Hosting virtual events can be a huge challenge for a lot of people. There’s a lot to consider, including audio, video, equipment, software, and many more. Even if you’re not actually in front of an audience face-to-face, the stage fright and anxiety can still kick in. In today’s episode, award-winning vocalist and CEO of Beyond Virtual Events Ella Glasgow shares her expert tips for making an impact on the audiences of your virtual events. Equipped with more than 20 years of professional stage experience, Ella shares how to wow your audience even if you’re miles away from them physically.
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Rock Your Next Virtual Event With Ella Glasgow
Before I get to my very exciting guest, I’d like to invite you to see where your presentation skills are strong and where they might not be by taking our free four-minute assessment at SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. That’s where in four minutes you can see where your presentation skills are strong and where perhaps a little bit of support could get you the results you need and the recognition that you deserve. Plus, if you score highly enough, you can get free assessment results to call me and I can give you advice and help you do it at no cost.
In this episode, my expert is Ella Glasgow of Beyond Virtual Events. She is so exciting. I’ve been trying to get her onto the show for quite some time. She’s also a singer and performer and we trade theater stories. She also does virtual events for companies where if you have a presentation to give, a training class or something like that, she and her team will facilitate it, make it fun, make it memorable and all the things that you want to do, whereas you don’t have to spend the time doing that. You can focus on the things that you’re good at and have her help you.
Ella’s official bio is Ella Glasgow is an award-winning vocalist and a two-time bestselling author. She’s the mommy to a precocious kid and the leader at the helm of Beyond Virtual Events. She incorporates her years on the professional stage, using her diverse skillset to help her clients create impactful virtual and hybrid events that wow their communities and increase connections and commitment to their cause without pulling their hair out, trying to deal with the tech, the logistics and the delivery of their events. Ella Glasgow is such a delight. I know that you’ll have fun with this interview. Here comes Ella Glasgow.
Ella Glasgow, I am so happy to have you as a guest on the show. Welcome.
I’m happy to be here.
We’ve been back and forth saying, “When are we going to do this? How are we going to get this? What do we talk about?” We then found something. Before I get into this large list of questions I have for you, let me ask you about your dream interview. If you could be on stage interviewing somebody who’s no longer with us, whom would it be? What would you ask them? Who should be listening?
I want to interview Ella Fitzgerald. It’s obvious and not obvious at the same time because Ella Fitzgerald has been a constant in my life. My name is Ella so there’s that. The crazy thing about that is at one point, I tried to change my name because I was tired of being compared to Ella Fitzgerald and I didn’t necessarily want to sing jazz. I finally gave in and she made me write a whole show called Ella Sings Ella. There you go.
The spirit of Ella Fitzgerald made you do that.
It sat me down and made me do it, except for my fate.
What would you ask her?
I’d ask her a lot of things but I would love to get inside her mind about how she pulled that music into her. When I was researching the music that she did, she has at least twenty different recordings of the same song. “How did you have all of these ideas? Where did that even start for the same song?”
Who should be listening to your interview? Whom are you going to invite to this event?
I’m inviting everyone, creatives especially. We’re always looking for that next muse for ourselves. Being able to hear those that have gone before us and see how they processed the world around them, the information that they had at the time and then took that and utilized it is always interesting. I’ve always studied people that I admire, whether it be through video or listening to what it is that they do.
That should be a fun one. Maybe the two of you sing a little something and do a little improv around it. Wouldn’t that be fun? That would be cool. Ella G, you are a performer and a creative but you also have a company called Beyond Virtual Events. First of all, with my years in opera, I love talking to singers and did a whole show about the relationship between business and art. I want to ask you a little bit about the relationship between business and art. Art is business.
In Beyond Virtual Events, what do you do for people who are in corporate life, whether they’re presenting themselves or putting an event together? Let me ask you about people doing a presentation. Say you’re a senior director doing an important presentation about what your team is doing. What are the biggest mistakes that presenters make? Let’s say just three.
The biggest mistake that I see with presenters when it comes to virtual presentations is that they forget that people are watching. It’s almost the same thing that I say to people that are even on the in-person stage. “We can see you.” There are those people that get onto the stage, do weird things with their hands and faces and forget that we can still see them. Just because you’re not speaking, it’s not your turn. If you’re on the stage, we can see you.The biggest mistake presenters make when it comes to virtual presentations is that they forget that there are people watching. Click To Tweet
When I say, “Some speakers forget that people can see them,” it’s depending on the type of virtual presentation that you’re doing, meaning the platform that you’re on. More often than not, people are not necessarily doing presentations on Zoom. A lot of people are doing presentations where the environment is unto themselves. I’ve been a part of those events that were not on Zoom and I couldn’t physically see the audience. It’s easy to forget that people are there.
The thing that has to be remembered is whether or not people are there at that moment in time, you are speaking to people if there is a replay. You have to speak to that eye of the camera as though someone is looking back at you and that takes practice. That takes remembering whom you’re talking to and making it so that you’re talking to one person. Not everyone, just one person. More likely than not, the people that are watching you, whether it be live or replay, they’re probably sitting by themselves.
That’s one mistake, forgetting that there’s an audience. I saw once live a woman who was at the front of the stage at the podium and then there was a panel behind her. After she did her speech, then she was going to walk over and join the panel. One of the men spent the entire time fussing with his cough. He had a dark suit and a white shirt so the white shirt kept coming out. He’s crossing and recrossing his legs, coughing and playing with his notes.
You couldn’t watch her. She was trying her best. She wasn’t terribly good, frankly. The thing that annoyed me was that the moderator didn’t stop him. The moderator should have stopped him. He spent the entire time stealing the focus. I wondered what the speaker had done to him that he was taking revenge that way unless he was being a horrible person.
The unfortunate thing is it goes back to what I said, “People don’t realize that we can see them.” I would love to say that it’s just professionals. When I say professionals, I’m talking about professional performers that have this awareness of the people around them on stage. I’ve seen even professional performers make these basic mistakes because these are basic mistakes. The thing is that all we’re asking is for you to be aware that you are not alone.
It’s all about communication also and how you reach people. You and I have both spent decades doing this. I have a few more decades than you have. How do you reach people? Communication is the heart of how society works and how we deal with other human beings.
In the best way, remember that you’re not alone and understand that if you are the one being the featured speaker, the intention is everything. As easy as it is to gloss over that experience that you’re having of speaking into that camera in a room all alone, it will take you some time to get used to that feeling of bringing the intention of the person that you’re talking to. You have to take a moment to visualize who it is you’re talking to.
Some people visualize better than others. Am I saying that you have to have a complete movie sequence in your head? No, but at least have an idea. I’m speaking to Jane in Human Resources who is frustrated with life. The systems and processes that they have going on are bogging everything down. All she wants from me is to have her understand how she can use what she has to reach the employees that she’s trying to reach. That’s where she’s trying to go. That’s my scene and story speaking directly to that.
That’s one mistake. Give me two more.
With virtual presenters, the world of virtual is a wild west. There are rules but because it’s “new.” One of my mentors is John Chin. He’s been pushing for virtual events for the past several years he’s been on the train. That’s why I say “new.” The rules are still being laid out and everyone is doing the best that they can and doing things that work for them. This is a conversation that John and I had about our styles. He and I have very different styles of presenting. We both excel at the styles that we have. We’re speaking to another presenter that also has a different style from the two of us. You have to take into consideration but also understand the audience that you’re speaking to or the audience that you desire to speak to.
Rule number one, know your audience and make it about them.
One of the ways that you can help with your audience is what it is that you’re putting onto the screen or how you’re putting it onto the screen. The biggest faux pas that I see in virtual and in-person events is what is going on on that slide. I don’t feel you must have slides but if you feel you must have a slide, that’s another story for another day. Please do not make it a book because if it’s a book, why am I here listening to you? I could have just read.
No charts, please. If you have a chart, pull out the key thing so that it’s large enough to read.
We’re sitting here on our computers. Some people have the luxury of watching you whilst they’re sitting at their home but oftentimes people are watching on a teeny tiny screen on their phone. If you have the 6 font and 50,000 words on 1 page, why?
The other thing is that in this digital world, it’s so easy, say on a laptop, to shrink the picture down to the corner of your screen, go off and answer your emails. If it’s not interesting, people will navigate away. You have to be interesting, which is a lot of pressure and you have to be clear.
Interesting, clear and purposeful. Even these things that we’re talking about, everything is within the context of what it is that you are doing, what you are talking about and at the end of the day, the ultimate goal that you’re trying to get to and your audience is trying to get to. What you’re putting into your talk, presentation, slides or whatever it is that you put onto the screen, if those things don’t lead to the end goal for yourself and your audience, it’s time to take it out.Whatever you put onto the screen – if those things don't lead to the end goal for yourself and your audience, take it out. Click To Tweet
I always do this. I start with the end and work backwards. Do you do that?
I do. I feel like that’s probably a director-performer thing to start with the end of the show in mind and build towards that end. I’m thinking about a client who’s not necessarily a virtual event client but a show that we’re creating for them. I am looking at the end but also at the middle and the beginning. I’m doing all of it at the same time but at the end of the day, the overall goal is this. If everything that I’m putting in the beginning, middle and end don’t lead to that, then it goes out. It’s what I told her.
There was one thing that she asked me before we had our first interview for her show creation. She told me, “I wish that I have seen you do this and I hope that you can do this particular thing in the show that you’re creating for me.” Once we got through the interview process and I let her know how I’m putting this together, I said, “Do you understand why I told you that may or may not work?” She said, “Now that I see everything that you’re doing. As much as I want it, if it doesn’t make it, I get it.”
That’s the other thing I find with my clients often. They’re saying “Yes, but this detail is so important.” Yet if you are doing a presentation, you have to figure out what are the key things they need to learn and if they want more information, you can follow up with more information.
This is not your opportunity to word-vomit every single thing that you’ve ever learned in your entire life in one 30 to 60-minute presentation. The fact of the matter is they’re not going to get it. While I would love to believe that I am the only person that you are listening to and there’s nobody else that you’re going to listen to the entire day, you’re going to take everything that I’m saying and then marinate on it for the rest of the day, that is not the case. When you are the virtual presenter at an event, that is most certainly not the case. There are going to be several other speakers before you and after you. If you word-vomit everything on them and don’t nail it down to three points, then you will be forgotten.
Let’s pursue this a little bit. We’ll focus on the important presentations. This all applies to the regular meetings that you’re in but if you’re going to take the time to work on a presentation, choose an important one. You are presenting and I am assuming that it’s a business presentation for somebody. Can you talk a little bit about how you construct that? How do you help people do this?
Here’s the other thing, wonderful readers. If you have a full-time job and you’re already working overtime and getting cut through in meetings all day, every day, this is what Ella and her company, Beyond Virtual Events, do. They take that piece of it away from you and help you create something awesome. Tell me how you approach it and why does it matter? Why is it worth outsourcing this to an expert?
One of the biggest reasons is the one that you said. Virtual event production is not everybody’s area of expertise. If your company is not paying you to produce virtual events, learn all the platforms, all the tips and tricks, best practices and all the things, that means that on their dime, you are working on things that you are not being paid for and that means you’re probably working outside of your regular hours, not being paid to do the thing.
On top of that, your company is losing out on the skill that they’re paying you for because you are having to do to split your attention to do the other thing, which means if the thing that you’re being paid for is the other, whatever it is that you’re paid to do, the thing that you’re not paid to do, produce a virtual event is probably going to be on the lackluster side. You’re probably not devoting that much time and attention to it. You’re just trying to get it done.
This is where I hire experts in the places that I’m not good at. I had to learn that this was an investment. When I started thinking about the hours I would spend creating something and the hours I would spend at my hourly rate, then I’d already spent way more time than it would have cost me to hire someone who could do it and it is way faster than I am.
This is for any skill, especially for what it is that we do at Beyond Virtual Events. Somebody has taken the time to learn all the things for that particular thing that you need to be done. Unless your hope and desire are to become a virtual event producer, like that is your dream, then probably it’s best to hand it off to somebody else because you are best utilized doing the thing that you have the skill to do already and are already being paid to do.You are best utilized doing the thing that you have the skill to do already, and are already being paid to do. Click To Tweet
It’s not taking away from your ability to learn or be an awesome person. I don’t want to take any of that away from you but I also want to make sure that you understand there’s a better use of your time, which doesn’t negate the use of having someone like us come in to produce the event for you. In fact, it makes it more valuable because you could be doing the things that you need to.
This is what you need to say when you are applying for the money to hire Ella or me. Give us an example. Maybe say a client who had a terrible event and came to you and you helped make the next one better or a terrible event you’ve seen. We’ve all seen those.
I’m going to tell you about the first client that comes to mind and her first experience with us at an event that they had that was great in person, like when it came time to take it virtually and the reason why she came to us. This particular person goes in line with what you and I were talking about. She was the director of her organization. They put on an event every year in person. It was a women’s event and a business women’s event. They were expecting it to be amazing.
They had all these fun things. There was this ballet tutu thing that happened every year. It was a funny thing that was her schtick for hosting the event and all of these expectations that they had for when they took it virtually. The one thing that she said to me was, “Ella, I could probably figure all this out because event planning is what I do but the bottom line is I don’t have the desire or the time to figure this out.”
With that being said, we took that three-day conference. They had all of those expectations and things. I could tell you that the Facebook group that we created for them is still open and in use. This is years later. They’re still using that Facebook group because I can still see in there. They still talk about our DJ.
We have a live DJ that we bring in for many of our events. He’s my sidekick. I’m emceeing the virtual for our clients. He has a tutu that he wears specifically for the event. They were not expecting it because it was virtual. They didn’t know what would happen. We made sure that it happened the next year when we did the event for them the next year. First of all, they said, “Are they coming back? Will Dave be back and will there be a tutu?” Yes, there was a tutu.
Say you’re someone who has suddenly been handed an event and you can’t hire Beyond Virtual Events but you have to produce something for your company. This is the era of layoffs and so forth, although there are lots of people who are still hiring. There are lots of quiet hirings. It’s the media that’s talking about layoffs because it gets more people to tune in and subscribe.
Say that your company’s senior management believes what they’re hearing in the media that there’s no money and they think that they have no money so they say, “Putty, you are going to run the event all by yourself. No staff, no help, no nothing.” What advice could you give somebody in that situation?
The advice that I would give to someone is exactly what we told a particular client and created for a client that was in that very situation. We’d done a press conference for them and then their very next event was a three-day training conference. This was a group of lawyers and their budget had run out. The event planner had told me, “Ella, they have told me that I don’t have the budget to have you all produce our three-day event. I’m pulling my hair out. I have no clue how I’m going to make this happen, especially for three days.”
I said, “What if I train you?” She said, “I would love you forever.” That very weekend, I said, “Give me the weekend and next week on Tuesday, I’m going to train you for three hours.” That very training that I did for her, we recorded and that’s what we have for our people who are in that situation like Putty. We don’t have the budget to hire an entire BVE team. We don’t even have the budget to have Ella come in and be basic. Our budget is $1,000 and that’s all we’ve got. You have that particular training that I created for that particular client that she told me about after we did it. She said, “Everybody needs this. It saved our event to know what to do.”
I am guessing that the purchase of a training video comes out of a different part of the budget. Somewhere along, someone’s going to be able to authorize that $1,000 from some item in the budget. Maybe not quite so much food in the cafeteria. Maybe you’re not serving beer or something like that. That’s great. I hope you’ll be sending us a link to how to find that and learn that. Why does it matter to practice?
I was talking to a client who is constantly throwing her presentations together at the last minute because there are so many fires to put out. She tries to put out the fires and deal with what she’s being asked and then she finds herself an hour before the event still creating slides. The whole company does that.
First of all, going back to something that I breezed over but it’s so important in this situation that you’re talking about, is to let go of the slides. That will eliminate some stress. I will tell speakers, “If your content is talking about and leaning on slides, it’s not strong enough if it can’t be said without that slide.” I’m here for equal opportunity, learning, understanding and having multiple ways for people to take in the information. Knowing what we said before, most people are not creating impactful slides. They’re creating slides that are packed full of too much information.Most people are not creating slides that are impactful. They're creating slides that are packed full. Click To Tweet
First of all, when it comes to practicing, I would say, “Let go of the slides.” It’s important to practice for reasons that people have said that they feel are the reason to not practice. I’ve seen this said many times. Elizabeth, you’re going to realize what I’m talking about. People will say, “I don’t want to practice because it’s going to make me sound like a robot.” You and I both know that practicing in the right way is what makes you not sound like a robot.
I read something. I don’t remember where I saw it but they were talking about Madonna and her ability to be so fluent and easy on stage. They talked about the fact that Madonna at how old is Madonna and how many years has she been doing it, that she still practices her craft daily because that allows her to get onto the stage and have all of that be muscle memory so that she can be in the moment with her audience.
I think of that as the craft that underlies art and speaking is an art. When you have practiced the craft, you don’t have to think about what are you going to do with your hands. Many people forget that speaking is a physical act. You have to train your lips, tongue and breath to say things, especially if you have complicated phrases like if you’re speaking in a language that’s not your first language or not the first language of your readers.
You have to train your body because you’ve watched people on the stage that feel quite robotic in their movement. You can see and feel the energy from those people that are saying something and making a move with whatever those words are because they were either told by somebody, “You should move now, do your hand like this or nod your head.” They’re doing what they were told to do so not because it was a natural response to the words that they were saying or the words that were being spoken to them. All of that has to be practiced as many times as you’ve watched your favorite speaker.
One speaker that I love watching and listening to is Neil deGrasse Tyson. I listened to an interview with him where he was talking about how he got to the point where he could be so fluent. He talks about the most technical things. He’s talking about the universe, the densest topic of all time, which could be unreachable. Many scientists are unreachable when they talk about those things.
He took the time to study his favorite speakers and watch what they were doing on media. He watched not science speakers because there were not a whole lot of science speakers but he was watching how they were making sound bites. He watched one of his first interviews back and noticed how it was not the greatest. He said, “How can I make what I’m talking about into a sound bite?” He practices it.
It means that you have to allocate time. Here’s another thing that I talk about a lot and I would love to have your thoughts on this. You are always making an impression. You’re probably not going to lose your job if you do a boring, confusing presentation but people will remember. Let me point out that if you are not using slides, you are the visual element. If you are talking like a robot, reading your script and not looking, people will remember that and then make value judgments about you.
Also, the company that you work for. At the end of the day, as the presenter for that particular organization, you may be the first point of contact that the audience has ever seen. You may be the only physical contact beyond the website that that person has ever seen. If you are going in front of that audience, possibly being the first physical person or human that they have ever seen and the first thing that they get from you is dull, you have ruined your company’s expectations for that particular audience who could have been a potential client and may be turned off by your presentation style.
That is a good thing to end on. Ella, there’s so much fun talking to you about all of this. It’s so nice to have someone who’s been in this world and is still in this world. Ella’s a fabulous performer. When you read this and you’re interested, go check her out because she’s a great singer and has lots of fun. Thank you so much for all of this fabulous advice. Ella, thank you for having been a guest on the show.
Thank you for having me. I’m so happy that I got to be here.
Dear readers, if you enjoyed this, please tell your friends. Follow us and leave us a good review on Apple Podcasts. That’s the one that matters. That’s how more people find us. Tell your friends to subscribe. Find us on YouTube. I’ll see you at the next one.
- Beyond Virtual Events
- Neil deGrasse Tyson
- Apple Podcasts – Speakers Who Get Results
- YouTube – Elizabeth Bachman, Strategic Speaking for Results
- https://YouTu.be/tC5hXBt5RIs – Ella Fitzgerald – Sunshine of Your Love 1968
About Ella Glasgow
Ella Glasgow is an award-winning vocalist, 2-time best-selling author, mommy to a precocious 6-year-old, and the leader at the helm. Incorporating her 20+ years on the professional stage, she uses her diverse skillset to help her clients create impactful virtual & hybrid events that wow their communities, increase connections and commitment to their cause without pulling their hair out trying to deal with the tech, logistics and delivery of their events.