When the coronavirus pandemic abruptly shifted the workplace from the office to the home in 2020, chats at the printer and discussions across the boardroom table moved into an online space as workers were forced to embrace the new norm of working from home.
Although we are slowly but surely returning to normal as we head towards a post-pandemic world, the argument for maintaining both remote and hybrid working is strong. So strong in fact, there’s no time like the present to brush up on your virtual presentation skills, as you will likely be putting them into practice for some time to come.
Golden rules for a seamless virtual presentation
Of course, you will need to choose a platform from which to host your presentation. With multiple options available all offering similar features and functionality, it really can just come down to whatever is more commonly used within your organisation or is readily available.
Once you’ve chosen your preferred platform, it’s time to focus on the finer details of the presentation itself. Perfecting your positioning and environment is a great place to start.
- Ideally, you will have two monitors in use when presenting. This will give you more visual control over proceedings allowing you to monitor how attendees are behaving, as well as giving you space to manage your control room settings.
- Lighting should ideally be natural and shining at you rather than behind you to avoid a nasty glare. In the absence of natural light, use a ring light to improve visibility of your face for the audience, placing it behind your camera shining downwards onto your face.
- Choose a professional and minimal background with very little to distract your audience or opt for a virtual background where you can display your company branding.
Once the physical set up is in hand, it’s time for some technological troubleshooting!
- Use headphones to test the audio quality of your own microphone, ensuring your voice is heard loud and clear by each participant.
- Conduct a “dry run” presentation and dial in to the meeting from another device so that you can identify and fix any issues that might arise from an audience point of view. This practice is also useful for testing out any features you plan on using during the presentation, such as screen sharing, poll taking or live chat.
- Another best practice when setting up the meeting room would be to ensure that all microphones are muted upon entry. As a host you have control over this feature and, when needed, can send a message to request that an attendee unmute their microphone before speaking.
How to transform your virtual presentation from good to great!
Engagement is fundamental to a successful presentation so you need to be aware of the best ways to engage your audience before you start.
Let’s talk length for a minute. Global attention span is narrowing year on year, contributed greatly to the evolution of the fast paced information age. While some suggest our attention span is down to as little as eight seconds, this does not mean that we have to cram an entire presentation into such a ridiculously short window of time.
Instead, most research seems to suggest a run time of ten to fifteen minutes ideally, or up to twenty minutes which will give you the best chance of holding attention. In fact, 18 minutes in length was chosen by TED Talk organizers as the maximum amount of time a speaker should have.
This is based both on neuroscience and strategy. They believe that 18 minutes should be long enough for a speaker to get their key points across, but short enough for the listener to stay attentive and digest the information.
Here are some steps you can take during the presentation itself to actively engage your audience and up your game even further:
1. Energise Yourself and Your Audience
First, think about how you are going to energise yourself to engage your audience. One thing that will help you here is knowing exactly what purpose you are serving by delivering this presentation. What is your goal? Write it down and understand fully the impact you could make and the results you could achieve by the end of this presentation. Let that drive you to do the best possible job.
Once you know your goal, bring the enthusiasm and energy needed to achieve it! Get up, move and get your juices flowing before the presentation starts and practice your expressions in front of a mirror. If you are enthusiastic about what you are presenting, make sure your energy levels express that.
2. Virtual Eye Contact
Second, remember the eyes are the window to the soul. Eye contact has always been a great way for speakers to connect with their audience, but in a virtual setting this proves more challenging. It can be difficult not to look directly at your own image on a monitor, but to achieve the pretense of true eye contact you need to stare directly into the camera lens so that your audience feels that connection with you. And don’t forget to smile. After all, a smile can light up a room.
3. Position Yourself Correctly
In terms of positioning, your head and shoulders should be clearly visible within the frame. Being too far from or too close to the camera can create a spatial disconnect that can affect how well you engage with your audience. Ideally, you should present from a standing position or, if possible, alternate between sitting and standing. If this isn’t an option, sit forward in your chair so you appear more animated and alert.
4. Use Hand Gestures
Surprisingly, what you do with your hands can have a lot of influence within a virtual context. Simple hand gestures can add energy through movement and animation. One big gaffe to avoid, however, is pointing. You should not point directly at the camera lens as this could be perceived as aggressive or condescending. Instead, when speaking to your audience, use gentle open palm hand gestures intermittently, keeping them close to your body.
5. Use Appropriate Language
Similarly, be sure to use appropriate language throughout the presentation. Steer clear of words like “dearest” or “love” that could sound patronising. Even the most seasoned presenters can make slip ups like this that can completely sour a great presentation. You should also avoid unnecessary verbal interruptions from your end by staying quiet when receiving questions. Simply nod your head to show you’re listening and wait for a clear pause before chiming in with a response.
6. Make It Personal
Utilise features of your platform such as the participant list (or the visibility of names on the screen in the case of smaller audience numbers) to call attendees by name when they might have a question. This makes a virtual experience far more personal and allows you to connect with your audience on a level that can be achieved when you are physically present with them. Frequently adding opportunities for interaction throughout the presentation also enhances this, while allowing you to hold the audience’s attention for longer periods of time.
7. Use Engaging Visual Aids
Visual aids are key to any great presentation. Creating clean, well-designed slides with minimal text, making use of features like white boards and screen share and using images or videos can bring your audience in and capture their attention further.
Mix it up and change camera angles, use live chats and polls to maintain audience interest and make them feel involved. Creating an inclusive and visual space during a virtual presentation is hugely important as it makes attendees feel more connected to you and other participants.
8. Utilise Executive Presence
Keep in mind that with practice, virtual presentations are a great opportunity to build your executive presence. Individuals who have executive presence are confident, more likeable and easier to trust. People listen when they talk. It is a powerful leadership trait that can make any person stand out in an inspiring way. It is not something that can be assumed or faked, but it is something that can be learned. Equipping yourself with the tools and know-how to give the best possible presentation will go a long way in helping you do just that.
9. Be Prepared
Lastly, be humble and be ready. Your audience deserves the best that you can deliver. You cannot ever come unprepared to a presentation. If you are going to stand up, you better stand out and give your audience your best.
And remember that delivering great presentations, whether virtual or in person, requires you to continuously work on your presentation skills. As Michaelangelo said – “Ancora Imparo” – which means “Yet, I am learning”. This truly is the key to delivering powerful presentations that will impact your audience in a meaningful way.
When you or your executive team stand up and give a strong and confident presentation, your business will stand out! If you would like to enquire about any of our programmes, please fill out our enquiry form or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.