The Impact of COVID-19 on the Speaking World: Past, Present and Future

Nick Gold 25 August 2020

There can be no doubt that the live events industry has been catastrophically affected by the Pandemic. Lockdown, social distancing and working from home has meant that the role of in-person meetings and events have been fundamentally challenged. But in its place has been the rise of the virtual meeting.

As we move to the next stage of the pandemic the easing of social distancing will see a return to smaller physical events and meetings. Of course, these will now sit alongside the virtual platform, with it creating the hybrid meeting and a new experience which will bring a whole new range of possibilities.

Over the last month or so since the Government announced it wanted to ease lockdown restrictions there has been much discussion about how businesses need to adapt to new working practices. The evolution of the virtual meeting, and the requirements and expectations of the various facets of it, have been debated and discussed and continue to evolve.

We have seen businesses during these last 6 months understand how important virtual meetings and conferences can be used to maximise impact of amongst other subjects, innovation, problem solving, culture and team building. Business leaders are now looking forward as the societal and business landscape evolves to embrace the future, regardless of uncertainties and possibilities.

The pandemic has challenged the foundations of a speaker’s belief of themselves as a brand to withstand the short- or medium-term impact as the industry has had to shift. There has been a noticeable insecurity for speakers who have built reputations derived from their experience, their knowledge, their stories and their expertise, that the value of the brand they have created based on these factors is suddenly a fraction of the worth it was prior to the pandemic.

But as time has moved on, we’re seeing a shift away from celebrating the organisation of the first or second virtual event, to businesses defining the metrics by which the criteria of success is measured, and therefore the content that is being delivered in order to achieve it.

Put simply, organisers understand that if an external speaker, host or panellist are booked to share their knowledge, this is seen as no different as if they were appearing on a physical stage in front of an audience.

In fact, one could say it is even harder in the virtual world as the speaker needs to engage an audience that is on the other side of a screen and could be occupied on other items while in the virtual meeting. The energy that arises naturally from being ‘in the room’ with a great presentational speaker just does not exist online and needs to be generated by the speaker through different techniques.

When I introduced earlier the impact of the pandemic on the speakers and how many looked on it with dread and forbearing, there was a result across the industry of speakers dropping their fees. Speakers were ignoring (or forgetting) the notion that their fees were based on the content they were delivering and the value that the client would be receiving from their session, the ROI of the session. Event organisers (understandably) and the speakers focussed on the speaker being able to deliver their speech from their front room and thus should charge a fraction of the cost.

There are two points which seemed to have been overlooked. Firstly, the content of the speaker and the impact they were required to deliver has never shifted. They were booked because of their expertise and experience, not for their location. Secondly, as time progressed and as highlighted earlier, the virtual platform requires a different approach which has resulted in speakers re-working their messages and content to fit this new medium.

Event organisers understand that the cost of the speaker should not be about a bargain but rather about the results they help achieve for the event. If the client is looking for a bargain in this virtual world then consider how the virtual world provides the ability to have any speaker from any part of the world inspire their audience!

We have faced many challenges in the meetings and events industry since Covid-19 and will continue to do so in the coming weeks and months. The joy and frustration of the speaking world is that it is ever changing, maturing and evolving but the one constant within the chaos is that a speaker has the ability and opportunity to help shape, influence, challenge and enhance individual thoughts and business ideas.

The past 6-months for the entire industry have been tough, but if there is one positive for the future it is this. Speakers have an opportunity to increase the value of their brand by diversifying their content delivery according to the platform, and event organisers will have the chance to wow their audiences with the power of the spoken word broadcast from any place in the world that has an internet connection.

For further information or to book a speaker, call us on +44 (0)20 7607 7070 or email

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