Remote working is here to stay. According to recent reports, many business leaders are reevaluating the value of housing employees in large office spaces. Instead, these organisations have adopted a permanent Work From Anywhere approach–whether full time, or as a hybrid model blending remote work and face-to-face interaction.
Even with the return of some employees to more traditional office environments, videoconferencing and virtual presentations will continue to play an important role in how we communicate well into the future.
Communicating online presents enormous opportunities for connecting with colleagues, clients, customers and team members unlike ever before. When done well, the benefits of transversing multiple geographies, time zones and individual circumstances are significant.
At the same time, communicating online–especially when presenting or teaching–requires more effort to capture and keep your audience’s attention. You’ll need a basic understanding of lighting, audio and technical elements to create a warm atmosphere for participants on the other end of the line. Here we’ve compiled our top 10 tips to help you create effective virtual presentations.
Step 1 – Define Your Communication Objective
The biggest mistake that people make when communicating is to focus too much on WHAT they want to say, and not WHY they’re saying it. Communication is a two-way exchange. There is always a speaker and a listener: even in a virtual presentation where you can’t see your audience. And if the listener isn’t paying attention to what you have to say, you’re essentially talking to a wall.
Understanding why you are communicating will help you shape content to meets your audience’s needs. This way you stand a better chance of having them stick with you. Plus it’s a great trick to get going in the face of a blank page. When you don’t know where to start on creating a presentation or announcement, the first place to look is your communication objective.
Step 2 – Create Content With Your Audience Top of Mind
It’s our job as a presenter to deliver value. People tune into us because we have knowledge or information they want to hear. Everyone’s time is precious these days. We all compete with a lot of noise out there.
If you’re not crystal clear on your communication objective and delivering this to your audience, they will likely turn down the volume on your presentation and take care of other business. Worse yet, they may just move on completely and leave you in the dust. This is easier than ever to do in a virtual work world.
One way you can ensure your content is relevant is to ask yourself: why should my audience care? What’s in it for them? Before you dive into what you want to say, put yourself in their shoes. This way you’re more likely to identify their information needs and tailor your messaging accordingly to connect with your audience.
Our audience doesn’t owe us anything. When you put yourself in their shoes you can really better understand what it is that would grab their attention and keep it.
Step 3 – Develop One Main Point and Repeat It Often
How can you create memorable messaging? One of the easiest ways to do this is to Keep It Simple and Repeat. Sound easy? The truth is, crafting a clear message can be harder than you think.
A “main point” is the single most important message you want to convey in a presentation. Your main point is connected to the communication objective you have for that audience. So, you’ll want to keep it simple so that when your audience comes away from your presentation they know exactly what you were intending for them to hear.
Often the reason we’re tempted to provide too much information is because of a secret fear that we won’t be perceived as experts if we don’t showcase our full knowledge. Here’s a little hint: it’s actually more impressive when people understand what we’re trying to say, rather than throwing out an overload of messages and hoping for the best!
Step 4 – Choose A Location With Plenty of Light
Video is light and sound. Lighting your video calls correctly can make a huge difference to your impact when presenting online. It’s worth investing a few minutes upfront to create an optimal lighting set-up.
One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that you need expensive studio equipment to look good on video calls. Most of us can create a great online presentation set-up without spending a penny. There’s a lot you can do with good old natural daylight and regular lamps. You don’t need a fancy ring light if you’ve got natural daylight available to you.
Position yourself facing a window with empty space behind you and objects at a distance. Take advantage of that natural light. It’s a great way to give a nice soft diffuse light that doesn’t cast shadows.
If you don’t have access to natural daylight and are using an electric source, the light should be positioned above you, at a 45-degree angle. Lamps with LED daylight balanced or white lightbulbs most closely resemble indirect natural daylight.
Step 5 – Wear Solid Colors
The most important thing you can do to shine online is wear something you feel good in. Your clothing makes an impression, both in person and online. Even if you’re presenting without video, it’s a good idea to dress the part.
Your audience will hear the confidence, or lack thereof, in your voice. That old high school track suit and your favourite cat socks may be just the thing for a movie night in with the kids. But it’s not the best choice for sharing an update to the Board–even if your audience can’t see you.
When you do use video for your online presentation, aim to wear blues, greens, purples and pinks. These colours work really well on video, especially when they have a warmer tone. Think teal, cobalt or coral.
And don’t forget your background! You want to avoid disappearing into it. If your background is lighter, contrast this by wearing a darker colour. If your background is darker, wear a lighter colour. It’s that simple.
Step 6 – Position Your Webcam Above Eye Level
One of the easiest fixes you can make to have an immediate impact on your video presence is the camera position. The camera lens (and be sure to think about the lens, not the screen) should be slightly above your eye level. If your computer or electronic device is sitting on a low table, move it up so that the lens is just above your line of sight.
The focal point of your video is your face. This is where you want to draw your audience’s attention. Leaning forward makes your head more prominent in the frame. It also moves your face closer to the light. If you need to, place a pillow behind you to give support and push you forward a little from the back of your chair.
Now you’ve got a nicely composed frame. That is, until your toddler strolls onto screen, or your cat’s tail pops into frame as you’re making an important point!
Step 7 – Make Sure There Is Plenty of Light On Your Face
A little bit of shadow gives you a more natural look online. However, too much shadow can make you appear older and more tired. Soft, diffuse light is the most flattering option.
In order to find the best set-up for you, position yourself in front of your light source with the light shining slightly downwards, and then try out a few angles, from left to right, to see whether you prefer the flatter effect or some light shadow.
For a flatter lighting effect, position yourself directly towards the light source, whether it’s a window or lamp. Otherwise if you want to create some natural shadows, turn your body slightly to the left or right of the light source at a 45-degree angle.
Step 8 – Use An External Microphone
We tend to think about video in terms of visuals. While it’s true that a picture is a worth a thousand words, sound is equally as important. You may not notice when a video call or presentation sounds good. But poor audio quality can be very distracting to your audience.
Built-in mics on a laptop or mobile phone are convenient. However, they tend to pick up a lot of background noise. This is because when your device is positioned at an adequate distance to correctly frame your video, the microphone is farther away from your mouth. As a result, your audience may struggle to hear you clearly.
Using a headset is a great way to get clean sound because the microphone is closer to your mouth. You can use the free headset that comes with your device. Just be sure that the microphone wire doesn’t rub up against your lapel or collar because this can create crackling noises on the other end of the line.
Many people are using wireless earbuds these days. Wireless earbuds are a great hands-free and cord-free solution for day-to-day calls. They do tend to cause a slightly muffled sound, so they’re generally not the best choice when you are leading an online presentation.
If you’re going to be hosting a lot of online meetings and presentations, you might consider investing in an inexpensive USB microphone. These are easy to use and can make a huge difference in sound quality. Have a listen here to compare the sound quality of various microphone options.
Step 9 – Avoid Reading Your Slides
Many people use slides as a crutch, instead of an enhancement, to their presentation. When you’re presenting with slides the focus should be on you, not on your slides. If anything, a slide deck is there to help emphasise the main point you want to make. It helps your audience remember this point through supporting visuals, charts, or simple phrases.
You don’t have to learn your presentation word-for-word. However, you should be familiar with the main point for each slide, as well as transitions from one point to the next. Knowing your content will boost your confidence when delivering a presentation, so that you focus the audience’s attention on what you have to say, not what’s written behind you.
Step 10 – Slow Down and Speak Clearly
Like a good meal, people need time to digest information. Just as we wouldn’t rush a good meal, we mustn’t rush a presentation. The easiest way to speak more clearly is to use less words in the first place.
The best presenters tend to speak more clearly, and slowly, than average. During their talks, great speakers also use pace strategically to emphasise important points and keep their audience engaged. Pauses are also helpful to bring an audience back if we feel we’ve lost them. Or to mark a transition from one idea to another.
Our perception of time changes significantly when we’re presenting. What may feel like an eternity to us is only a couple of seconds for the audience. Counting is a shortcut to use help use pauses effectively. This way our delivery is in line with our audience’s perception of time.