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Key skills for the virtual event emcee | Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP

What does it take to host a great virtual event and make it stand out?

The world is noisy, and unfortunately audience engagement in virtual events is often lackluster – if attendees show up at all!

The good news is that the bar is low and the opportunity to stand out is great!

In this episode of #ThoughtLeaderConversations, V2’s Head of Strategy Roger Courville, CSP speaks with expert virtual emcee Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP about how to change all that.

Along the way Warwick drops serious info nuggets of delight such as

  • Multiple tips for hosting a successful virtual event that stands apart from the noise

  • Where the virtual events industry is headed

  • Common pitfalls of webinars and how to avoid them

  • How to approach technology for maximum engagement

  • Why “out there” isn’t good enough anymore

  • The need to create a high-quality experience for your attendees

  • How to approach interactions (hint: it’s a lot more than “push a poll”)

  • How to measure the success of your event

Listen to learn why Warwick's been named Australia’s leading event host hosted events on 5 of the 7 continents, 2021 Global Outstanding Intrapreneur, 2022 Breakthrough Virtual Speaker, 2022 Nevin Award for Service to Speaking Industry


Sponsor: V2, LLC -- expert virtual and hybrid event production,  

Host: Roger Courville, CSP,   



[00:00:00] Roger Courville, CSP: What does it take to host a great virtual event and make it stand out? Spoiler alert! Hire someone to be the glue that brings it all together well!

Hello and welcome to Key Skills for the Virtual Emcee! My name is Roger Courville. Welcome to another episode of Thought Leader Conversations sponsored by my crew here at Virtual Venues where you can instantly scale your virtual event production team --hybrid events too-- with a blue chip crew that will help you achieve excellence and results by helping you focus on something other than tech.

And yes, I do a bit of them seeing, but today is not about me cuz you're in good company today. I'm super, super excited to have with me coming to you from Wurundjeri -- Did I get that right? Wurundjeri Country? I'm gonna sound like an American now.

  • Australia's leading expert event host hosted events on five of the seven continents (Antarctica not looking good unless it's a black tie event for Penguins 2021)

  • Outstanding Global Intrapreneur 2022

  • Breakthrough Virtual Speaker

  • 2022 Nevin Award for service to speaking industry

  • Poodle owner, singer, and even once hosted a gala on the Great Wall of China

Warwick Merry CSP, CVP, and his wife's favorite husband, thanks for being with us!

[00:01:21] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: Ah, it's an absolute pleasure to be here. Let's hit the main screen and let me do a bit of showing off with my little gadgetry. This is, this is all these magnificent awards that you're just talking about. I'm so thrilled to be the recipient of those. I'm thrilled to be here. I coming from Wondery Country, which is of the Cool Nation, which is in Melbourne, Australia.

So I bring the accent with me. So for those of you who like my accent, I sound like a Hemsworth. I just don't look like one, and I apologize for that. It's nothing to do with the hair and the lack of the, but you can call me Thor. It makes you feel better.

[00:01:52] Roger Courville, CSP: All right, Warwick. So I'm gonna go back to our little shared screen and I have to say work and I have known each other for a long time from, you know, from the professional speaking world, but we've actually had the chance to meet face-to-face as well, which is pretty dang cool when I was in Melbourne.

So, here's a twofer opening question. What the heck is going on in the world of webinars and virtual events? And where do you think it's going?

[00:02:17] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: Great. Great question. And look, it's really interesting when you know the pandemic forced so much change and I, so much of it I love, like the whole concept of remote working has been brilliant. Like my wife and I often talk, what do you miss about covid? The traffic? How good.

Cause in Melbourne we were in the like top 10 of number of cities lockdown. There were so many, we had at one stage you couldn't go five kilometers beyond your home. You were just not allowed to. That's, that's how strict the lockdown was. And so if you had to go somewhere, there was no traffic. It was brilliant.

And also for so many people, it forced this work from home mindset. And so to actually make it happen, companies have been saying for years, oh no, we just don't have the budget for new computer systems that you'd really need for that. All of a sudden found the budget and so it just started working, which was brilliant for people like you and I.

We have been spooking online events for so long. Like with all the, the webinars and virtual meetings, all of a sudden the, the interest that we found challenging to get just went. And so many people came on board. I was hosting gala award nights. We had some very sophisticated setups that just worked an absolute dream.

And what's been good about that is some of my clients have said, we will never go back face-to-face. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. This is just too good for us. Like this is, oh, one of my clients is saying, we used to start to get about 30% of our team turn up to the gala dinner purely for geographical reasons, you know, here in Australia as big as the continental United States, but we only have the population of Los Angeles across the, actually less than Los Angeles, across the whole country.

So we're quite spread out. And so when we did it virtually, they had 95% of their staff be able to attend, which was fantastic. What's happened now is after two, if not three years, cuz that last year was sort of a should we, shouldn't we kind of vibe. People are like, we want face-to-face. We actually, we don't care about the content, we just want face-to-face so I can chat to my friends in the hallway.

That's all they give us stuff about. That's what I want. And so I have found for me a lot of the virtual work has. Flipped back into that face to face. Now having said that, people have started, there's the new lie of business. I don't know if you've come across this yet. It used to be the checks in a mail and most countries, except for America, don't use checks anymore.

But now the new lie is, ah, I'll watch that recording. And so we're so keen to go, oh yeah, I'll just get the recording. I can't turn up and get me the recording. And some people do, but most don't. So I think what's gonna happen for us is it's with the pendulum swung the other way, we've gone to, yes, let's have lots of virtual to let's have at least virtual.

I think we're gonna swing back to the middle where it is a very valid and very helpful medium. I think hybrids will decline and not come back as much as virtuals, mainly cause they're really hard to do well. And expensive to do well. I've got some very large clients who have said, we won't do hybrid anymore.

We will do face-to-face, video it, and then sell the recordings. Or they'll advertise it as this is a broadcast only, so that they're just getting the imagery and broadcasting like a tv, you know, academy awards kind of thing, versus having the interaction But what I think the power and where we're going to be using this more and more is the ability for, for me it's less about webinars and more about meetings.

That ability to interact with each other, to see who's on the line and to be able to do it without traveling, without having to go, trying to get a car park without to worry about what kind of special dietary requirements you have. All that stuff is no longer an issue. And I can get access to some of the best minds in the world at the drop of a hat.

And I know for us here in Australia, it used to be the idea of getting a celebrity American speaker out for a conference used to be, the cost was just made it too prohibitive. Right now we've become, we've become used to being able to just have someone come in on Zoom and we'll broadcast it and have a few questions with the moderator and, and we still have almost the same experience.

You know, it's not quite as good, but. You're getting 80% of the experience for 50% of the cost. So that's gotta be a good thing. So I, I suspect that's where it's gonna be heading and workshops, online workshops, using some kind of online modality. That's where the power is to me, that collaboration, that interactivity, that is the power.

I cannot rave enough about breakout rooms, which we probably will at some stage, but we will. It's just that's where the power is.

[00:07:08] Roger Courville, CSP: We will probably double rave or maybe even rave squared. No, I, I agree. In fact, when, when I have a chance to explain it to a client that seems to have a sense of humor, which is not all of them,

I sometimes will joke, if you went to an in-person, Seminar or presentation, and they pushed play on a DVR and played a video and took some questions at the end. Would you feel like that was a great event? And of course, by that point, they're chuckling. And I'm like, well then why the heck do we do that?

And in webinars, right, if you're, if the experience you're creating is barely, you know, like YouTube, then, then why don't you just. Put the content out there and, and yeah, not right or wrong because asynchronous content has its place. I just think to your point, I'm gonna paraphrase back to you. So, so shut me up if I misrepresent what you just said.

But to me, there are probably some places where this is gonna refine our level of discernment. When should we do hybrid? Ah, if we're gonna do it, we need to do it well, and we need to be thinking early in the process of how we're gonna think like a designer so that we can connect people. And, and because you got two different audiences having two different experiences, so are we going to attempt to design interactions that can facilitate both online and onsite audiences can be done.

You just gotta think about it. And and the other thing is that on demand, which is what brought on my rant the, the use of. Well, I sum it up like this conversation versus publication. Yeah. And if you're asking somebody to show up at 11 o'clock on a Tuesday morning for, for publication, the price is too high.

[00:09:06] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:09:07] Roger Courville, CSP: Because they can watch it on demand recording anytime they want. And they're used to doing that. So the question is, what is the value of them making a, a diary appointment, calendar appointment with you?

[00:09:19] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: And this, and this is the thing, like our delegates, they don't want, we've, we've matured.

We no longer want an event that's done to us. We want it done with us. And I think that's the difference between a, like a webinar and a meeting. Now you can use those pre-records in a creative way, and I actually recommend this to a couple of my clients, is pre-record your presentation. That way you can add a few extra special effects, get a video person involved so you do something really well.

And join the people in the chat and that's where the interaction happens and let people know that's gonna happen. So that way you actually have two conversations going on, what's happening on screen and the questions as they come up. And you can interact with the people and have really good re relationship in the chat.

So that, that is a very powerful way to do that. Otherwise I'm with you. Just publish it like here it is. Get it at your convenience. And to be quite frank, I have a very short tension span. I am one of the, I am the worst delegate. I get bored really quick and I, that naughty boy at the back of the room who cracks jokes, I think has too many letters in it.

When, when I'm watching content, I always watch it like double speed. That way I can just get through it and, and absorb the bit I want many speakers just waffle, like they just waffle. So I'm like, cut to the chase. This is the thing with video we've now learned. An hour is too long. Like if you are doing an online session for an hour, it's gotta have value all the way through.

Don't just be doing an hour, cause it's an hour. If you can do it in 20 minutes, do it. I've got too much to do. I don't wanna be waiting there because you've got an hour allocated to you. Give it to me in 20 minutes, make it happen snappy. And then give me a pdf with all the detail I can research in my own own time.

You know, just gimme that cut to the chase.

I'm gonna push back in one sense, but not in a, not in a hardcore way. We're talking about growing our level of discernment with regard to like presentations. And there is time for long form content, right? I mean, if you're Peter Jackson, I wanna watch the extended cut of the hop, you know, the extended cut of, of Lord of the Rings.

And I'm happy to do that and sit there for 12 hours and watch all three of them. But I'm not Peter Jackson on Zoom. Just, just saying. But the other, the other thing is like, you know, podcasting for instance has a, a space for long form because people put it on in the background and listen, like radio, that's one of the growth areas in the world of podcasting.

And I think that people do that too. So if one of your goals is to get people to interact or create value or, you know, understanding some of that nuance of your audience. And you mentioned breakouts, we'll get there in a second. But one of the things that we've gotta do is be clearer about what is our outcome like.

So you and I are both professional speakers. One of the, I mean obviously people hire us because they think we can pull off the content and whatever, but you know, as well as I do that entertainment. Is part of anything that's, that's, you know, even part of hardcore education has some form of saying, how do we keep this interesting?

And if we're not in person going, oh, stand up and turn to your right and rub your neighbor's shoulders, or, yes, well, I guess we don't do that anymore in a politically correct way, but you know what I mean.

Yeah, yeah. And it's like the, the Minister for Fun One said to me, if it's not fun, don't do it. If you have to do it, make it fun.

And so that's, for me, it's all about, there's gotta be energy. And when you are in a virtual mode like this, it's the speaker who has all the energy and you've gotta give it. So, and you've also gotta be yourself. And so this concept that I like to share about, Being yourself amplified really applies here.

Like you can't now look and it's different people. That's it. Crank it up, let's you know. And there are some people who are never gonna do that because their style is so laid back, they're so maybe dry and laconic that they're always just gonna be flatlined. I think one of the issues that we've had is that the issue we used to have with email, we now have with online meetings, so it used to be, I need to send an email.

I know I'll CC the entire office so they know what's going on. Now we got into the habit of, oh, I've gotta run this meeting. I'll include everybody in the invite so they all know what's going on. Being on Teams or Zoom or whatever it is that you're running it on and running the meeting was so dull. And so people go, oh, I have zoom fatigue.

No, you don't. You just bought off your nut because the person running most of your sessions and sometimes it's, you doesn't know what they're doing and it's just really dull. So you've gotta learn what are some little things we can do? And this is one of the things I learn off you when you're in Melbourne.

You know, you were scheduled to start your session on the hour and about five minutes to you walking around the audience talking to people. And I'm like, that is gold. Because it's that if I'm having a dinner party, I don't invite people over and just not talk to them until it starts at six. You know?

It's like, oh, as they come in the door, how going, what's been happening? Wait, wait, wait a minute.

[00:14:28] Roger Courville, CSP: Raise your hand in the middle of it and let me ignore you for the next 30 minutes.

[00:14:32] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: That's it. Let's do that. You know, and so let's put a really nice comment in the chat and I'll ignore you and then pretend it was my own thing at the end.

So, so often when I'm starting these online things, I'll start 10 minutes beforehand. I might have a little bit of music in the background. I might just sort of give, you know, applause.

Something that. Every, like the number one magic word now for any presentation is inclusion. So I've gotta ask question that everyone can answer in a very safe way. And I like to do it not about what's going on. So I'll be like, what are you drinking? What, what? What's in that magic cup you've got there?

What are you drinking? If you're not drinking, what would you like to drink? And you know, because some of the stuff I've been doing is global. I hear about these bizarre concoctions that people like to drink and I'm not just talking Dr. Pepper for that is just a magnificent beverage. But we're talking about all these other weird things, you know?

And you get the, Melbourne is like one of the coffee capitals of the world. For some reason. We are coffee snobs to the point that I went out for a coffee with a friend once and she ordered a week. Soy decaf? No. Yeah, A weak soy decaf latte. And the waiter actually said to her, what's the point? You know, so, so here everyone's different perspective on what they're drinking is, it's a really fun way to start.

And people start chatting about like, oh, I don't you drink Dr. Pepper. Oh, it's amazing. Have you tried caffeine free? And it's a lovely way to get things started. And it's very inclusive because, you know, so many people say water. And I'm like, great, you know, Hey, I pronounce it water. And you are water. You know, you can have a bit of fun with anything.

But it gets the energy going. So by the time you actually start with real content, they're used to a bit of interaction. You've trained them to get excited about what's going on, even if it's not much. And I just find that a really fantastic thing to do. So thank you so much for that gift that you showed me, that a and so many of these tricks that we learn on stage apply online.

You gotta tweak them a little bit. And I think the most disappointing thing for me is so many speakers haven't learnt these things. So many speakers go, oh, I hate online. You just get no feedback. And it's like the reality is you shouldn't need it. Like at the end of the day, you should have enough confidence in yourself.

Cuz there's so many audiences I've spoken to where there were just crickets. There's nothing happening in the audience. And I'm thinking, oh, I've killed this. Like I've just shot myself in the foot. This is not gonna work. They hate me. And at the end I get all these people coming up going, that was so moving.

That was so amazing. And the reason they were quiet is cuz they were listening and like I had them in there and other times they'll be laughing and having a whole lot of fun but it didn't affect them as much. So you can never tell from the audience anyway. And that's particularly true for hybrid because so many speakers, you know, I brief them and say we got a thousand people online, you've got 300 people in a room, so you need to spend that amount of ratio staring down the battle barrel of the camera.

And they're like, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. For sure. They get a bit of interaction in the room and then they forget the camera. Like the camera might will not be there. So they let, they're feeling left out. And if they've paid money, like I've paid this money to just watch a TV show. Should have just bought the recording.

[00:17:38] Roger Courville, CSP: Yeah. Why did I show up at this particular time? I could have been at, yeah. And you know, I actually did two, I've done not won two gigs for mpi. Meeting Professionals International. Yep. Literally on how to change your R F P for speakers. To find speakers that are gonna rock for you in the virtual world, because you're right.

Yeah. It's kinda like, one way I explain it is like, some actors are great on Broadway and live real time, and they have varying distances from the person in the front row or the person in the back row, and they know how to reach the room, but they don't succeed in Hollywood when they're on camera and vice versa.

Because it, the way that you relate, the way that you, you know, I mean, a camera can be very intimate in a way that's different if you're on stage and there's 400 people in the auditorium and, and it's not right or wrong, it's just recognizing that some people are, are a little better in the nuances of one thing versus the other.

Yeah. Question for you, do you distinguish moderator versus mc.

[00:18:51] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: Look, there is so much of the terminology. So if we're talking moderator in terms of essentially a panel, I've got three or four people who are speaking. That's a fair question. Make sure that it's speaking right. So for me, that is the difference between that and, and an mc. There's no doubt about it. And look, and I think in some of the roles that I have played with the online here, I'm, I'm a geek by heart as yourself.

And so we've got all the toys where we can, you know, put a little founder check in. Excellent. And we can do some weird and wonderful things. And so part of what I'm doing is, as a host, is I'm, I'm also a bit of a producer. You know, I'm looking at, okay, who do I spotlight? Who are not spotlight? So as an mc, I'm doing some of that production stuff.

There are other times when they have the tech team who's doing all that, and I just have a camera and I've just gotta play. There is a difference between being the mc or the host and the moderator. So the moderator's concerned with how do I get the most outta the people that I'm talking to or talking with?

So the guests who are on the panel, who are on the screen, the mc is, how do I make this the best experience ever for every delegate? Now, that may include, what do I have to get from these, these speakers? But sometimes it's, how do I do that? Look down the barrel of the camera and go, Hey, for those of you still in your pajamas, you know, make sure you've got your ag boots on to keep your feet warm.

You know, it's just cracking a few little jokes that are between, you know, just you and me, you know, a few thousand people out there and me here. It's, so, it's about playing a little bit in, in my opinion. So it is about making sure what are the little engagement things to make sure people are listening?

What are the, what are the, some of the ways that you can incorporate a bit of sound and color and movement with whatever's going on, so it's not just boring. Head on stick. Chat, chat, chat. Don't get me wrong. We wanna know what the speakers have to say. But how do we ask them the questions that they don't really want to be asked, but we want to know the answer to?

And so part of that is good moderator, and then host is extending that. So it becomes that, that, you know, that you are one of the, the delegates in terms of making sure that this is, is an enjoyable experience. And I know for me, the terminology I used, I've been using the word host a lot more because it, to me, it's, it's more welcoming and warmer than mc or, or moderator or facilitator because it is all about, I'm your host, it's up to me to make sure you're having an awesome time.

Your drink's empty. Let me hit top that up for you, want some more food? I'll go and get it for you. Not comfy. Here's a cushion. And as a host, that's what I'm trying to do in the digital sense when I'm doing it online. I love that.

[00:21:23] Roger Courville, CSP: And I'll tell you why. It was a loaded question for a self-serving purpose in, in the webinar industry, generally speaking.

Right. I know you came to the world of virtual event hosting. By way of being a professional speaker and professional mc professional host in a traditional sense, right? I worked for companies from startup to Microsoft and and often the word moderator is their kind of passive behind the scenes name. For someone who basically is your real time support but isn't really part of the show, and I don't care if you call it host or mc or moderator, or three ways from Sunday, you just illustrated one.

We should probably be clear about what it is that we mean. Number two, that there is something to be said about something that pulls it all together. I. In this case I was referred to as the mc, but I did a gig recently where it was a one full day conference, multi-session conference, but within the span of one day.

And I'm sure like you, the objective was kick it off, keep 'em entertained, remind them to go buy the virtual booths in the virtual trade show hall so that the, the sponsors all get leads and are happy that they spent some money sponsoring the event. And, you know, in between transitions from one speaker to the next and into breaks, outta breaks, all that kind of thing.

And I find,

I find that that is an underutilized opportunity in the broader world of virtual events, let alone perhaps bridging the gap in a hybrid context where you might be connecting with and interacting with. Entertaining, perhaps the, the online audience while the in-person audience is doing something else and, and being part of when are they together versus when do they, you know, when do they come together versus when do they separate?

And you just engage the online audience. Yeah. So there's my long-winded way of saying I'm really glad that you answered the way that you did, cuz you're actually way better at this than me and do more of it. Talk to me about breakout rooms. You mentioned loving breakout rooms and I know you've used the I word interaction more times than I count, so, oh,

[00:24:01] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: go for it.

Yeah. Look, and this is the thing, breakout rooms, it's, I am stunned like we have been using. I mean, I've been using Zoom well before the pandemic kicked in, and then when it kicked in and Zoom continued to evolve and not just Zoom, but also teams and everything else that runs on it stuns me to this day.

And it was just, I think it was a couple of weeks ago, I was running a session and people had never been into breakout rooms before. And I'm like, I know. How can you not? How can you do? Like, these things are so cool because you can do things like put three or four people in a room and so they can chat to each other.

They can share screen, they can draw on whiteboards, they can do some really basic stuff that even technophobes can do things even. You can draw on a bit of paper and hold it up to the camera, like you can interact to get your ideas across and your voice gets heard. And I think this is really important when it comes particularly to online events.

People want to be heard, and so you can do that. Then come back to the main room, grab three or four different ideas that have come out of it. And share that with the masses and then continue to move on. So it's a great way for everyone to be part of the event, be heard, learn from, and, and connect and do that networking stuff as well.

I'm always encouraging people, you know, cut and paste your LinkedIn profile thing in there so we can connect to each other while you're in that breakout rooms, that kind of thing. What I don't like, and I see this a lot and some Some, some speakers do this and they, they like, oh, I've heard I must do an interaction.

Right? Here's a poll, here's a breakout room, here's a whatever. And then when they come back, they just move on. They do nothing with it. I'm like, what the heck? I know, right? It's like you've asked me to do and you've done nothing with it. So why did I do that? So this is, you know, it's like they're a great tool and you've gotta do something with it.

Like, you know, and it'll be like having a word cloud going, Hey everyone, go to the word cloud and put how you feel today. And they're not showing anyone. They're not going, oh yeah, someone's feeling. It'll be excited, someone's a bit scared. No need to be scared. Have another coffee. Get your anxiety up, or you'll be fine.

Let's keep going. You know? So it's just, you've gotta be able to use it or at least refer to it or do something with it. Otherwise it's a waste of time. And yeah, it's the, it just happens way too often and I think this is. There's a difference between someone who's running an online session and someone who's actually sort of mastering an online session, if you know what I mean.

Mm-hmm. So they have designed what is the outcome I'm after? How am I gonna get them there? How do I make this about them? Too often I see presenters or speakers go, it's a little bit, what's my message? I must get across to the people versus what's the message they might want to hear? What is it in particular that they want and how can I make sure they get it in a way they can actually do something with it?

My thing's always at the end of the day, like, what are the two things you're gonna do with what you've got outta today? Because if you don't do anything different, you've just been a complete waste of time. So I've always look at how can I get them to do something? It is really consideration for where they're at, not what's my message for, I am glorious and I must spread it to the masters and they love me and I'll be famous.

That's not gonna work.

[00:27:09] Roger Courville, CSP: I probably should have preceded with this question. But here it goes. Maybe, maybe phrase it in the form of, here's my favorite tip, or three tips, or something like that. How do we get delegates to be part of the event? How do we talk with instead of that?

[00:27:29] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And that's, that's, it's hard. It's hard.

This is the biggest challenge. Getting engagement is the biggest challenge, and part of it is because a lot of people hate looking at themselves on screen. There's been some studies about how uncomfortable people are looking at themselves on screen, so a little bit of education about showing them how they can turn their self view off as many of these packages now allow you to do, or.

Making, making it so it's worthwhile for them. A, a very simple thing you can do, and I know you might find this hard to believe, is use their name. I know, right? But it's the number one word that everybody will hear and respond to straight aways. My,

[00:28:09] Roger Courville, CSP: my frustrating teacher was right.

[00:28:13] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: And since I'm like, who would've punk?

So it, it is about using someone and so, and actually involving them in the conversation. So simple stuff like, so Roger, what did you, you know, what are you gonna do with that? How Roger, what, what came out of your breakout group? And all of a sudden they're like, well, I have to answer and I have to answer.

I probably have to turn my camera on. And part of it is just setting that, that, that framing of the ground rules up front saying, Hey, If your camera's on, I'm assuming you're part of this, if your camera's not on, you are not paying any attention cuz you've gone to the toilet or something, I will ignore you and not include you in what's going on.

So people go, well I don't want that. I better turn my camera on. Or, and often you'll find, you send 'em a breakout rooms, they come back and there's more cameras on. So part of it is, you know, as part of your design going, how could I get 'em in a breakout room straight away? Not straight away, but get them a bit of rapport happening with everyone.

Put 'em in a breakout room. So it's a bit about them. They come back, the cameras will stay on, do a bit of a review. So you make them part of it. Like the, that's the way to engage them is to really. Use their experience, get examples from them. You know, who here has been experiencing some problems with harassment at work, at this HR presentation?

And don't need to tell me what it's, but you know, what are some of the things you, you've felt, what are some of the things you'd like to see different? You know, get a bit of feedback from them that you can talk to versus, and again, this is stemming back to that design of, rather than, what's my message? I must get across?

What is it they want to know? How can I get that across and involve them in that process? So for me, using people's names is one, getting 'em to do things and come back and then share some of the information. Getting them to use the chat. Even just simply using the chat is, I'd love the chat. Somebody, I can't tell you, a number of people go, oh, can we turn that chat off?

It gets distracting. I'm like, no, no, you gotta have the chat on. Like, that's where the gold is. There are nuggets in there to be mind. And people go, oh, but then they start telling jokes to each other and I'm like, so. That's what they do in in-person events. I know, right? If they're not doing it there, they're gonna be on, I don't know, WhatsApp or Messenger or something on their computer going, oh, check this person out.

Aren't they a wing nut? You know? So they're gonna be doing it anyway. You might as well be part of it. So when the gold is there, you can see it.

I'm holding

[00:30:24] Roger Courville, CSP: back the complete and utter belly laugh. You said don't put people into breakouts straight away. Yes. I'm a fan of doing that about as quickly as you can justify it in the event. Right. To be fair, it kind of depends on the context and, and the audience and that kind of thing, but for the same reason that you're talking about using names.

Right. Because if I go, oh, Julie, bill Warwick Perdeep. Everybody else hears and sees that we're being real. And that's one of the things that I like about getting people into breakouts because if there is one of the things that, if we think about what happens in person that makes people feel awesome and connected and, and think about, then how do we do that online?

Oftentimes there's too much emphasis. If not, the only emphasis is on interaction from the presenter to the audience. And we forget that peer to peer relationship is part of what happens in person, right? Whether it's accidentally bumping into somebody and spilling their coffee at the registration table or, or you know, three, 3:00 PM coffee and cookies break, or biscuits as they might be in your side of the Pacific.

Right. But those are some of the things that add to the experience. And people frequently think, oh, that can't be done in a webinar. Well, that's one way. I hate the word webinar, but, but we only need to think creatively to go, how do we help people show up and realize that they are seen and heard?

[00:32:07] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

And, and this is the thing. It's, it comes down to some having some good design for what, and, and looking at what am I trying to achieve from this and how do I best do it? And I have to be honest, you don't have to be too creative. Cause most people, they're just like, right, well, we get everyone online and I have a PowerPoint or a keynote slideshow and I just go, slide, slide, slide.

Oh, it's online. So I'll do more slides, put a bit of animation, and away we go. And it's just like, no, no, just look at how can I best, you know, what's the best way to reinforce the message? And use the audience to do that. I love what you said about your idea is to get them into a breakout room as soon as it's justifiably able to do so, and that's the key thing.

You can't just whack 'em into breakout rooms as you start, there has to be a reason for it. And part of it is you wanna build, you wanna build that first part of the, the, the function, the interaction, the, the, the virtual meeting, whatever it is, is to set that, you know, why am I here? What's in this for me?

Why should I give a stuff about what's about to happen? So that has to happen first. And during that process, as people are nodding, going, okay, good, yep, I'm in the right spot, this is for me. I like what this person's gonna be sharing today. I'm, I'm, I'm with my peeps, this is good. Then you can put 'em into the breakout room because you've got that rapport, you've got that.

Otherwise they'll go to a breakout room and go, well, this is crap. What am I here for? And it's just like, it's, and if they've got someone sitting on the edge in a room with someone going, well, this is rubbish, I go, oh yeah, yeah, it's rubbish. And so you can look at the audience before you start. So you've gotta make sure you do that groundwork to get that support and then get them to that interaction to, to support what's going on.


[00:33:51] Roger Courville, CSP: before we chatted, I actually put a, a, a question out to social media and said, Hey, what would you ask? And here's here's something that came back. So this is I didn't write it down. I have just failed as a host. I think it was Ian,

[00:34:10] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: Alex. This is the, this is the good thing as a host is you can, this, this is what I love about real hosts.

They will say stuff, oh, I didn't write the name down. I think it was Ian. Could have been Barry, could have been Sonya. Not sure. We'll go with one of those. And this is the joy of authentic. This is what people forget is on camera. You can just be as authentic as you can in the real world. Just love it.

Anyway, please continue with Ian's question.

[00:34:33] Roger Courville, CSP: No exclamation point behind what you just said. Authentic and real beats perfect every time. Every time, in my humble opinion. Yeah. What are some strategies that you use to generate excitement and grab the audience attention, even when the topic isn't particularly exciting?

[00:34:52] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And that's, that's so cool. There are so many important things we need to talk about that are dull. So dull. I was hosting something, the the CISOs, the Chief Information Security Officer event, and there's lots of conversation about hyphen England technology, kind of, oh my goodness.

And so some of the strategies is you just make fun with what's happening in the room. So you never make fun of a person. Everyone has to feel safe, but you can have a bit of fun with what's happening in the room. And sometimes it can do stuff. You could pre-plan a few things cuz you know a certain point's going to come up.

So if you wanna take me to full screen, let me show you something that I've done. Here we are. And that'll also give, give a bit of a, a message as well. One of the things I talk about, I call it the Holy Trinity of presenting online and, and engaging online. And so the Holy Trinity is having these three things.

You gotta have the right lights, the right composition, and the sound Now, That's just a bonus tip for anyone who's watching there. The three things, if you notice those three pictures, that's me. And each one of those ones using just a different filter on Snapchat when it existed. It's not around anymore.

And, but that, particularly that one that's me is the female, which I think she's hot and I data. But that it's just doing stuff like having silly little pictures of yourself. One of the things that I've done, we can go back to the joint screen now. One of the things I also like to do as a host is give those.

Give a rockstar introduction to someone who you know is boring. So we had the director general for the Department of Conservation and Fire Retardation or something at the Queensland government. And so I trained the audience how to get excited and give big cheers. And then as they were coming on, everyone's going, yeah.

And like they almost had like, this is a serious guy, like so serious. He had a smile and his team actors go, oh my God, he smiled. Like he smiled. That doesn't happen. He smiled. So doing that kind of stuff, some of the things you've seen me do here, like leaning in. Just little things like that, changing voice modulation, it just, it's amazing the difference it brings to the energy in the room.

And as I said before, you know, we said be yourself and be yourself amplified. You gotta be authentic, but you can be that little bit amplified and so people will tap into that and all of a sudden people have a little bit of fun at doing it. But you could do some fun. I have a spin the wheel thing that we do.

There's plenty of online wheel things and you can do in the break saying, okay, we've got a prize going out now some of the prizes that are on that wheel are the waterfall of, of joy. And people are like, what the heck is that? It's like I get everyone to type yay in the chat box, but not hit enter. And then on the count of three, we all hit enter and it just goes, yay and or hooray or some positive reinforcement.

It's this waterfall of joy that is, that gets better resulted if I'm giving away a book or something. So it is little things like that that. Anyone could win. And people go, how do you randomly select one? If I've got, let's say 150 people in Zoom, I can have 50 people a screen. I just go say, all right, in the chat box, put a number between one and three, bang comes a two.

All right, now put a number between one and seven comes a two. So I'm like, I'm on the second screen, second person across, gimme name one and seven, five, fifth person down, you've won. So I use the audience to pick the winner to then give away the waterfall of joy, which crossed me nothing. Like, it's great.

[00:38:23] Roger Courville, CSP: I love that. The waterfall of joy.

[00:38:27] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: Yeah. Because let's face it, in the world today, there's, we need a bit more love. Like seriously, the world's a little bit weird and we need a bit more love. So just having a bunch of randoms type, yay or hooray, you are a legend. Whatever it is, it's a such a cool thing and you only need half the people to do it, and you get the waterfall effect.

So yeah, it's, it's a cool thing. And there's other things you can do like that as well. Like that's just one example. That you can come up with. And if anyone watching steal that example, it's not copyrighted, go for it. Enjoy. You have my blessing.

[00:39:00] Roger Courville, CSP: Yes. And I want to use this as a moment to toot your horn, right?

Because clearly you get paid to, you know, by event event planners who want an mc and wanna raise their game. And sadly, even in virtual events see, October's gonna be 24 years in this business. For me, the bar is still pretty low. The good news is what work just described is an example of the kind of thing.

I'm probably not gonna go try to teach the VP of sales or whoever's doing the speaking to do. Right? You spending the time to coach speakers to pull off something like that. Is probably a sure fair fire way for you both to end up rather frustrated as opposed to get some goofball like war with a great accent who wants to come be your friend and make everybody feel great about showing up to your virtual event.

Well that's why you should hire War Mary. And if you order before midnight, get the Ginzo

[00:40:04] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: knives absolutely free, you also get the shut carving knives. They slush Julian fries. How much you expect to pay. Don't answer. And it's really interesting because during Covid I actually did pick up a couple of clients outta the US and they, it's really interesting in the time zone difference because I'm getting up at two o'clock in the morning to run these sessions for about five hours.

And the joy of virtual is, it doesn't matter, you know, I just put my lights on, as you can see now I currently, I've got my curtain down cause it's too bright outside. And you know, that's one of the joys of. Doing things virtually is geography no longer matters. And, and, and you're right in terms of you need certain skill sets for certain things.

Unfortunately, the hosting side of things, and, and this is true face-to-face as well as online, is less valued until they have a good one, if that makes sense. Mm-hmm. So professional MCs, once you've had a professional mc, you're like, ah, that's what they were talking about. And so we got the funny guy from accounts can do stuff, oh, just get the speaker to hit a few buttons, you know, it's not the same.

And, and, and you know, as you know, cuz having done this so, so often and so long, it, it is, there's so much that is just a very different skillset and Part of what we do is educate people so they understand what they really need versus what they think they need. And so just saying, oh, it's just a script.

You just read the script. It's like, ah, there is so much more than just reading a script so much more.

[00:41:37] Roger Courville, CSP: Yeah. Yeah. And you know, you mentioned at the top of the show kind of one of, one of the things that's near dear to my heart, and I know really here we're today we're gonna talk more about skills or have been talking more about skills than kind of the, some of the bigger picture things.

But to me, if there's a real opportunity for a win for that meeting planner, finding just the right virtual host, it's remembering that I'm thinking from the states here, the reverse of what you described earlier, right? If I want to hire a host, and let's just say the host would normally pitch me that it, the fee is 50 cents, but travel and expenses, Is gonna be another 30 cents.

I just saved a significant amount just by doing it virtually. Even if I pay the full fee, not the least of which is then a lot of people I know, cuz I've, you've been on this side of the pond and, and I've done two tours in Australia. Yeah. Not the least of which is for me, the, the what you need to pay me for isn't the hour that I'm going to be on stage.

It's, it's for the four days of my life that it's gonna take to get there and back. Yeah, I haven't. Yeah.

[00:42:57] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: Yeah. And that's, and that's the thing. You can save so much in cost, but not just for your speaking talent or your hosting talent or your delegates because this is the thing, all of a sudden the delegates are like, I can't really sacrifice the four days cuz first day I've gotta get there.

And you know, even over here we know how bad American airline are in terms of meeting schedules and not getting snowed out and all that sort of rubbish. So it's like, you know, it's four or five days and the, you know, I've gotta justify to the boss and all the meals and all the da, da da da da versus I can do two days, I can stay at home so I'm not distracted by work stuff and I don't have to pay for the airfare.

So all of a sudden where cost was an issue for many of your possible delegates, it's no longer an issue cuz I can afford the registration fee. And, and look and my personal thing is you charge the same virtually as what you would face-to-face cuz the value's the same. Yeah. You know, I would've thought, but that's, that's just one of my, my things.

But yeah, it's like there is, there are so many benefits to having a, a virtual setup. Don't get me wrong. There are challenges and one of the biggest challenges is for exhibitors and sponsors. That's tough because the best results happen in a, an analog world. Cuz if you're serving the, the dinner or the lunch or whatever amongst all the expos, you could just casually walk past and have a casual chat.

Virtual digitally, it's either I'm interested or I'm not. And so it's like I'm coming to see you or I'm not coming to see you, and people hate being sold to, so they're less likely to just click just to have a look and chat to someone. So it's, it's a challenge and I, I dunno the answer there yet. And I've been asking lots of questions to try and find out the answer.

But, and some people are doing it okay. But I think we got a long way to go there in how we can deliver better value for our sponsors and exhibitors.

[00:44:45] Roger Courville, CSP: Yeah. I worked with a client who, who actually built their own front end platform. That. Mm-hmm. In this particular case, they're, they're kind of like corporate symbol was a dragonfly, and so they hid quote unquote hid dragon flies all over the virtual space, which was basically like a big website and yeah, find the dragonfly on the vendor's page and you had to go collect dragonflies, which was kind of their way of gamifying, getting attendees to, to, you know, to visit vendors.

And they had a couple other tricks up their sleeve. And then I, as the host was reminding them of how to participate and, you know, figuring out how we, we Got people, got bodies moving virtually in a way that supported the sponsors to be totally fair. Yeah, there are some cool things, you know, in the virtual world space, but that stuff's expensive.

Right? A lot of lot of organizations haven't yet knocked down. Yeah, it's cool in a way that Second Life promised to try to be cool lots of years ago, but wasn't because nobody could figure it out. And I didn't really wanna be a Drager. Yeah, yeah,

[00:46:03] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Somehow we just gotta put Fortnite in there so we can go around killing people at the same time and we'll be fine.

Exactly. Virtual

[00:46:14] Roger Courville, CSP: events is a first person shooter.

[00:46:18] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: I hate that vendor.

[00:46:22] Roger Courville, CSP: What questions do you love to be asked by a potential client?

[00:46:29] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: Ah, That's it. Yeah, it's, oh, I'm almost speechless, but I'm not, but I'm almost speechless. Look, I think it's, it really is, that sound effect gives me some time to thinking here is your thinking music and also times up. So for me it's really asking about, you know, what have you done before?

How do you bring energy to a digital space? What are some of the things you can do and talk about, you know, the waterfall of joy and that kind of stuff. And then looking at how can, how can we get, how can we make the most out of this event? I think that's an important question because too often that people are focused on the event versus going, what could we do before and what could we do after to really make the annual conference as an example, last 12 months.

How do we get the sponsors to give us some, can we do a bit of interviewing of the sponsors beforehand? So we're like, you know, they get asked questions about their product or service all the time. What are the top three issues that you can help solve or what are top? So we're selling their product, but not selling their product, if you know what I mean.

We're actually addressing a business issue and it just so happens that their product's the answer. So it's not a sales flog, but it is continuing their exposure that we can do before and after getting extracts of some of the, you know, essentially a TikTok reel for some of the different presentations that have happened.

And here's what happens last year. Don't miss out this year. You know, sign up now. So there's some stuff that we can do to really get value out of our event. So it's not just, oh, we do it for two days and then we collapse for a week and then we start on next year's event. It's like, how do we keep this going so that we've got this cycle?

And part of it is looking at that strategy and. You know, I know for me as an example, and I, I did a, a LinkedIn thing about it recently. The best time to sell sponsorship for next year's event is at this year's event, like before the event's, even o over. Now I'm not saying sign on the dotted line, but at least get a commitment with a couple hundred dollars non-refundable deposit.

Because if you can do that, now all of a sudden half the work's done, if you get half the sponsors re they're the happiest I'll ever be at the event going, yeah, this is awesome. And if it's not awesome for them, you want to know so you can make it awesome by the time you get to the end. You know, so it's, it is that bigger picture strategy often gets missed.

And because I've been involved in so many industries, so many events, both face-to-face and virtual, how do we take advantage of this single event to make it a year long investment in our promotion and marketing?

[00:49:09] Roger Courville, CSP: I love that. I think of it often terms yian cycles within a cy within a life cycle, right?

Yeah. For instance, when I use the word design, I usually try to qualify it. I'm like, first of all, we can design a session, meaning what's going on when we're actually having live real time speakers, speaking, interacting, breakouts, waterfall of doom, I mean, joy, those kinds of things, right? And then there are the things that surround those sessions.

Like, okay, the so-and-so just got done. You've got eight minutes before the breakouts start. You get to the, you know, to the Atlantic Room, the Pacific Room, or the East China Sea Room. Right. For the next breakout, here's what we've got coming up. So there's then designing kind of the, the event that's gonna take two or three days in that kind of context.

But there's a life cycle that begins from the very first promotion to the, to the end of when you want that consumption of content in which may be persistent, but oftentimes that's to me too, something that's critical in one of two contexts that you as the host can really be part of. Not only help design but sell, which is, are you gonna sell the recordings?

Are they gonna be available to attendees? Are they gonna be available for a specific period of time if they go someplace and log in with their event login, is that two weeks? Is that two months? That kind of thing. And if that life cycle is designed right, you can build stuff in for the sponsor. Or sponsors plural for the sum total of that life cycle.

So it's not just how many people showed up to our booth during lunchtime, it's, it's actually, you know, now a six week thing. And they might have differing levels of participation. Like the vendor wants to have someone there to do live chat with somebody during the event and they're not going to for the subsequent two months.

But there's still a way that you can gather data, interact, get questions answered, and, and I think that is one of those things that is actually almost easier online than it is offline. And as a host or an mc getting creative upfront, right, and I'm actually almost kinda looking at the camera, not looking at work and going, you who are thinking about this, this is why you want to think about somebody like war.

Because, because thinking these things through is different. When it comes to not only idea generation, but how is that gonna work because we're so used to doing it in person, what do we start with? We, we get a location, we know where our audience is, and then we start thinking about speakers and tracks.

And we want to go, okay, here's our theme for the year and here's our three tracks. But how we make that happen online is not an, shouldn't be an afterthought. It should be something that gets integrated into your strategic planning really early in the process.

[00:52:17] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: You don't have just, nobody's better shoot.

Yeah. You don't wanna have to just shoehorn that in, like, you know, oh, this is what we've done before, just, you know, the couple weeks before and, oh, we forgot about that. Just make it work. Or even, you know, AV crews do an awesome job, no doubt about it. Their focus is purely technical. And so it's like how do we, how do we have that business perspective and that technical perspective of like, what.

What could we do and what can we do? And I think that's a really important conversation to have and have it way back in that planning stage as you're talking about.

[00:52:54] Roger Courville, CSP: What other visual tricks do you wanna show? If I put you on full screen, you got other visual party tricks up your sleeve.

[00:52:59] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: Yeah, look, there's a few, there's a few cool things that, that we can, let's go full screen.

And it's just simple stuff like, um, I use an onscreen countdown oh, is that it's not coming up. That's rude. So I use a thing called os online. Broadcaster studio which is free. We're currently being broadcasted in E cam, so I can do stuff like little countdowns, a little bit of music, that kind of stuff coming on in.

And you can do the countdown videos. I'll, I dunno what this image is, but I have little sponsor images that come up. Oh yeah, here's some books that, this was one of the prizes on the spin the wheel so you can bring up little images nice and easy. That's a cool thing. Oh, sharing screens is pretty cool.

So you can just go and have a little bubble. This is just my other screen cuz I've got a few screens and have my head in the corner. It's just a, a nice and easy way to share some of the stuff that's going on. I'll see if I can bring up that price wheel really quickly and I'm not gonna be able to do it.

That's too hard. So there's just a few little things like that that I can do. And again, a lot of them are custom designed for whatever's going. I think I've got a 10 minute time that was a little 10 minute time out. Just stuff that you can set for like a break so people know you are on break and they're not gonna hear whatever's going on in the background.

You can set that up. Again, it's just pre-recording some of the videos, they're, they're the main things that I've got and I do. Yeah. But for some reason my down my, let me see if this, I can make this one work. Here we go. Bring that over there. Yeah. It's not coming up on E cam. That's all right. I'll, I'll live time goes on.

So that's probably just enough of the basics that I, that I can do. And, and again, you can, any image, any visual, you can make 'em all work.

[00:54:38] Roger Courville, CSP: And to be totally fair you know, I said, Hey, war, could you kind of come on and talk about this thing that you do really well? And, you know, so unlike an event where we would have hours of rehearsal and tech checks and that kind of thing, I'm, we're just kind of throwing, I just kind of threw that at work.

So, we know how that works. Yeah, yeah. What you just mentioned breaks. What are some best practices for breaks with, in virtual

[00:55:05] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: events? So for me, it breaks a short, if they're too long, people go, they'll get distracted with something. So I will often say to people, look, you know, I run a two day workshop and two days, like two consecutive days, staring at a screen is tough.

And you can tell when people aren't paying attention. You know, we've, most of us now will have multiple screens. So when they're sitting here like this the entire time and doing this, you know that they're sending emails, et cetera. So you want to give them a break and you want to get them fresh and you don't want them to turn to their work.

So when it comes to brakes is I will tell them how long the brake's gonna be and I will advise them to go outside. Go outside, close your eyes, take a deep breath. You know, if you can put some bare feet on the ground, it's just to change state a little bit and to get them away from, you know, being in front of a screen for a couple of hours and.

Then start promptly back on time. I'm a big believer in starting on time. I might give you one minute of latitude and then I start, and if you're not back, so be it. And we just get into things. I think it's, and because it trains people that, oh, this guy's serious. He starts back on time. I think we've all been subject to cultures where the nine o'clock meeting starts at quarter past nine.

You know, so people just rock up and you go, sorry I'm late. Well, we won't start yet cuz they usually come in late and then you're like, oh, you've just wasted 15 minutes of my life. So short and sweet lunch breaks, I only really give half an hour. Cuz anything longer than that, it's like, I don't know about you, but I'm a I think the technical term, nutritional, overachiever.

I do like my food. And so my, my food's gone in about three minutes. If I'm, you know, had two minutes to prepare, one a minute to eat, it's done. And so I'm, you know, I will often say to people, look, should we just do a 20 minute lunch break? We'll see. We can finish a bit earlier. And nearly everyone goes.

Yep. Let's do that. And so breaks are just, they have, we have a time, they can have a little bit of flexibility. Now that's for a workshop where there's only 20 to 50 of us in the room. If it's a bigger event, you stick to the schedule and breaks are a good time to try and get some of that time back. But for virtual events, short is better.

If you have like an hour, an hour and a half, you will lose people. They will not come back. So, or, or they're less likely to come back cuz it's too easy to get distracted. So if you just keep it short and part of the continuation and so yeah, I just have a little stimulator like that 10 minute break that you saw, or I'll come on, you know, for the lunch break often I'll come on 10 minutes early and just let people know, look, I'm gonna come on 10 minutes early.

If you've got any questions or you wanna have a chat, let's do that. So it becomes that freeform moment where they can get some of their extra questions answered. And some people have the old fomo and so they jump on 10 minutes early just to be sure. Cause they don't wanna miss out and they have no questions, but they just don't wanna miss out.

So that's a, it's a nice way to, to get people back. I love

[00:57:54] Roger Courville, CSP: it. And it's exactly why I use a timer because once people go see that, that 10 minute timer hits zero and you start, they figure out you're, you're rolling Without 'em if with them or without 'em. Yeah.

[00:58:11] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: See, that's it. What was the best

[00:58:15] Roger Courville, CSP: blooper that you have, that you've had?

Ah, Any, any favorite blooper stories? Yes, and I don't have to, you don't have to feel put on the spot. Like I just put you on the spot because you know, we've all got blooper stories and none of us wanna look stupid, but I look stupid enough anyway,

[00:58:31] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: so well see. This is the thing I will often, my, some of my favorite bloopers I turn into highlights because this is, this is the joy of being a host is that, particularly me.

Like, cuz part of my selling process is I'm a bit like Santa Claus. I'm big, I'm jolly, my surname's very merry, you know, so I sort of position myself a bit like a happy Santa Claus. So if something goes wrong, I go, oh my God, look at that. I haven't got the right button that hasn't come up. Oh, well let's move on.

And so no matter what happens, you go with it. I think for me, the scariest one was unbeknownst to me. My SB extender had become unplugged and my keyboard wasn't working, and I'm like, oh my God, what am I gonna do? Thank goodness I put everyone into breakout rooms and I'm, I've got a spare keyboard cuz you know, I know tech breaks.

So I've got a spare of nearly everything and I'm running around with the spare keyboard to look over and the plug is just sitting just apart. And I'm like plug her back in and we're all gold. No one knew, like no one knew. And it's that whole graceful swan thing. So, yeah, look. I don't have any standout blooper moments.

I often, I'm a bit edgy in what I say. Sometimes I'm a little bit naughty and in Australia, not a problem. That's, that's pretty gold. We have a very win, you know, and I get in certain parts of America that's okay, but in other parts of America, you've gotta be quite conservative with your language. And I get that and I respect that.

That's how different cultures are. And so sometimes I've said a few things that have been a little bit edgy and it's always worked out okay. You know? But yeah, it's, for me, it's like if there's something goes. Goes to heck, then you make it the feature, like turn it to a feature.

[01:00:20] Roger Courville, CSP: I love it. And it goes both ways.

By the way, I've more than once I've taken some form of a game that was popular, whether it was like are you smarter than a fifth grader? Or a board game that's called that I've seen that you see on some store shelves called Factor Crap. And so I mimic the, the, the box top and I said, all right, now we're gonna play factor crap.

And I was actually doing a gig for Ozzies once and somebody kind of. Politely took me aside in a digital sense and said, you know, crap isn't such a bad word in America, but here in Australia and I, I got the lecture. Yay.

[01:01:00] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: And so, but again, it's gonna depend on the audience. Cuz for me, crap, like that's just like, seriously, that's a word kids use, you know?

It's not, not that big a deal. A language is a very interesting thing. I must, I must confess. So yeah. Yeah. But it is, it is and it's, that's part of the design process, knowing your audience. If you know your audience and you use the appropriate language for that audience, you are gold. It's not a problem.

[01:01:24] Roger Courville, CSP: Warwick, I have really appreciated you spending a little time with us and well, it's pushing dinner time for me, but I know your day's just getting rolling because what are we, 17, 18 hours difference? I don't remember. Something like that. Something like that. Are there any questions that I should have asked you that I haven't?

[01:01:45] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: Probably the, the one question that, that a lot of people ask you is how do you, how do you make things more fun? You know, I said before the Minister of Funds said, if it's not fun, don't do it. If you have to do it, make it fun. Okay. Lemme do it.

[01:01:58] Roger Courville, CSP: So, one of the questions, how do you make things more fun?

[01:02:01] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: Oh, that's a great question.

Thanks. Roger wasn't expecting that. And look, I, I think the answer is that you just play with what's happening and it is that it's play really encourage that sense of play somewhere. Somehow we were told that when you're an adult, you have to be serious and can I just say life is too important to take seriously.

No one gets out alive and so have fun with what's going on. I studied improv with improv Melbourne, who are very highly regarded for about 10 years. And so it's that concept of letting go of failure. Once I could go, you know what, I am gonna stuff up big time on stage in front of lots of people, and that's okay.

And then they have a great thing of of when you're doing a scene and it all cocks up, everyone just goes again, again, again. And so it is that whole. Let's celebrate failure because once you're not scared of failure, you can push that limit. So I would suggest if you wanna have more fun is push your limits, have a bit of fun, make, make dad jokes or winners cuz all the men in the room are like, oh, that's fantastic.

I write that down. And all the women are like, Ugh. So it's, you know, you get a response, don't call. My husband didn't hear that. Exactly. Exactly. And then some wives go home and go, Hey, I heard this great dad joke. You're gonna wanna use this one on the kids. You know, and, and you know, it's just like to really give yourself to the audience.

I think that that is the secret. The, the awesome speakers or the awesome people who can engage are the people who are there in service of the audience, not of themselves, but the audience. And just have a smile on your face and enjoy what's going on. Make sure your body knows you're having a good time.

That is what makes it more fun.

[01:03:45] Roger Courville, CSP: Well, thank you again for kindly sharing your brilliance and as I just wrap up with two sentences, do you want give yourself a hand on the way out the door?

[01:03:54] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: Oh, look. Let's, let's do that. And so, so, ah, yes

with you. A good chat with you. We had a bit of fun, so that's gotta be a good thing. So, it's been an absolute pleasure to be here and if anyone needs to get in touch with me, I'm happy for them to do so. Hey,

[01:04:12] Roger Courville, CSP: just in case somebody is listening but not watching, meaning they don't see your name on the screen.

[01:04:22] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: Yeah, yeah, that's it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. is my website. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And it's Warwick. Warwick. I do have some American friends who go, Hey Warwick. And I will answer to anything I've been called anything. So yeah. Warwick, Merry Mary's in


[01:04:37] Roger Courville, CSP: Sweet. Well, again, thank you to our sponsor today, virtual venues where you can instantly scale your virtual and hybrid event production team unless you call war, of course, because he's gonna rock your world. We'll catch you now in the next episode of Thought Leader Conversations. Thank you.

[01:05:06] Warwick Merry, CSP, CVP: Thank you. That was fun.


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