynote presentations that have a bad taste in their mouth thanks to webinars, “almost live” product demo’s and the random live streams of their neighbors cat that they’ve seen in their Facebook Live feed.

Way back in 2018, the National Speakers Association asked me to deliver a 10-minute keynote and 60-minute hands-on workshop at their Winter Conference to teach and inspire fellow speakers on how the next wave of technology will allow an audience to step into our shoes and interact, virtually, with the powerful emotions of a narrative.  I give NSA credit as this was not only an innovative way of thinking within the rise of offline events but it was also helping to provide additional revenue streams for speakers.

But for most speakers, when they thought about virtual experiences or the impact of online technology, they either associated it with innovations around augmented reality, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence or linked it to the 30-minute webinars they’ve provided over the years. In my session at NSA Winter Conference which you can watch below, I worked hard at opening my fellow keynote speakers’ minds to having a new perspective on what virtual and online provided both on-stage and online. Here are a couple of the most tweeted quotes from that talk:

“Telling stories draws us to our audience and makes what we teach memorable, the problem is that because of the rise of virtual presentations, it’s getting harder to sustain an emotional connection with our audience.”  

“Relatability is the secret of online success, and live video is the gateway drug demonstrating participatory real-time interaction that will force us to rethink the power of virtual experiences! 

“Virtual events, webinars and online summits don’t contain the same limitations as offline events which as speakers means our virtual event experiences have endless possibilities and the only real limitation is our imagination and willingness to think differently on what we deliver, how we provide and the technology we leverage to present our messages!”  

Forced Covid19 Pivot to Virtual

Fast forward to 2020, and the transformation Covid19 has forced postponing worldwide conferences and forcing not only conference but speakers to deliver virtual keynote presentations.  

Although the keynote below and the workshop were received very favorably by the NSA audience, I felt many linked my passion for virtual experiences and my desire to disrupt the virtual event space to the fact I was a millennial and had built my speaking business on the back of content marketing, social media and live streaming video.

“As speakers simply taking what we do great on stage at offline conferences and providing that online won’t cut it and will force you to lower speaking fees for #virtualevents and ultimately do more harm than good to your speaking brand!

Focus on shifting perspective and understanding the emotion your body & visuals are evoking!”

As the conference event industry and the professional speaker world point their attention, budgets, and brands towards developing and delivering virtual experiences the directions they can go are endless. I’ve made it my mission to do everything I can to disrupt and reinvent with those I coach, advise, and partner. Not only on the importance of reinventing what the virtual stage is but also the need to educate speakers, event professionals, and virtual event attendees on what is possible, what is expected, and the future we can ultimately create together! 

Give this video a watch and join me in shifting the perspective of virtual experiences and removing the limitations we have placed on virtual events. As I believe the only limitations that exist in the virtual world are within our own imagination.

For additional resources and to view the soon to be launched Virtual Experience marketplace click here.

If you’re looking to hire me to give a virtual keynote, MC or coach your speakers on being better on virtual please fill out the contact form and Michelle my head of events will get you all set up.