Can You Hear Me? How to bring impact and presence to your online presentations.
“Can you hear me?” this phrase has become a symbol of our transition to communicating virtually because of the effect of Covid-19 on our day-to-day life. We are all working differently, many working from home and needing to communicate in a different way.
In this article I want to share my thoughts on how to bring impact and presence when you are presenting virtually, whether formally or informally.
So, what are the main differences between presenting face-to-face and presenting virtually?
All of the fundamentals remain true – good preparation, projecting our voice, getting our pace right and bringing our personality across. In the virtual environment some of these are emphasised more and, as I see it, the main challenges are lack of body language, eye contact and bringing energy to your presentation.
Here are my top tips for dealing with these challenges:
Engaging with your audience – when presenting virtually we can feel remote and disconnected from our audience. To overcome this, firstly, imagine either your whole audience or one specific person behind the camera lens. Some presenters like to give their camera a name as they feel that it helps them to engage.
Secondly, by looking directly at the camera your audience will think that you are making eye contact with them. This is easiest if you have a separate camera.
Image – pay attention to how you look on screen. Not just what you are wearing and how well-groomed you are, but the background in the room. Make sure that the background is consistent with the image that you want to portray and that there isn’t anything that will distract your audience’s attention.
Ensure that the lighting in the room is good and that you are lit from the front so that your facial expressions can be seen clearly.
To come across well you need to be seen and you can get lost in a sea of faces on the screen. How about asking your audience to change to speaker view so that they can get the most out of your presentation?
Energy – we have all seen presenters online who are very static, and this low energy affects the energy and interest of the audience. A simple way to bring more energy in is to stand up while you are speaking.
Body language – a huge 55% of our message is conveyed through our body language so we need to work hard to bring as much of our body language into our virtual presentations as we can.
By following my previous tip and standing up you will find that your audience will automatically see more of your body and not just head and shoulders.
Also, by bringing your hand gestures up towards your head, you will be able to bring more expression and enthusiasm into your communication.
Conversation – most people prefer to listen to a speaker who is being conversational and human than someone who is speaking in a robotic way. Think about having a conversation with your audience rather than talking at them.
Interaction – think of ways in which you can interact with your audience. Simple ways of doing this include asking them questions and inviting them to ask you questions too. If you have a very big audience, you could ask them rhetorical questions, invite them to raise their hands in answer to a question, use a poll or ask them for ideas in chat.
Slides – I always say to participants on my presentation skills workshops that slides are a visual aid to the presentation and not the presentation. While you are sharing slides, your image becomes a tiny window on the screen in comparison and it is hard to bring energy, presence and impact. To compensate for this, I have two suggestions:
a. Keep your slides to a minimum, both in numbers and the time that they are on screen. Pause between slides and stop screen sharing so that you can speak directly to the audience.
b. Make your slides that you do use as interesting as possible. Remember the phrase ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ and use pictures, graphs and images rather than lots of bullet points
Practise – it is even more important to practise your presentation virtually so that you can ensure that you are familiar with the technology and with applying the above tips. Platforms such as Zoom enable you to record your practise and this is valuable feedback – I know how uncomfortable it is for many people to see themselves on screen but is so useful!
These are my top tips for overcoming the challenges of presenting virtually and bringing impact and presence while you are online. Which ones will you adopt?