The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about some tough times for the events industry. However, seasoned public speakers such as Jerome Joseph have learnt to swim against the tide and keep their businesses afloat and thriving. In this Altafy Exclusive, Joseph shares how he adapted his business model to create new learning experiences for his clientele.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw many physical events being cancelled over the past six months. While learning and development departments were having their purse strings tightened, many still had a decent budget left for employee development.
Corporate speaker and trainer Jerome Joseph was quick to realise this opportunity, and rapidly adapted his programme offerings for a virtual audience. In this article, he outlines the key steps that he took to help his business thrive.
Getting client feedback
When the event cancellations started streaming, the first thing that Joseph and his team did was to get on the phone and talk to their clients. This helped to identify opportunities, concerns and generate new ideas for the coming months. “We needed to look at a complete transformation of our business,” he says.
In addition to switching existing training programmes to a virtual format, Joseph’s team also started exploring virtual programmes that participants could do in their own time. “We drew up a very clear roadmap of where we wanted to go and the response has been amazing. July was my most busy month. I was booked for 18 days of programmes which means we had training sessions almost every day,” says Joseph, who is the CEO of branding agency, The Brand Theatre Worldwide.
“Overall I have seen an increase in revenue for virtual keynotes and workshops. My calendar and pipeline is fast filling up as well,” he adds.
Lights, camera, action
Presenting a virtual event goes beyond setting up a simple slideshow via Zoom, and Joseph pulls out all the stops for his clients.
The first step that he took was to upgrade all of his computer hardware so that it could handle the technical requirements of his presentations in a speedy and seamless manner. He also purchased not one but four Logitech Brio 4K web cameras to enable high quality live streaming, provide different angles of him in action, and also act as a contingency should any one of the cameras fail during a live presentation. Using a HDMI switcher called Atem Mini Pro, Joseph is able to switch between different camera inputs seamlessly at a click of a button.
Good lighting can make a difference between a tired looking presenter and a well rested one. Joseph uses three studio lights to ensure that he is well-lit regardless of the time of the day.
A good internet connection is crucial for a seamless virtual experience. Joseph upgraded his internet bandwidth to 1000 megabits per second (Mbps). He also advises presenters not to rely on a wi-fi connection but use a more stable local area network (LAN) connection.
Joseph prefers to host his presentations via Zoom, a popular virtual meetings software provider. To enhance the live streaming experience and create different scene settings for presentations, Joseph uses Open Broadcast Software (OBS) in combination with Zoom.
Additionally, investing in a simple green screen can help to greatly improve the Zoom meeting experience as it prevents any distortions, advises Joseph.
Engaging a virtual audience
Engaging a virtual audience is a new challenge for speakers who are used to live audience feedback. “If I’m at a conference, I’m speaking to a thousand people. I feed off that energy and raise my game. Now, the virtual platform doesn’t give you that opportunity. You’re looking at the camera and have to imagine that there are a thousand people staring right back at you. And it’s tough. I make it a point to really practice,” says Joseph.
Having a great imagination helps, says Joseph. “You’ve got to imagine that there are a thousand people now staring at you right and hanging on to every single word that you are saying.”
Joseph prefers to stand up while delivering his 45-minute keynote speeches on camera as it adds to his energy and dynamism. “You get to use your hands and move around a little bit more. I stand up cos I want people to see me head on and connect with me.”
However, he adds that he prefers to sit down when he is conducting a two or three hour programme as this gives him more time to talk and really engage with his audience.
Constant audience engagement is key to a successful virtual presentation, says Joseph. He uses chat boxes and online polls to keep the conversation going with his viewers.
Should virtual presentations be priced lower?
Training costs are naturally at the top of everyone’s minds these days especially with smaller budgets being allocated to learning and development efforts.
Joseph’s clients initially requested for discounts to come onboard his virtual training programmes. “Initially, I have to admit, I did that. I was driven a little bit by fear. But after the first two or three discounted programmes I started to realise that I am now motivated by fear and not by my ability to present professionally,” he says.
Virtual presentations require more multitasking, says Joseph. He switches screens, shares slides, and simultaneously engages with his audience via the live chat function. “Everything happens at the same time. I also have to imagine that you are there with me in person. So the work, in my opinion, is a lot harder,” says Joseph, who eventually stopped giving discounts.
With the technology available today, it is possible for virtual audiences to get the same value that they did from attending a physical conference, says Joseph.
“I believe that event organisers need to think along those lines and work with the speakers to provide quality content. If you create world class events, market it right, get your branding right, and pay us as you would have in the past, it’s a win win situation for everyone,” Joseph concludes.
Jerome Joseph is an award winning Brand & Customer Experience Strategist and Speaker focused on Brand Strategy, Brand Experience, Internal Branding, Personal Branding and Customer Experience. With his experience as a CEO and Board Member of a NASDAQ listed brand agency & group, Joseph brings real life brand expertise to the stage.
Joseph is a bestselling author of eight books on Branding. Over his the past 22 years, he has worked with over 1,000 brands, including many Fortune 500 companies, in 33 countries. The combination of real life consulting experience with Fortune 500 companies, global expertise and proven speaking skills makes Joseph a sought after speaker in the market. With his highly infectious personality, fast-paced and interactive style of speaking and storytelling, audiences can expect to be entertained while attaining a wealth of insights from his keynote speeches and workshops. Joseph holds the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation which is held by the top 12% of speakers in the world as a recognition for speaking expertise. To book him for your next event, visit jeromejoseph.com