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Speaking at virtual drone conferences vs. in-person ones

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Coronavirus has changed a number of things in the drone industry. For thought leaders and networking gurus, a big change comes from the transition away from in-person events to virtual drone conferences. Nearly every major, annual drone conference went virtual this year.

And that’s been a big shift for thought leaders like aerial photographer Fiona Lake. While her resume includes having spoken at drone conferences across 4 continents, this year her life looks more like speaking at virtual drone conferences from her living room via Zoom.

In Part 4 of a 4-part interview series with Lake about speaking at conferences, Lake shares how to successfully speak at online drone conferences.

Missed Parts 1, 2 and 3? Last week, Lake shared how to get paid to speak at drone conferences. In Part 2, she dole out advice for giving the best drone conference presentation, and in the first in this series she shared how to get booked to speak at drone conferences for the first time. 

Fiona Lake

Drone Girl: Basically every drone conference has gone virtual this year! What’s your take?

Fiona Lake: In-person presentation audiences are usually limited to people who’ve spent a lot to attend and made a big effort to travel. That’s a relatively small and quantifiable number of people. Online events open the door to a potential global audience of hundreds or even thousands of people.

DG: And what does that mean for online presentations?

FL:  This reduces the likelihood of the speaker being given the opportunity to run a similar presentation anywhere else.

DG: Totally. Of the online drone conferences I’ve spoken at, I’ve definitely done a fresh presentation for each one – for that reason!

FL: Additionally, many conference organisers have thankfully shortened online sessions to a succinct 10 minutes  — far more engaging for an online audience. But online presentations require even more work to be riveting, and pre-recording a presentation video adds more preparation time.

DG: Definitely. While I save time in travel, I actually do find myself spending more time getting my video together and editing it if it’s pre-recorded.

FL: And in that vein, this year’s shift to online events has highlighted the lack of organiser consideration regarding what’s in it for presenters.

Many conference organisers are recording sessions and requesting that these videos be put online, and if the event is not driven by profit-making then viewers may not even need to log in to watch. Very few online conference organisers have considered the value of the presenter’s intellectual property and how to protect it or pay for it.

DG: It does seem like a lot of the benefits we discussed in Part 3 about speaking at conferences even if you’re not getting paid go away when it comes to virtual drone conferences.

FL:  The primary, certain benefits of presenting at conferences include learning from watching other presentation styles, meeting and talking with other speakers and audience members, plus travel.

With online presenting – there’s the same amount of preparation involved but virtually zero benefits. Online presenting would appeal to people selling goods or services to the audience, employees promoting their company or organisation as part of their paid job or someone starting out who really wants to run on the board as a presenter — none of which are likely to make a riveting conference from the audience’s point of view.

For experienced presenters, online presenting can be giving away intellectual property for little or no return. The fact that conference organisers have evidently not thought to pass venue savings on to presenters by offering to pay anything for their time and intellectual property speaks volumes.

DG: Do you think this means online conferences will have a hard time finding great speakers unless they pay them?

FL: After the pandemic situation has eased there may be conference organisers who want to continue the online model because it’s so much easier for them to organise and cheaper to run. But I think they will find many presenters will be reluctant to participate in future unless there are some clear benefits for them – such as payment or greater promotion.

DG: That’s really interesting. It does seem like online conferences are a good short-term band-aid, but you’re right. That’s a really interesting point about the caliber of speakers possibly going down for online events, unless they’re paid. And it’s a bit of a chicken or the egg, because people are probably less likely to pay to attend virtual events.

FL: This year has shone a light onto the murky topic of what actually is in it for speakers.

DG: Absolutely! Thank you again for your time with this interview series! You are a wealth of info! If people want more info, where can they find you?

FL: I’ve written two blog posts (here and here) to address common concerns women express regarding public speaking. The principles are global, even though these posts were written from an Australian point of view and are mainly concerning agricultural events.

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