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Can Professional Speakers Still Shine in the Age of Zoom?

Transitioning from Stage Presence to Screen Presence.

No one would question that virtual meetings have become the new normal.  Certainly they are a must for the moment.  However, with many people possibly continuing to work from home even after the effects of the Covid-19 health crisis dissipate, many predict that this seismic shift from actual in-person stage presentations, conferences and panel discussions to virtual “gatherings” will continue indefinitely.  If that does become a reality, what’s the professional speaker, the keynoter, the platform performer to do? Will they still find work?

It’s an interesting question, at a time when everyone is seen on Zoom, Blue Jeans and other virtual “meeting halls”  in a Hollywood Squares type of framework—perhaps with the added complexities of a demanding child, attention-seeking pet or even a towel-clad partner appearing in the background.  So will the seasoned speaker soon become a relic of the past, giving way to either amateur- only speakers, or professionals who are not able to adapt to the technology-heavy requirements that are as critical to success, in a virtual environment, as being a dynamic presenter?

“No problem,” according to one highly experienced speaker. Diane DiResta, a professional speaker who also trains other speakers on how to shine in a virtual setting, is one of only 2% of professional speakers with a *Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation, the speaking profession’s international measure of professional platform skill.  This month she became one of only a handful of professional speakers to have been awarded the new “Certified Virtual Presenter” designation offered by eSpeakers—the organization which is the premiere resource for event planners, associations, speakers bureaus and organizations who are in search of a professional speaker.

 DiResta, explaining the reason for her optimism, says: “Covid-19 has hit the speaking industry hard, with many speaking engagements cancelled. On a positive note, I love all the creative ways those in my industry are rising to the challenge. This new certification is a prime example of ingenuity. It’s a way to assess the speaker’s skills and equipment in this new environment. When the speaker displays the Certified Virtual Presenter badge, it tells the client and audience participants that they can expect a high quality remote experience with you as an easy-to-see and easy-to-hear presenter, free from technical issues.”

DiResta thinks that this change is going to be largely permanent.  “I don’t think we’ll stop these widespread virtual presentations, though there may be other companies coming into the space with improvements,” she predicts. Adding a caveat, she says, “Unfortunately, the skills of even highly seasoned keynote speakers or corporate leaders do not always translate well to the virtual platform. It’s a new skill everybody needs to learn, including job candidates.  Speakers who primarily do keynotes from the main stage are hoping to return and get aid to do virtual stand up keynotes for virtual summits. This new certification is a way for meeting planners to identify professional speakers who can master the virtual platform.”

When we asked some eSpeakers evaluators what they tend to focus on, their answer was that they look at specific details so that high standards are upheld and are consistent for everyone. In addition to how they make eye contact and their interaction, and presentation skills, candidates for the new Virtual Presenter Certifications are also assessed on their internet connection, audio quality, microphones, lighting, backdrop, screen staging and overall presence.

DiResta is the founder of DiResta Communications, Inc, a New York City communication skills consultancy serving business leaders poised to give high stakes presentations, whether one-on-one, to a large audience, or from an electronic platform. She’s the author of the Amazon best-selling book, Knockout Presentations.

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