Preparing Presenters for Your Virtual Association Conference

Educational opportunities are one of the key reasons people attend association-based conferences. Apart from meeting like-minded people and industry peers, attendees want to learn about topics like the latest research, industry trends, and new ways of conducting business. 

This is why conference organizers assemble the best speakers in the industry to offer presentations that pique the curiosity of attendees and create immersive learning experiences. Most speakers are familiar with the territory of in-person conferences. They know how to engage the audience when presenting from the podium. 

However, when an event goes virtual, those speakers are likely presenting to audiences who are several miles away, by means of a virtual platform. This format requires additional preparation to ensure top-notch presentations.

Therefore, when planning a virtual conference, you should have a standard guide to prepare presenters to offer standout presentations during your virtual conference. We recommend that you discuss the following areas with your presenters:

Ready to learn more about getting your presenters prepared for outstanding sessions? Let’s get started.


Content Preparation and Delivery Formats

Agreeing on content delivery format is a great place to start when preparing your presenters. For a virtual conference, you might consider the following formats: 

Talking Head(s) Lecture

During this type of presentation, the presenter is captured on video in seating or standing position while speaking. The speakers can view their prepared notes during the session, hidden from the eyes of the audience.  Viewers follow along by watching and listening.

On-Screen Presentation

During an onscreen presentation, the speaker presents as they navigate through prepared slides, but they do not show their face. The audience can hear the speaker and see the slides and screen, but can’t see the face behind the voice.

A Combination of the Two

A split-screen format shows both the speaker and the presentation to the audience. If you have multiple presenters you’ll have to decide if they’ll all be on screen together or if they will switch on and off camera.

Your event team can decide whether presenters can choose their preferred format, or you can advise based on what will resonate more with the audience for a particular presentation. Some attendees may prefer seeing the face of the presenter, even if there are slides. Be sure to agree on your approach ahead of time, and guide them on how to set up.

Master Deck PowerPoint or Solo Presentations?

Another aspect to decide on is whether you will use a master deck for presentations, or each presenter will have to design and control their own slides. 

For a more uniform approach, you can create a master deck and send it to presenters to base their slides from. This approach makes it easier to control basic branding in the presentations. You can also decide how your presenters will deliver their slides. Will you grant each presenter remote access on the virtual event platform, or have them screen share from home to control the flow of their own presentation, or have a production control team drive the presentation based on a pre-provided script and storyboard from the speaker.

Requirements for Presentation Equipment

If speakers are presenting from home, consider setting minimum requirements for the equipment they will use to ensure the best production quality. Some of these factors include system and/or mobile requirements, internet speed, audio quality, and video quality.

System & Mobile Requirements

Although most virtual event platforms and mobile event apps are compatible with a variety of devices, it is not out of place to obtain specific requirements from your platform or app provider and send them to your presenters. The main concern here is that the processing speed of the presenter’s devices can support the speed requirement of the platform or app.

Reliable and High-Speed Internet

Your presenters need reliable, high-speed internet for seamless streaming. A slow or unstable internet may cause cracks or breaks and will, ultimately, result in poor attendee experience. Therefore, you should recommend minimum internet speed requirements to your presenters. It’s also a good idea to advise your presenters to dedicate their internet for their presentation and disconnect other devices from the signal. That way, their signal strength can be fully utilized for the presentation.

Audio Quality

For quality audio streaming, presenters should not rely on the base microphones of their computers. Instead, recommend suitable microphones for presenters to purchase or borrow.  If you have the means, you can even mail your own standard microphones to them and guide them on how to set them up. 

Video Quality

Video quality is very important for audience engagement. Presenters should use cameras that are capable of producing full HD videos. If a presenter cannot guarantee that kind of video quality, you might send them a presentation kit containing the recommended portable microphone and camera, and guide them on how to install them to have an optimal presentation.

Presenters’ Environment Considerations

A few components are important to consider concerning the presenters’ environments. This includes the backdrop, lighting, and background noise of the environment they’ll be speaking from. All of these aspects play a significant role in video and audio quality, and you should advise presenters about them accordingly.


The space where the presenter is speaking should provide sufficient lighting so that the video will not be blurry or dark. For optimal video quality, the presenter should face light rays, such as windows, instead of having them behind.


We recommend a plain backdrop or background. Alternatively, speakers may opt for a neutral or relevant background, such as a wall of bookcases. Presenters should give sufficient clearance between their location and the backdrop while presenting.


Presenters should be advised to select the best area in their home or office to serve as their speaking base. The location should be comfortable for them and free from noise, sounds, and outside distractions. They should also be advised to put their cellphones and other devices on silent mode. Any notification sound from those devices can be picked by a headset and cause distraction for attendees (and the speaker!).

Presenters’ Appearance Considerations

Presenters should wear solid colors and avoid high contrast tones such as white, black or red. Such colors can create illusions and negatively affect video quality. They should avoid clothes with stripes, busy patterns, writings, and icons.

In addition to clothing guidelines, presenters should be advised on the use of jewelry. They should not wear flashy, shiny, or dangling jewelry because these items can disrupt video or sound.

Walkthrough of Audience Engagement Features

You should guide presenters through audience engagement features on the platform you are using before the actual presentation. Your virtual event platform or mobile event app should have features for speakers to engage the audience during their presentation, such as:

  • Q&A
  • Polls
  • Contests
  • Gamification
  • Animations

Encourage presenters to prepare relevant questions, polls, and games ahead of the conference and insert them at the appropriate place in their presentation. Presenters should have their own view as well as some control via the platform or on the mobile app.

Demo Event With Presenters

After walking your presenters through all the steps, schedule a demo presentation with all your event speakers so that they can get familiar with the platform. Then, you can determine if anything needs correction or improvement. Consider the following checklist of what to inspect during the demo:


Be sure that all content has been uploaded on the platform, including polls, Q&A, games, etc. and that the presenters can launch each feature independently when it is time. 


Ensure the presenter’s gadgets (internet, microphone, and camera) are up to par and that they are properly set.

Operation Base

Let the presenter set up in the room they intend to use for the presentation and ensure that each aspect (lighting, backdrop, and noise interference) is optimized.


Ask presenters to dress similarly to their intended look on the day of their presentation to ensure that the outfit is good enough for the video quality.


As speakers create their mock presentations, pay attention to their pitch and energy level. Advise them on how they can keep their energies high day-of, so that they can communicate effectively and keep the audience engaged.

Your event moderator should be part of the mock event, so they are familiar with each presentation. The moderator will be steering the event, so they should be able to help the audience make connections between different sessions. 

Every event planner knows that, even with all these preparations, things can go wrong. This is why it is recommended to have a communication channel with all the presenters. In the case of unforeseen circumstances, you will be able to make quick fixes together. You can create this channel on the virtual event platform or mobile event app, or you can have a separate channel on a popular instant messaging app in case someone cannot log into the platform at all. 

Jordan Schwartz is president and co-founder of Pathable, an event app and website platform for conferences and tradeshows. He left academic psychology for the lure of software building, and spent 10 years at Microsoft leading the development of consumer-facing software. Frustrated with the conferences he attended there, he left Microsoft in 2007 with the goal of delivering more value and better networking opportunities through a next-generation conference app. Jordan moonlights as a digital nomad, returning often to his hometown of Seattle to tend his bee hives.






How to Engage Participants in Your P2P Virtual Event

Physical peer-to-peer events — like runs, walks, and rides — have been a key fundraising tool for nonprofits for years. But now, virtual peer-to-peer fundraising events and campaigns have taken on a vitally important role in fundraising, too.

In normal times, online peer-to-peer events can be a less expensive way to raise funds year-round in between in-person events. Today, when physical events aren’t practical or restricted, they’re must-haves. They can help nonprofits engage with constituents and make them feel part of a community, even when they can’t connect in person. 

There are multiple approaches to peer-to-peer fundraising that go beyond physical events. Virtual peer-to-peer events generally fall into two categories: Virtual events/campaigns and do-it-yourself (DIY) virtual events/campaigns. With virtual campaigns, a nonprofit provides an online environment for supporters to set up their own fundraising pages in support of a virtual event or campaign created by the organization. DIY virtual events/campaigns allow participants to host their own virtual events or campaigns and invite friends and family to the events to raise funds for a specific campaign for your organization.

Whether you’re moving an in-person eve\nt to a virtual event, or launching a completely new virtual event, getting participants to sign up to fundraise for your organization (and providing them with basic details, sample emails, and suggestions about how to raise funds from their family and friends) is just the beginning. Your ability to reach your fundraising goals depends greatly on your ability to engage with your peer-to-peer virtual event participants and keep them motivated to raise funds. 

Here are six effective ways to get your peer-to-peer virtual event participants more involved and ultimately increase donations:

1. Host Facebook Live events.

Facebook is a great way to connect with peer-to-peer fundraising participants. Host regular Facebook Live events with your participants on a variety of topics to help them raise funds and keep them inspired to support your cause. Here are some example topics for Facebook Live events:

  • An overview of your nonprofit’s impact on your mission 
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising tips and strategies
  • Q&A with a top fundraiser from a previous peer-to-peer event or campaign

2. Issue social media challenges.

By its very nature, peer-to-peer fundraising is a social activity. Create social media challenges to get participants more excited about your virtual event and help them engage with their potential donors. For example, at the beginning of the week, post a challenge online via your website and social media. (For those participants who aren’t super users of social media, you might want to email the challenge as well.) Challenges can be related to your organization’s mission, such as “the participant who posts the most pet themed photos wins the challenge,” or generic, like “the participant with the most donor selfies wins.”  Then, promote the winner online in the following week as part of a “winner’s corner,” or through a special shout-out if your virtual event has a live element. 

3. Use theme days.

Participants who feel as if they’re part of a group and are having fun are more likely to feel engaged with your organization and with the peer-to-peer event they’ve signed up to support. One way to foster a sense of community among participants is to establish theme days. For example, designate a “crazy hat” day in which participants wear their most unusual hat and post selfies to your event’s community page, or have your participants wear their favorite sport team’s jersey.

4. Send out a call for videos.

Ask participants to create videos to help inspire other participants. For example, ask your top fundraisers to develop a short video about why they’re raising funds for your organization or what have been their most effective approaches for raising funds from friends and family. Provide them with a few guidelines (length of video, topics, file format), an example video, and details about how you’ll use the videos (to send as motivation for other participants) so they have context as they create their videos.

5. Provide incentives.

Those who sign up for your peer-to-peer virtual event or campaign already have shown interest in raising funds for your organization. But a little extra incentive can give them a nudge to keep up the fundraising momentum. For example, offer a t-shirt, an online gift card, or other gift for participants who reach specified fundraising milestones.

6. Educate your participants.

Getting your participants more knowledgeable about your nonprofit and your mission will help them be more effective at sharing your organization’s message with potential donors. For example, create a treasure map or scavenger hunt for your participants to explore your website so they can become more well-versed with your cause. Make it fun and informative by leading participants to different areas of your website or social media. Give them instructions on how to submit their answers via social media, online form, or email. Offer weekly prizes for those who have completed the activity correctly, or include a grand prize drawing. This is an ideal approach for participants who are new to your cause. 

Keeping your participants engaged and inspired to raise funds for your organization is key to peer-to-peer fundraising event or campaign success. There’s almost no end to the ways you can inspire participants. It just takes some planning, creativity, and a bit of extra work. But the results will be well worth it. 

Need more ideas or an extra set of hands for your virtual events or campaigns? Contact Cathexis Partners.

Laura L. Higgins, Strategic Consultant, Cathexis Partners

Laura specializes in fundraising and community-building events. She has worked with nonprofits for more than 15 years.