By Warwick Merry

My gorgeous wife and I had the great joy of attending SummerSalt Music Festival in Ballarat on Sunday. Eight hours, six acts, too much sunshine, a fabulous atmosphere and all in a COVID safe environment. It was great to be back at a live music event!

It was quite obvious as to who were the musicians and who were the entertainers. One of the key differences was the “dead air” or lack thereof.

It is the same with corporate events – both in-person and online. The entertainer and professional presenter will use silence to highlight anticipation, build suspense, or reinforce a point they are making.

The musician or the speaker can often have awkward silences or dead air as they get their power point or guitar ready. This dead air builds a level of discomfort in the audience you just don’t need.

The best people at handling dead air are Radio DJs. They know dead air means changing channels and that means lower ratings, loss of revenue and “a conversation with the boss”. They have become masters of saying nothing in an engaging manner and using a lot of words and sounds doing it.

As event professionals I am sure you know this already.

But one of the big traps for dead air is at hybrid events.

Often there will be something happening in the face-to-face venue but the online delegates are not being engaged, or even worse, forgotten. Too often I have seen the host say, “go and introduce yourself to someone on another table” and give no instruction to the online delegates. They watch the video of people talking for five minutes feeling left out and isolated.

Successful hybrid events happen when you understand that you have TWO separate events happening (online and face-to-face) and manage the different delegates accordingly.

In this situation, most event software would have the facility to have online networking tables, break into small online groups, use the messenger function to chat with each other or simply direct the online delegates to use the chat function to connect.

Your online host and face-to-face host need to be sure that all parts of your event are covered to avoid Dead Air. Take advantage of the differences of the online vs the face-to-face experience. Give each of them an experience that is unique to them.

For example, during the breaks on-site, why not have a host interviewing the speakers or industry VIPs for the online audience (which can also be recorded for others). Live networking could also have online speed dating or sponsor case studies. It doesn’t take a great deal of effort (or expense) to ensure your delegates have the opportunity to engage.

As we know, “silence is golden!” But dead air is lead that will drag you and your event down!

Make sure you avoid it at all costs.

Warwick Merry CSP, CVP is a Certified Speaking Professional, Dual Certified Virtual Presenter and Past National President of Professional Speakers Australia. He hosts and produces online events. Discover more at