Welcome to the age of the virtual presenter. You still have a key audience to influence, inform or entertain – they’re just on the other end of an internet connection.
So, how do you transcend the screen and make it your stage?
While there are many key crossovers in the virtual and live presentation skillset, there are some important adjustments you should be making to suit your medium. Here are five top tips to boost your presence and confidence when presenting or engaging any audience online.
Master your language
Work with the advantages you have on a virtual platform – your tone and your body language.
Use exaggeration to drive impactful points home, adding gravitas to serious discussion, guiding your audience with your voice.
Talk with your hands, even if you’re not streaming video. This will help you feel like you’re on the big stage – adding gestures to your speech helps your keep your rhythm and flow, keeping that audience tuned in.
And finally, we don’t want any misunderstandings – make sure you speak clearly, enunciating your words. Make it as easy as possible for your audience to get to grips with all of your key messages.
You might not be able to see your whole audience, but there’s (hopefully) a whole load of people tuning into your presentation. Webinar fatigue is very real for most audiences – since the pivot to virtual, your audience has likely sat through loads of virtual meetings, conferences and more. Make their time count.
When you are on camera, make sure you look at the camera, as that is where your audiences’ eyes would be. Eye contact can be achieved through the screen too.
Although it’s easy to forget that they’re there, visualising an audience in front of you will help you zone in on who you’re speaking to. You could even have some photos of audience members to look at while presenting.
Remember: your audience is made up of individuals, and they expect to be recognised. Use your language to create a personalised experience, addressing “you” rather than “everyone”.
Make use of supporting tools
In your virtual presentation you’ll benefit from the use of on-screen slides, pre-recorded content and co-presenters for support. These tools can make a good presentation great when used right.
Create short, snappy slides to support your points, with limited text to take in.
Take advantage of visuals, using pre-recorded video or animation, and supporting images. Use these slides to create pace and complement your rhythm.
Remember: if you’re using video breakaways, turn your mic off so as not to disturb them. Sound and visuals are great when used right.
Support tools aren’t just technical – shaking things up with a co-presenter keeps an audience interested. Don’t let the tech trip you up though, practice your virtual handovers and make sure there are no awkward transitions.
Set your stage
Using your prep time to your advantage is essential in delivering any presentation. Everything from your clothing to the lighting can cause trouble for presenters – any distractions will cost you.
- Dress in solid, neutral colours that won't distract your audience - avoid patterns at all cost. Navy blue, dark creams and muted tones are good options.
- Make sure you're taking advantage of natural light, facing onto a window or a source of natural light to avoid creating shadow or a silhouette.
- Don't move around, keep a stable position in view of the camera.
- Watch out for glare - from jewellery or even your glasses. Both can create distracting reflections.
Maximise your time
Contact time is limited for everyone at the moment – any chance you get to unite your team and share in the experience of these weird times should be used to its fullest.
Use engagement tools, such as Q&A or polls, to create a two-way conversation and an interactive experience. Audience views are valuable, use them.
Make sure you've planned your key points out or created a full script of your presentation. Presentation is the key to getting your points across without any awkward silences.
Enjoy yourself. Prepare well, deliver and then relax. This is your moment in the spotlight, so enjoy it.
ICF Next specialises in giving virtual presenters expert coaching to boost presentation skills. As technical natives, we work closely with teams across the globe to equip presenters with the digital know-how to create presentations that go without a hitch.
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Katrin Homer, principal consultant at ICF Next.