Digital Stage Training with Sekou Andrews
We’re well into one year of virtual events and most of us feel pretty comfortable attending digital events. But performing in front of a virtual audience can still be a nerve-racking feat. If you’re working with virtual talent and want to help them improve their virtual stage presence, you’re in luck! Grammy-nominated creator of "Poetic Voice" & inspirational speaker, Sekou Andrews, has put together a “how to” cure Zoom Fatigue and masterfully engage with any audience on any digital stage. Keep reading to learn some of these helpful tips from Sekou Andrews!
- Set the Stage
- Rock the Stage
Set the Stage
Before they can give a show-stopping performance, make sure that your speaker’s set-up is ready for them to do so. Keep reading about what elements of the digital world to focus on to properly set the digital stage.
In a live event setting, event producers assist performers in their stage setup – from managing how big the stage is to how the stage will look when the speaker is on it. However, in a virtual setting, you can still create the same effects. If your speaker is typically someone who moves around on a live stage, they can do the same in front of a computer. Either have them stand up and walk around or roll around in their chair in front of the camera to captivate the audience.
A background is another aspect of the meeting that can be controlled. There are a variety of background options and we’re familiar with most of them.
A cluttered background is one that stands out to viewers the most – it is distracting and can pull the audience’s attention away from a speaker.
A white background is clean and easier to add motion graphics to. On the other hand, it can be viewed as sterile and more business/corporate focused. If you are looking to set your speaker in a serious setting, a white background is perfect. But if your speaker is looking to give a more light-hearted and fun presentation, you’ll want to stray from the plain, white background.
A black background is also clean and simple. Black backgrounds are better suited for theatrical performances. It’s also important to pay attention to the lighting and performer’s clothes – you’ll want to make sure that your presenter is well-lit and that they don’t blend into the shadows.
A green screen requires very specific lighting requirements but works best if your speaker has a highly animated and digitized background in mind.
Lastly, we’re all familiar with the “cool” background. This is one where a captivating painting is visible, or there’s a bookshelf filled with good reads behind the speaker. If they choose to go with the bookshelf background, be sure your talent keeps the books sophisticated and event-appropriate since there’s a good chance that at least one person from the audience is interested in what they’re reading.
Once you’ve determined what the perfect background is for your presenter’s meeting, think about the audience positioning. This is based on how close or how far you place the camera from the presenter and will determine how physically close or far the audience feels they are from the speaker.
Additionally, help the speaker decide what they want to see on their end of the camera and what they want filling the screen. Are they content or crowd driven? Do they prefer to see the audience when they’re talking to them or do they need to see their content? A script helps them stay on track but seeing the audience helps them receive feedback. The speaker must decide what’s more important to them. Whichever they prefer should go directly below their camera lens so that they’re making eye contact as much as possible.
During live events, lighting is considered one of the most important aspects of a show – and this is still true in a virtual environment. There are multiple lighting options when presenting at home – a desk lamp, ring light, floor lamp, overhead lamps, and professional lighting. More importantly though, you want lights that warm your speaker’s energy – yellows instead of fluorescents that flatten their image.
A quiet environment is crucial in a live, hybrid, or virtual setting. During your tech rehearsals and prep calls, be aware of the traffic outside of your presenter’s window, planes that are flying overhead, a baby crying next door, and other sources of noise that could be distracting to the audience.
Also, make sure to minimize echoes. Echoes make a presentation sound less professional so encourage your speaker to avoid presenting in a large open room.
Typically, a built-in computer microphone or phone microphone is fine for most situations. But if you feel like your presenter’s current microphone isn’t cutting it, there are other options like a USB mic, earbuds, a lavalier mic, or an advanced audio system.
Audio settings differ from sound in that they are the background noises that can be controlled. Some virtual platforms have the option to reduce background noise to prevent distractions or you can include background music to enhance your presenter’s meeting.
Rock the Stage
Now that the stage has been successfully set for your speaker, there is only one thing left: the presenter! Keep reading to learn helpful tips on how to help your presenter rock the stage as well as they do in a live setting.
Read the Room
In a live event setting, speakers receive lots of audio and visual cues that their audience is enjoying the performance. Although an audience is less likely to laugh out loud, smile, clap, stand up, and respond vocally during a virtual setting, that does not mean that this engagement is completely lost. It’s also important to keep in mind that the person who looks like they’re on their phone the whole time may just be live tweeting the event, or the person with a blank expression on their face may be having an internal epiphany and fully enjoying the event, although it may not be not outwardly visible to the speaker.
A way that you can help your performer better read the room through a laptop is by encouraging them to maintain eye contact. Also, find the thumbnail images of those people who are giving the best feedback and keep their screen on those attendees.
Utilizing the engagement tools within a platform is also an excellent way to gauge the audience’s attentiveness. Encourage people to vote during polls, participate in breakout rooms, ask questions during the Q&A, share thoughts in the chat room, and utilize the emojis available to them. Learn about other ways to increase virtual event engagement.
Physical energy does not have to be lost in the digital world. Encourage the audience to stand up and participate, give a wave if they’ve enjoyed the presentation, or high-five the camera instead of clapping to provide a striking visual response rather than a verbal one.
Incorporate music into an event when appropriate. You can start a presentation with music playing in the background, or you can take it a step further and encourage movement by having people dance and sing along to the song.
An event is only as fun as the event performer. If the audience can tell and hear the performer say they’re having fun, the audience is more inclined to have fun as well. Watching a speaker speak passionately is one of the most captivating things for an audience.
Even through a screen, audiences can tell when a speaker is being inauthentic. At the end of the day, people are tuned into the webinar to hear what the speaker has to say, not what you think they want to hear. Encourage your speaker to be themselves and share their message whole-heartedly.
Still not convinced? Watch Sekou Andrew’s video yourself to learn how to master the virtual meeting.
Book Sekou Andrews For Your Next Event!
Sekou is the best in the business, and we’d love to connect you for your next meeting. Take a look at Sekou Andrew’s speaking profile and see for yourself why he was nominated as the first contemporary poet in 12 years to receive the Grammy nomination for Best Spoken Word Album.
Produce Your Next Event with LAI!
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