August 10

event planning tip

#eventtip: Shine like a star: How to show remote speakers so that you forget they aren’t in the room. Or at least almost.

As events are more and more hybrid (participants both online and on-site), also often speakers are both: a part of the panel is in the studio or in the venue, some are joining by video call. What are some do’s and dont’s to make remote speakers look as naturally as possible?

How not to bring in remote speakers: the looming ghost

Above the panel on stage appears the remote speaker: a giant floating head, dwarfing the people on stage, looming over the panel like a ghost or godfather. The low quality, over-lit image distracting from the stage. Every time the speaker moves his hands the camera shakes and it feels like an earth quake. Nobody hears what the speaker on stage says when the Godzilla sized cat passes in the background.

Firstly, for the audience or the viewers, the remote speaker appears completely out of proportion, the things in the background are distracting and the remote speaker seems more important than the people on stage.

Secondly, the way the panel interacts is weird: on site speakers talk to a screen in front of them, but the answer comes from behind them. It looks rude that they do not look their fellow speaker in the eye. Or the speakers on stage turn around 180 degrees and start to talk with their backs to the audience.

The ideal way of bringing in a remote speaker: make it look like they sit at the table.

The ideal way to bring remote speakers in, is make it feel as much as possible like they are there as much as the physical speakers, equally sized, at the same height and setting. So that you – but also the other speakers – start to forget they aren’t really there. This way, both the viewing experience and they way speakers interact with each other becomes more natural.

Ideally, you project them:

  • on an individual TV screen (one head per screen)
  • placed in the panel or at the table just like the on-site participants
  • proportional to the other speakers: not bigger or smaller.

The next best way to bring video participants into the conversation: make it look as natural as possible

Individual, movable TV screens are not always possible. But there are some things you can do that come close:

  • Only have a big screen? Resize the speakers to a more natural size.
  • Only have a big screen behind the stage? place physical speakers on one side, and the virtual speakers on the other side on the screen. That makes it look more natural.
  • Make sure the panel and moderator always see the remote speakers in grid view, so that they also see cues from those not speaking.
  • Have them visible all the time. Use a powerpoint, or other tool? Make sure you have at least 2 screens: some for online speakers, one for that tool, so that you don’t have to alternate and you don’t see that a remote speakers wants to say something.

Make sure the moderator and guests can speak to the remote speakers naturally.

In reality I’m in front of a green screen, looking besides the stage to a monitor. But I could really see them, so i could anticipate their reaction. I saw them in a grid, so I could also see signals of those that wanted to chip in. For the audience however, it looks like a natural conversation between me and the participants on the screen.

Conclusion: bridge the divide.

All in all: with some simple adjustments, there is a lot you can to make the conversation, viewing experience and comfortability of speakers to a higher level, making the conversation more natural, pleasant, dynamic and inclusive!

About the author 

Rogier Elshout

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