Have you been speaking at remote conferences and regularly feel overwhelmed or drained afterwards? You want to deliver a great talk and deal with all the dialogues happening in the live chat at the same time? You can manage expectations about interactivity upfront or even ask the organisers for a remote moderation partner. Then you can focus on your expert content and are still fresh after the talk to take questions or interact at the virtual coffee corner.
Recently I had a conversation with fellow speaker colleagues on the topic of monitoring a live chat during delivering a conference talk.
During that exchange I noticed I take one thing almost for granted as a professional conference speaker: there is a remote moderator present in my session. A professional moderator in that setting for me is a person who:
- watches the chat,
- manages questions from the audience
- and maybe helps with the given timebox.
Yet, after almost three years into everything-runs-remotely, I was flabbergasted that not ALL fully virtual professional conferences offer proper moderators as sidekicks to their speakers.
Obviously I speak at different conferences (events that include tech, biz and people topics) than my conversation partners do (events that are more tech-only focussed). I could now start giving my advice on how conference organisers could approach this but that will be a different piece.
Here are some tips what you can do when there is *no* professional moderator present:
- manage expectations about interaction with the audience upfront
- cut out possible distractions yourself (e.g. close that chat window)
- share the responsibility for questions & answers with the audience
Let’s take the example of giving an expert tech talk where you deliver input for the audience and plan for Q&A time at the end.
Manage expectations upfront
Tell the audience your plan e.g. you deliver input first, leave x min for Q&A at the end. Of course, live up to that timing!
Ask people to write down their questions locally or in the live chat. However make it crystal clear that you won’t be monitoring the live chat as you perform. It is a professional speech, not a hands-on workshop.
Let’s say people use the live chat window to write down their questions for the Q&A. Or maybe they even share resources amongst each other while following your expert talk. Isn’t that one of the advantages of remote conferences: the audience can share with & care for each other in an asynchronous medium.
But what about you and your focus during your performance?
Cut out distractions
Even if you practised your talk (of course you did!), it is still cognitive load to deliver a speech coherently and watch a live chat where arbitrary content can popup at any point in time.
Maybe people in the audience even question your content while you’re trying to make your points? It’s a very valid option to either close the chat window (again, if technically possible) or to put e.g. an empty editor window on top to “close” it by covering.
Of course people can have questions that hinder their understanding. That would make it harder for them to follow your content. Consider how you as a professional speaker want to address that.
Share responsibility with the audience
Usually I ask my audience to just speak-up and ask right away (given the conference system allows it) for these seldom ‘understanding question’ cases. I rarely speak at conferences that don’t provide me and my audience this freedom of interaction nowadays.
Now how to deliver a kick-ass tech talk and multitask heavily at the same time? Well, you won’t!
Cut a huge chunk of your cognitive load that you would need to manage otherwise:
- as a speaker manage expectations upfront,
- cut out distractions as you speak
- and share the responsibility for a useful conference session with the people in your audience.
Free that capacity of your brain!
Use it to deliver even more awesome content and a truly entertaining talk.
However don’t forget to keep suggesting professional moderators to your conference provider!
That is something you as a speaker can perfectly do.
Don’t struggle alone. Help conference organisers learn and get better, too.
Deliver that kick-ass tech talk. And free yourself from multi-tasking.
( This article first appeared on RespectAndAdapt.rocks. )