Stand out - Get ahead
Presenting and public speaking in a virtual environment involves a lot of the same considerations that the in-person equivalent does. But there are also a few challenges or skills that are unique to this type of presenting that are important to keep in mind.
Here we have put together some advice for boosting your virtual presentation skills. With five practical tips for improving the look and audience experience of your talk, and five presentation techniques to up your public speaking game and impress your audience.
Familiarising yourself with the technology you’ll be using during your virtual presentation well in advance of delivering it will help to prevent any uncertainty or problems when the time comes to present. Whether that means becoming well versed in the functionality of your chosen video conferencing software or ensuring you’re making the most of your presentation platform. This little bit of prior preparation can add that all important extra bit of professionalism and polish.
It’s a nice thought to think that when you’re presenting your audience is just listening to the words you’re saying, and only looking at the slides you’re showing on screen. But the reality is that people will be scrutinising the room you are in, and however much of what you are wearing that they can see. So, whatever is in the background, remember to: keep it tidy, keep it conventional, and don’t leave something in there that’s going to catch peoples’ eye (unless you’ve got a mischievous sense of humour!).
Much like the in-person equivalent, virtual presenting is as much about the visual as it is about the aural. Making sure your audience can see you properly is key to upping your virtual presentation game. So make sure your face is well lit. Making sure you are lit from the front rather than the back is the key, and a couple of angles if possible. Natural light is best, but - if that’s not possible - artificial lighting will work just fine. Just play around with your options beforehand to find the right set up for you.
Now you have applied so much effort into making yourself and your background look presentable and professional, it would be a shame if your audience didn’t even get to see it clearly! So consider the quality of your computer’s built in webcam and ask yourself: is this good enough? A good quality external webcam is a relatively inexpensive alternative that can make a real difference. And since you’ve gone to the effort with the camera, you might as well go the whole hog and invest in an external microphone too.
Top Tip: Remember to be prepared for this to add an extra layer of technical complexity to the Know your Tech advice, but you will reap the rewards!
This is a simple one, and might seem a little bit silly. Maybe even unnecessary. But you’ll be surprised how much of a difference it can make. You may think that presenting is just an oral activity, but in practice it is a whole body performance. Standing up while you present will energise your body and therefore your delivery. These are the kind of fine margin differences that can take your presentation from good to great.
The most important aspect of your virtual presentation is the presentation itself. Ensuring you have put enough time into preparing and practicing your remarks so that you’re comfortable and relaxed on the day is the cornerstone of your virtual presentation toolkit. For this one there are no quick fixes, but the time and energy you invest ahead of presenting will pay dividends when the time comes to present.
This is a tricky one and takes a little practice, but speaking directly to camera - rather than looking at the screen or your notes - goes a long way to keeping your audience engaged. It may seem like a small thing, but getting into the habit of presenting to the camera has the effect of reaching through the screen and individually addressing audience members. So do it!
When you think of what it means to be a great public speaker, what you might think of is a dynamic, energetic, and attention-grabbing performance. But trying too hard to “perform” can result in a presentation that is rushed and chaotic. Speaking slowly and clearly is sometimes a little counterintuitive when faced with a waiting audience whose time you don’t want to waste or whose attention you want to keep, but you are much more likely to keep their attention if they can understand and follow what you are saying.
Working in strategies to engage your audience can be the thing to transform your presentation from good to great, and the difference between a forgettable and a memorable talk can often hinge on this point. Grabbing your audience’s attention by getting them involved from the beginning with an icebreaker, clearing up any uncertainties at the end with a Q&A, or interspersing interactive elements throughout your talk will serve to elevate your delivery and maintain the focus of your audience.
Finally, all of this is a lot to think about and contend with, so remember that it’s alright to ask for help (and your presentation will likely be the better for it!). Delegating the task of managing the audience, moderating the Q&A, or some of the technical aspects can help reduce presenter stress and make your presentation shine!