Virtual presenting is here to stay – everything you need to know to make it work

man on virtual meeting waving at camera

Virtual presenting has become an everyday feature of business. Since Covid-19 it’s become the mainstay of business communication and it’s here to stay.

Many professionals find the very thought of virtual presenting unsettling.

It’s not too difficult to understand why that is.

In the good old days of presenting in person, while in the same room as our audience, many presenters struggled to:

– Make eye contact – now we look at a camera.

– Keep their audience’s attention – there are so many distractions online.

– Express themselves non-verbally – movement is energy.

– Use simple and compelling visuals – ‘Death by PowerPoint’ is worse.

– ‘Read the audience’ – It’s like presenting blindfolded now.

– Not sound monotonous – Imagine if you sounded boring in person?

– Speak at the right pace – online is used as an excuse to ramble at speed.

– Avoid lecturing – people prefer conversations.

– Interact with the audience – how can you when they’re not in the room with you?

Virtual presenting will never be the same as interacting with your audience but it’s here to stay so let’s focus on taking advantage of it and making it work.

How to make virtual presenting work powerfully

Shift – your thinking. Focus on the possibilities and opportunities of connecting with your audience rather than just talking to a camera.

Reduce – your content. Remember the human mind is conditioned to wander and the online world is a world of distractions. Craft a presentation which is mindful and content rich. If it doesn’t support your message and isn’t relevant to your audience leave it out.

Exercise – your voice. In the world of virtual presenting your voice is your greatest asset. Long before you go online to speak practice stretching and challenging your voice with vocal exercises.

Use – your imagination. Avoid the classic PowerPoint data dump and bullet points. Create clear, rich, compelling slides using pictures and images.

Take – your time. Just because your audience aren’t in the room with you doesn’t mean you don’t have to prepare. Take the time to prepare fully, to practice and to get feedback.

Craft – your message. The success of any presentation depends on the clarity and impact of its message. Virtual presenting does not exempt us from ensuring that our message is clear, focused and personal to our audience.

Repeat – your message. Don’t expect to tell your audience once and expect them to get it. You have to tell them again and again.

Share – your passion. If you don’t believe in yourself or your message then don’t expect your audience to. Let them feel your passion as though they were sitting right next to you.

Ensure – you’re professional. Get the lighting right, choose your background mindfully. Check your sound and visuals including all of the functionality of your video conferencing platform. Set your camera at eye level and look at it. Shut down all other apps and browsers. Check your Wi-Fi. Test your screen sharing, polling, and white board. Put a do not disturb sign on your door, place all phones in another room and keep the dog out.

Be – your best self. Don’t just be yourself; be your best self. In other words, ditch the ‘corporate spokesperson’ and ‘telephone voice’. Let your audience in to your world by showing them how you think, feel and why you care.

Pace – Yourself.  Calm down and slow down. Take a few deep breaths before you start the presentation. Check your speed and pace remembering to pause and breath after each important point.

Involve – your audience. Don’t just talk at them. Ask them questions, get them thinking. Use polls, chat, hand raising and break out rooms. Invite them to turn on their cameras where appropriate. Tell them stories, ask for feedback, ask them what they think and how they feel. Plan an interaction every 5 minutes; no longer. Call on them by their names.

Increase – your visibility. It’s one thing not being able to see your audience but when they can’t see you clearly, that’s worse. Set your webcam so they can see your head, full upper body and arms. If you can use a standing desk that’s even better. Let your audience see as much of you as you can.

Commit – yourself fully. Open your presentation with a commitment to your audience that you intend to give them 100%. That means your complete, focus, energy, passion, knowledge, empathy, respect and insights. In return, ask them to turn off their phones and close all other devices and windows.

Look – your best. Dress appropriately for the occasion, watch out for distracting jewellery or accessories. Watch out for spinach stuck in your teeth and bed head hair if it’s an early one.

Set – yourself and your audience up for success. Craft a presentation that you would like to be on the receiving end of. Build it with empathy, humility and creativity. Don’t focus on impressing your audience focus on connecting with them and making a difference to their lives.

In today’s COVID-19 world, virtual presenting has become the norm and for many reasons it’s here to stay so we owe it to ourselves and our audience to get good at it. Have you noticed that everything I have shared with you in this article applies to in person presenting just as equally? At Mindful Presenter we have always held the belief that when it comes to presenting, virtual is real.

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If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your leadership skills are you may want to take a look at our leadership training and presentation coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.

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