Note from Jan: This is the unedited transcript. I have launched a virtual summit today, the Build Your Audience Online Summit. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to prep this podcast but I’ll get the transcript edited in the next 24 hours.
This episode is all about conducting stellar summit sessions for your virtual event so that your attendees get a ton of value from setting aside the time to watching the sessions and to attending your event.
So I want to talk about how you can conduct an excellent summit session, and it all starts by knowing your desired outcome. When you reach out to the speaker for a summit, you need to know what exact topic they can cover at your event and what the result is that the speaker can bring to your attendees.
What lesson could they teach, or what story could they share that makes attending your event worthwhile? You need to know your desired outcome before really anything else. Then, before you start going on a call with the speaker, you need to have a few things. And that is first and foremost; you need to have solid audio quality. People can overlook mediocre video quality when watching video interviews, but a lousy audio quality will turn people away almost immediately.
So you need to invest in a solid microphone. You need to invest in soundproofing, maybe so they can be blankets that you put over a hard wooden floor, for example. It can be soundproofing on the wall to reduce some echo, then what you need is proper lighting. So the easiest way to improve video quality is not so much by getting a better camera.
That helps. Of course, but if you say of a mediocre camera, like Logitech C nine, 20, or C nine 30 webcams, you can improve the video quality by having proper lighting. And one thing that might be contradictory to what you hear most videographers say is I wouldn’t use sunlight unless you don’t have the budget to get like a $50 key light going on because sunlight is too inconsistent.
You have clouds. You have rain. You have days where the sun isn’t shining as strong. And throughout the recording of a virtual summit, where you have anywhere from 10 to 50 to 80, maybe speakers on your event, people will notice inconsistent lighting qualities. So that is what I would recommend; getting artificial lighting.
If you can, I would invest in a Gato key light or a Gato key light ALS; those are pretty expensive, but the video quality benefits heavily from them. I’m using one myself, and it makes all the difference because it is straightforward to adjust and calibrate now with lighting out of the way. We need to talk about camera gear too.
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I’ve already mentioned the Logitech C920 or C930 as good starting cameras. Good enough to get a summit started. I use C nine 20 for my first event. The next step would be a Logitech Brio, a 4k webcam, but it’s still a webcam. And then the next step after that would be a DSLR camera with something like a cam link so that you can have the HDMI input as a webcam.
My current setup is a Sony A 5100 with a Sigma F 1.4 16 mm lens connected to a cam link from Elgato. And they’d set me back around a thousand dollars when I bought it. Now, with the gear out of the way, let’s talk about preparation. How can you prepare for an extraordinary summit session?
The first thing: I want you to be aware that you should keep things real, and you should try to have a genuine conversation with the expert, find a topic and angle that the speaker hasn’t talked about too much in other interviews, because that would just bore them. And frankly, you wouldn’t have any unique content because if the questions have been asked over and over again, your attendees can go to YouTube to search for other interviews with the same expert, and they would find the same information.
So you want to get a refreshing perspective on the topic? The expert is the expert, and you want to have an excellent and unique angle at the topic of your speaker. And also, you should create a note-taking document and note down what topics you want to cover. And what’s the general flow and the general structure of the conversation should be like, And lastly, is the preparation.
It should be taken for granted, but I want to hammer this home here. It would help if you did your research well, so that is probably anywhere from two to four hours of research per speaker, at least so that you are flexible enough to go with the flow of the conversation instead of following your intended structure. You never know what type of questions.
Come up. You never know what type of ancestor expert gifts. So instead of being tied to the same set of questions that you’ve prepared, you want to be able to go with the flow of the conversation; during the pre-call just before you hit record. But you are already on the call with the speaker.
Firstly, you need to break the ice with a little bit of small talk and sharing liberal stories of what you had going on that given day and ask the guest what he had going on. And then you should talk about logistics. That is their internet connection. Stable. Can you hear me? And how am I coming through?
Okay. Do you have the next 45 to 60 minutes blocked? Adjust the time to whatever you blocked with the guest, however long your sessions should be really. And then this is a significant one. Can I double-check how to pronounce your name correctly? I’m German, and my name got a portrait.
So many times, I have heard so many different variations that I couldn’t care less about by now, but obviously, it always creates a bit of a sour taste with your guests. So make sure that you pronounce the name correctly and give them the proper introduction. When we hit record during the pre-call, you also want to share the desired outcome for the session.
So tell the speaker, tell your guest what you want attendees to take away from that interview, what it is that you want to achieve with an interview so that the guests can adjust their answers for that. And lastly, of course, you want to make sure that the guest doesn’t have any questions left open, so you want to cover those before you hit record as well.
And before you hit record, what I do is I do a quick count on like a three, two, one. Then leave a five-second pause. And then, I get started with the recording so that in the editing, I can separate the preset from the start of the recording during the recording. You want to get the introduction.
So that is two to three sentences to cover your details, cover the speaker’s information, and set the speaker’s stage. You want to ask open-ended questions that invite very extensive, very detailed answers. So you can get that conversation started. The first question is critical.
So you might want to script that because that sets the tone for the entire conversation you are about to record. You want to ask questions, which you are naturally curious about so that an honest curiosity shines through during the whole discussion. And you want to prepare yourself for awkward silences or mental blanks, and you want to have fallback questions ready in these situations.
Let me give you two examples of these fallback questions. One would be, what do you want to be remembered for? And the second would be. Did you ever have a moment when you wanted to give up? Those two questions always get a nice conversation back? Rolling. It would be best if you were ready to guide the interview to lead the discussion’s flow and interrupt your speakers as needed.
This can be subbed to body movements. You can get very excited and start talking about the end of their sentence. Usually, you want to let the speaker speak the most? That is why you invite them, frankly. You want to have the guest be talking most of the time, but if you fear that they’re going off-topic and getting into rent, which is just all too human, we all do this from time to time, then you need to be ready to interrupt kindly, of course. And to get the conversation back on track.
And lastly, while you are recording, you want to have your note-taking sheet ready to have the general flow of the discussions at hand; you have all the topics you want to cover in the session at hand. And you want to always think about the outcome for your attendees before asking a question.
It would be best if you thought about what the attendees will get out of the answer. What is it that you want to convey with that question? What is it that the attendees should learn or should understand when the guest answers your question? And if you feel that the flow of a conversation has moved into a different focus.
That is when your preparation should kick in. And when you should be in the position that you know enough about the topic of expertise from your guests, that you can venture into that new topic that you didn’t have planned, even though you didn’t plan for it, you should be ready to talk about things.
And there is no shame in admitting that you don’t know something. I do that all the time in my expert interviews. And that is because it’s honest. And the one thing that people and some of the attendees value the most is this curiosity and honesty. To understand something and by putting yourself into the same shoes as your attendees, you are making the interview that much more valuable for them.
You are making the interview so interesting for them by admitting that you don’t know something. Because then the expert has to explain whatever it is that you’re talking about in a way that not just you understand it, but also that the attendees will surely understand it. So that is always a good thing.
And it’s not something negative. If you say, I don’t know, on the record, and that’s the post-recording. Use the time to build a relationship. So when you schedule a recording time with an expert, maybe you intend to schedule a 30 to 45-minute interview. I would recommend to at least schedule for one hour in that situation. You need to have the time before the interview to set the stage during the pre-call to break the ice, get their logistics straight, stuff like that.
And then you want to have a little bit of time after the recording to build a relationship, to provide feedback to the guests, and to have the guests give feedback to yourself. You want to ask for a referral because the value is introduced quite a lot, especially these high-level speakers.
So they might be able to introduce you to some of their friends and who could be a good fit for your summit. And you want to keep it short. So there’s no point in continuing with small talk after the summit if you’re not genuinely interested in building the relationship. You don’t want to take up much more time of your speaker than what you have scheduled.
Don’t go overtime if you can avoid it, especially the more known experts. They’re the popular influencers that you are interviewing. They have back-to-back meetings all day, every day. So if you go over time, it impacts the entire workday, and that’s certainly not how you want to be remembered being the summit host.
Once you got off the call. Immediately check the recording for quality problems so they can be audio quality could be video quality. You want to roll those out straight away and eventually talk to your team about whether there is a video problem, for example, if that can be fixed or if you need to rerecord.
And then lastly, you want to upload the recording to cloud storage to avoid data loss. So these are very brief, but I think beneficial tips on conducting fantastic summit sessions for your virtual summit. You can check the show notes at vsmpodcast.com slash five to get everything in written form and get the most important highlights.
Again, from this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast. If you want to learn more about hosting neutral summits, leave us a review. If you don’t mind, that always helps. And listen to the previous episodes if you want to understand better what goes into planning a virtual summit.
Thanks so much for listening.