Deliver Virtual Presentations Like a Boss
A Virtual How-to Guide for Executives
We’ve all learned how challenging it can be to communicate effectively over virtual platforms this last year. Your virtual communication skills might not matter much if you only log on to catch up with friends or family every few months. But if you’re an executive who is pitching prospects, talking with clients, and communicating with your team every day on Zoom, Teams, WebEx, or any other online video platform, how effectively you communicate through a screen matters A LOT!
As a top virtual emcee for all types of virtual meetings and events, I’ve seen leaders who are incredibly adroit at presenting in this relatively new virtual format. They are humorous, authentic, charismatic, poignant, and powerful. They connect with people watching on screens all over the country or even the world, in a way that appears easy, natural and effortless. I’ve also seen company folks of all levels – including C suite executives – who appear clumsy, awkward, and uncomfortable with virtual, still! March 2020: You got a pass. March 2021 on: No more pass! It’s time to up your virtual game and learn how to deliver virtual presentation with confidence… like a boss.
Stand, Don’t Sit
There is a certain energy that comes from standing and speaking. Resist the temptation to hide behind the comfort and safety of your desk. While sitting at your desk may seem more natural, the desk creates a physical and psychological barrier between you and your audience and makes it harder to connect. It can also be distracting because instead of people focusing on you and your message, they are looking at what’s on your desk and noticing how clean (or messy) it is! Standing also improves your “digital body language” – yes, that’s a thing! With more of your body in frame, you can be much more expressive when you illustrate your points. If you’re Italian, like me, you know how effective hand gestures can be to emphasize your point!
Ditch the Virtual Background
We know you’re not at the beach,Ted! I feel like virtual backgrounds peaked in June 2020 🙂 “Hey look— I’m in front of the Golden Gate Bridge!” Virtual backgrounds can be effective in limited use when they are done well with a green screen, proper lighting, and additional software like ecamm. Pro tip:You must light yourself with front lighting AND you must light the green screen.Lighting the green screen is the part that most people forget! Without the proper technical set up, you run the risk of blending and blurring into your background which can be extremely distracting. We’ve all seen that before, and it doesn’t look good!
Unless you’re using a virtual background for a quick gag or a fun moment, if you don’t have a studio setup it’s probably more of a liability than an asset for your talk.”No virtual background” is better than a BAD virtual background. Keep your background clean, basic, and one solid color for a professional appearance that allows the audience to focus on you and your content.
Segues are Important
Segues happen naturally at in-person meetings and events. You don’t even have to think about them. Someone walks on stage after being introduced, and they shake hands or exchange a few words. You tag someone in around the conference table, and there’s natural banter. But since everyone is tuning into a virtual call from separate homes or offices, you have to work a little harder to make virtual meetings feel seamless. When the virtual emcee introduces you, acknowledge him or her! It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how often speakers miss that opportunity for a fun, spontaneous interaction and simply charge forward with their script.
Creating smooth intros and outros is even more essential when your presentation is pre-recorded so it maintains a live feel. In broadcasting, this method is called a “look live.” During the pre-recorded segment, the reporter on location thanks the news anchor in the studio and perhaps make a comment or a joke before diving into the remote segment. This requires a little coordination ahead of time, but the effort is well worth it!
Use an External Monitor for Your Presentation
The “share screen” feature certainly is convenient, and for many quick routine internal meetings this method of sharing content is just fine. But for more significant presentations and keynote talks with multiple slides and lots of data, consider adding an external TV monitor for yourPowerPoint or Keynote.
Showing slides on your laptop computer screen makes your slides small and makes you as the speaker TINY. You minimize your image (and authority) to a thumbnail image in the corner of the screen. Standing up and away from your camera in front of an external monitor showing your slides gives you back your presence and authority. It gives you depth. You can come forward to the camera to draw the audience in as you make a point, you can go back to the monitor to emphasize something on your slides. Effective communicators know that so much of what we say is in how we say it. Using an external monitor for your presentation opens up a world of possibilities for engaging with your content and your audience.
Lights and Audio Matter
Not surprising, but lighting and audio have a massive impact on the overall quality of your virtual presentation. We need to be able to see and hear you! Dim lighting makes you look low-energy. Fluorescent lighting and sunlit backgrounds wash you out. You don’t need a full studio set up, but you do need basic front lighting and an external microphone. Don’t sit in front of the window, and don’t use the built-in microphone and speakers on your laptop. If you don’t know where to start, here is the ring light ($80) and microphone ($129) I use in my home office for virtual calls. Is it worth $200 to drastically improve how people see and hear you on Zoom? I think so.
Authenticity is paramount for virtual speakers. Be human. Be real. Acknowledge that virtual is weird. Acknowledge that virtual is difficult. Acknowledge that you’d rather be together in person. Look into the camera and speak from the heart, especially when you’re talking about anything that carries a degree of emotion, such as apologizing for a misstep or thanking your team. It’s okay if it doesn’t come out perfectly. Actually, it’s better than okay…it’s ideal. That way we know it’s real. We like you more for being real, and when we like you more we engage with you more, and YOU become amore effective communicator by default.
After serving as a top virtual emcee for 200+ successful virtual corporate events, I’ve learned that effective virtual communication is about eliminating distractions and positioning yourself in a way that creates an authentic connection.Employ even a few of these relatively simple guidelines on your next virtual call, and see the difference it makes.