This year I presented at my first virtual conference – the Gartner Digital Workplace Summit, 2021. I encourage anyone watching sessions at our conferences to fill out your evaluations because the speakers really do look at those scores and comments.
Looking at my scoring and comments, as well as watching many of the presentations of my peers, I notice that expectations have not solidified on what a virtual presentation should be like. Stand up or sit down? Dress up or dress down? Scripted or unscripted?
I decided to stay seated. And to dress up half way: a nice dress shirt, but no jacket or tie. (No shoes either, but you couldn’t see that!)
As for the scripting, its a question about polish and a natural feel. I mentioned in my post last year, With Conferences Falling to Coronavirus, It’s Time to Rethink the Virtual Conference, conferences designed from scratch to be virtual have the opportunity to provide slickly produced videos instead of talking heads. In fact, I think that expectations will change over time to prefer more polished content. For this year I noticed a mix of polish. Some analysts presented without a script, just as they would at a conference breakout (where there is no teleprompter). The occasional missteps or pauses can actually make the presentation feel more natural, there is better eye contact with the camera, and tone is usually more real.
The counter view is that with free storage and simple editing it seems lazy not to edit where needed. Or at least do multiple takes to get the best one. As an analogy, you expect a live band to screw up now and then and joke about it. But if their studio album did the same you’d feel ripped off.
I have always spoken off-the-cuff or with a few notes, but thought expectations leaned on the side of smoothness. So I wrote out my comments. I think I kept it lively, but I’m no actor and a few commenters noticed. Maybe next time I’ll do it freestyle. Although, by that time, expectations may shift again and my next set of comments will point out how I should have edited out a fumbled word here and there. Or how there are no cartoons … Ah, heavy hangs the head of the virtual conference presenter.