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Essential Hybrid Event Skills: A Speaker's Perspective

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The new Hybrid world of events is changing and evolving in every micro-moment. Just as we finally got our heads around Zoom, Microsoft Teams and finding the right angle for our ring lights, all of a sudden we’re being tasked with juggling online audiences, in-person audiences, and remembering how to properly dress for real-world business events. 

As speakers, the Hybrid world is pushing us beyond our well-established, comfortable and successful keynote formats of the past, and is encouraging us to be our most agile, spontaneous, flexible and authentic selves. And I find this unbelievably exciting.

Even with the most talented event planners at the helm, the Hybrid world is full of unexpected changes and nobody can ever 100% predict what’s going to happen next

It’s pushing us all beyond our comfort zones (both speakers and event planners) and as a result, we are seeing creativity and innovation soar to new heights. It’s the best time ever to be in this industry because what we collectively create now, is laying the foundation for a whole new future of events.

So as you book speakers for your upcoming Hybrid events, I want to share four key characteristics I believe speakers need to truly thrive in 2021. I’ve compiled this list based off my experiences as a keynote speaker, MC, public speaking trainer, facilitator and corporate comedian who has, like you, rapidly catapulted with a teeny tiny moment’s notice into the new virtual world.

Thankfully, due to both my comedy background and a very long history of questionable dates, I am well-equipped at dealing with unexpected, awkward and surprise situations. To my great delight, these skills have been super handy in embracing every swift, new and unforeseen opportunity that shows up.

Characteristic 1: Spontaneity

As an MC, spontaneity is key. Traditionally, spontaneity has been an essential quality in managing last-minute agenda changes, speakers going over time, audiences returning late, and that lady in the front row who just… won’t … stop… talking (bless her). 

Those used to be “the big issues” we faced. However, none of this even comes close to the level of spontaneity required for the new Hybrid delights that we encounter including Wi-Fi outages, tech errors, mute buttons fails, and silent chat boxes. This requires a whole new level of patience, calm breathing, and truly going with the flow. Everyone’s experimenting in this new digital era and just when you think you’ve got it all worked out, something totally flips around on its head. So being present, fluid, and open to change is not only a major asset; it’s essential.

Characteristic 2: Flexibility and an open mind

As humans, we love what we love, and we’re invested and committed to our patterns, beliefs and habits. But all of these have to go if we want to be truly versatile in the virtual world. 

Every event planner has a different vision, and every tech company uses different software. Holding onto any pre-2020 ways of doing things means there’s a great chance we’ll get left behind. We need to be able to ride the wave of whatever new processes are put in place. The digital world moves quickly and so must we. Adapting, multi-tasking and having an open mind are crucial. 

Characteristic 3: Know your audience (x 2)

We used to say that knowing your audience was one of the most important factors for a speaker. But that’s changed because at Hybrid events we have now have two audiences; delegates who are attending in person, and delegates who are tuning in remotely. And they both need equal love and attention. 

It’s not enough to just focus on the alluring faces in front of us anymore; we need to create an experience for digital delegates that’s as interactive, engaging and memorable as it is for everyone at the event. So it’s important speakers craft and cater their content with both audiences in mind, so that everybody watching from home with their cats on their laps, feels just as loved as those in the room.

Characteristic 4: Creativity

As speakers we have always needed to be creative to stand out. We’ve needed to be innovative and captivating, to deliver compelling stories, to inspire with insightful messages, and so much more in order to truly capture our audience’s hearts and minds.

Now, in the new Hybrid world, we need even more creativity than before: What questions will trigger a flurry in the chat box? How do I keep everyone smiling? What do I do when the rubbish trucks outside are so loud even the online audience can hear? Yikes. Our need to be creative has exploded. In the olden days (before 2020) the main competition we faced from the stage was audience members being distracted by text messages and emails on their phones. Now, we’re competing with text messages, emails and entire Netflix documentaries possibly playing in adjacent browsers. That’s not easy!

Navigating this new world together

The events industry, as a collective, hasn’t just stepped out of its comfort zone. It’s flown past the zone entirely!

Adapting these four key characteristics will help us all navigate this new world together. If we combine our spontaneity, flexibility, creativity and open-mindedness, we can create brand new experiences for your audiences that not only connect, teach and inspire, but also keep those Netflix browsers closed!

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