This year, I participated in my first virtual event as a speaker, and it was a great experience! I'd like to share my takeaways with you, as well as a few thoughts on what's different from the format many of us might be used to.
Uppstart is a Tech event originally held in the city of Uppsala (Sweden). As with many events this year, Uppstart went virtual, and to do so, the organizers opted for the classic, but user friendly, Hopin platform.
Revolving around 20 entrepreneurship tracks (Scaleup, Impact, AI, etc.), the event was hosted on the 4th of September, 2020. Uppstart decided to retain their large audience format and by their count, welcomed more than 4000 attendees, which, in my opinion, is a pretty good result.
As network building is at the core of our expertise at Startup Sesame, I was mobilized as a speaker on a specific topic: “How to build and sustain a startup community in the face of Covid-19?”.
My keynote was scheduled for 15 minutes and I could share my presentation. To their credit, the support and follow-up from the technical team was extraordinary. I had test sessions and proper guidelines from founder, Jason Dainter, ensuring I understood how to connect and access my session as a moderator.
Additionally, I had a volunteer test my session 15 minutes prior to going live double checking that everything was working as planned. As every presenter is nervous, whether it’s on stage or at home behind a webcam, having these technical worries eliminated was a great relief.
As I was hosting the keynote from home (thanks to Covid-19!), I had to prepare my own ‘studio’, (but that’s a whole other story)! I’ll admit it was a bit of a challenge, but I did manage to find a blank white wall in the basement.
In terms of computer height, I used a table and also elevated my Macbook a bit more with a few books (The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz and Chaos Monkeys by Antonio García Martinez worked perfectly).
The background wasn’t exactly perfect (I had an elliptical bike and a Spanish ham in one corner!) but if anyone noticed, I received zero questions about what’s for dinner 😁! And thankfully, I didn’t have to wear headphones, as I wasn’t moderating with someone else, but I made sure there wouldn't be any disturbing sound during the session.
No fancy studio equipment here, I just made sure all the doors and windows were closed, no laundry whirring away in the machine, and my loving family had no problem leaving the house for a few hours. Thanks fam!
While preparing for my virtual keynote, I found these resources highly beneficial:
- Tips & tricks to speak at a virtual conference (Minter Dial)
- How to be a better virtual event speaker (Bannersnack)
Overall, it was a great experience. As mentioned, this was my first virtual keynote, and I really appreciated the short format, the flexibility given to the speakers, and the fact that we all received ample time to introduce ourselves at the beginning of each session.
What Was Missing?
The events industry has been entirely transformed in the wake of the global pandemic. And as such, the rules and "norms" of event attendance have been evolving as well, in some cases, quite dramatically.…
In the “old world”, you had to thoroughly prepare in advance for an event (study the target audience, the topics approached, the attendees identities and style for your stage, etc), now it seems that any and every attendee can simply pop in and pop out whenever they want, and a speaker doesn’t really have to worry about it. Sometimes they don't even see it, as they’re undoubtedly focused on delivering a quality presentation. There are no physically moving bodies trying to find seats, or navigating towards the aisles. At least, this is true for a casual speaker, and I don’t pretend to be anything more than that.
Even though I really enjoyed receiving multiple messages (on Linkedin, mostly) after the session saying that people appreciated the content and my perspectives for the startup ecosystem and events industry, I would have loved to have gotten to know a few more other speakers and/or engage further with my session’s attendees.
I would have loved to learn more from speakers in our community: Jesper Skibsby (Warm), Robin Wauters (Tech.eu), Monty Munford (BlockSpeak) and Lubomila Jordanova (Plan.A Earth). There was even a session about sleep as an important asset to any tech startup founder with Frida Rångtell.
On a professional (and personal level), this first experience helped me make some interesting virtual connections that will most likely end up converting to real-world business partnerships.
And as this was my first virtual experience, I now know to allot extra time to take advantage of the “other” opportunities happening at virtual events. E.g. I’d scheduled a call half an hour after my moderation session concluded, and I wasn’t able to involve myself more and take advantage of the VIP lounge that was planned for speakers and investors.
All in all, what I can say is that it was a truly positive experience, and I’m very much looking forward to repeating it in the near future.
Other relevant events in the Nordics
Speaker lineup image provided via Uppstart.com