Anyone who tells you virtual presentations are the same as presenting in person has likely never presented both virtually and in person. They’re apples and oranges – both fruit, but very different types of fruit with their own unique flavours and textures.
In the good old days before 2020 (if you can even remember that hazy, blissful time) everything was conducted in-person – meetings, interviews, meet-ups, birthday parties, talks and presentations. Why would anyone do anything virtually aside from Skyping a client or distant relative halfway across the world because necessity dictated it?
Fast forward to today and it’s hard to believe that we actually used to interact so much in person and so little online. Times have since changed, and it’s unlikely that things will go back to how they were pre-covid.
Whether we like it or not, virtual presentations are here to stay – and they’re not that bad! Far from it actually.
Master Your Tech
In a physical presentation, your tech is likely handled by the venue coordinator or techie. You don’t need to stop and think about how bright or dim you might appear when presenting, how much your voice carries or whether or not you appear pixelated.
All of this is on you when you present virtually. There’s no one else managing your presentation equipment, meaning you essentially need to play the role of both speaker and stage manager.
Remember that during a virtual presentation, there’s no physical connection between you and your audience – you have to create that connection by creating the ideal environment.
A simple technique Rich likes to use for mastering your virtual tech set is the CLAPS technique – camera, lighting, audio, presentation and set. Make sure your camera focus is fixed, your lighting ideal, your audio is clear and that your background is “presentation-worthy”. Do a run-through and tick off these boxes before you present.
Hints For Handling Your Virtual Presentation with Conviction and Engagement
Change the Audience’s Role
Once upon a time audience members were passive observers who watched while we sold them a story, an idea, an argument and so on. But the role of the audience has changed. Virtual presentations demand that we engage our audience members more directly when presenting to keep them fixated.
Something you can do when kicking off your next virtual presentation is to break the ice by asking your audience a question. Keep it simple like asking them where they’re joining from, or asking how many people are first-timers.
Warm up the audience a little bit instead of jumping straight into your presentation, it will help them – and you – to feel more relaxed and at ease before you dive into the nitty-gritty.
Making your audience active participants in your presentation will help lock in their interest and make the virtual experience less isolating and more communal.
Win Their Attention
The golden rule of presenting whether it’s virtual or physical is this: Don’t try to sell the audience a solution to a problem they don’t know they have. An irrelevant message is more of a threat to presentation success than any technical glitch, missing slide or under-preparedness ever could be.
Your first must-do when presenting online is to win your audience’s attention. Give them a reason to care about what you have to say – then say it. Diving into the details too early will cause the majority of your audience to mentally tap out before you’re even a third of the way through presenting.
Ask yourself these key questions: What problem does the audience have? Why should they care about what you have to say about it? How will listening to you benefit them?
Present the problem and get them invested in it before presenting your answer or solution.
Disrupt Their Distraction
In any presentation, you’ll always be fighting against audience distraction, but especially so in virtual presentations. When presenting in person you’re able to suss out who’s secretly texting in their lap and who’s looking over their shoulder at the person behind them whose cell phone is ringing, allowing you to pause or adjust as needed.
Presenting virtually generally doesn’t offer this luxury. Your audience attendees will likely be on mute, but who knows what myriad of distractions are going on in the background, especially if they’re tuning in from home.
The goal isn’t to stop your audience’s attention from wandering – it’s to capture and refocus it when it does.
As we discussed above, getting your audience members to be active participants in your presi helps to stave off glazed looks and fidgety hands. Most online presentation software tools have built-in engagement capabilities that allow you and your audience to engage via the screen.
Posing questions, creating polls and referencing what you’re sharing on the screen are great ways to grab audience attention when it starts to float away.
Stand and Deliver
You can’t expect your audience to care about your presentation if it looks like you don’t care. If you’re able to stand and present, then always stand and present (unless, of course, it’s simply not possible).
Sitting and presenting when you’re able to stand can give off a laissez-faire vibe, and can give the impression that you’re not particularly invested in the audience or in what you’re presenting. Again, if you can, stand up and present.
Stand up and command the attention of your audience. Standing will encourage them to sit up and pay attention because anything worth standing to tell is well worth listening to.
Standing up will also sharpen your attention and help you find your focus. If you’re worried about being cut off from the audience, simply tilt your camera a little higher so they can see you. You can practice this action a few times when you rehearse your presentation to find that “sweet spot” angle.
Presenting virtually doesn’t need to feel overwhelming or intimidating. With a bit of pre-presentation due diligence and some real-time strategies for winning your audience, you’ll find that presenting online can be just as rewarding as presenting to a room of people.