These days, and especially due to Covid-19, we are all presenting very frequently in the virtual world. We’re using platforms like Zoom, MS Teams, WebEx and a whole lot of other ones. The other day, I had the opportunity to watch Ita Buttrose, the chairman of the ABC as she commented on the passing of the wonderful Carla Zampatti, the great designer. And although Ita is a very savvy media personality and indeed a professional speaker, she had weirdly positioned her camera so that everybody was looking up her nose while she was talking! And I thought to myself, what’s going on here? It’s prompted me to post for you my top five tips for presenting in the virtual world.
Tip Number 1
Yes, tip number one is to make sure you set up your environment properly. Put the things that you want in your background, sort out your hair and makeup. Make sure that the lighting flatters you. Make sure your microphone projects your voice beautifully.
Tip Number 2
Make sure that you look right into the camera. It’s really important that you look at the camera and not at the faces of the people that you’re speaking to on the screen. People see the top of your head when you look at the people on the screen. You need to be disciplined and look right into that camera and give love! As you talk to the camera, imagine that you’re seeing your audience’s faces and make sure that you let your face do some talking. Let your smile come out, let your eyes sparkle, let your cheeks move. You want to make sure that there’s some animation in your features while you look into that camera. I’ve got a little trick. I’ve got a post-it note with two arrows on it saying, “look here, look here”, and it’s pointing to the camera to remind me that that’s where I need to be looking all the time.
Tip Number 3
Just as you would in a live meeting, make sure that you prepare properly. Be sure to plan what it is that you want to say. Think about it from your audience’s point of view. Work out what do they need to hear. In other words, where are they and where do you want them to be? Work out how you are going to ensure the shift from their current to your desired state. And when you work out what it is you want to say, make sure you try to be as economical as possible. You want to say your message in as few words as possible. In this virtual space, people are way less patient and they need you to get to the point quickly. So learn a formula like my Michelle Bowden Persuasion Blueprint, (or any other formula that works for you), that helps you to structure your message in the quickest way possible so that the audience gets the point in as few words as possible and can take the action you require.
Tip Number 4
Make sure that you interact with your audience. It was never cool to do one-way communication, where you would stand or sit in a meeting and talk at your audience while they sat patiently and waited for you to finish. That was never cool and it’s certainly not cool in the year 2021. It’s even less cool when we’re virtual and speaking to one another on these platforms. What’s really important is that you ask your audience questions, and get them to talk to you. Call people by their name as much as possible. Perhaps even pre-prepare by thinking through the logistics of that. It’s really important that everyone in the meeting actually has their name underneath their photo so that you can call them by their actual name and not LT74129 (some automatically computer generated name that sits underneath their photograph)!
The other thing, of course, is that mute needs to be off and camera needs to be on. If we’re going to be talking two way, then the mute has got to be off or otherwise, when I speak to you, you’re going to have to fuss around and turn it off and then repeat yourself, and that becomes very irritating for people. Try and participate in that meeting on the virtual platform, just the way you would if you were live in a meeting with real people who are there with you.
Tip Number 5
Make sure that you gesture. You need to be animated on the screen. If you can bring your hands up when you gesture, that’s going to be really powerful for your audience. If you’re saying that there are three things, in a live meeting you’d bring your arm right up with air under your armpits, but in the virtual world, that’s ridiculous. It looks silly. You don’t want to put your arm right out there in space. Instead place it right near your face. So if you’re saying “3 things”, you’d go one, two, three with your hand indicating the numbers, 1, 2, and 3 right in front of your face.
If you’re saying something’s exciting, in a live meeting you’d put your arms right up in front of your body like you’re in a charismatic church! I actually have a video about how to gesture properly in live meetings on my website so you might want to go and have a look at that at www.michellebowden.com.au. The contrast is that in a virtual meeting, if something’s important you’d still need to place your hands out but right up near your face. You’d say, “This is really important.” And the hands would go up on either side of your cheeks. It’s quite close to your face when you’re presenting virtually.
In summary, there you go. There’s five tips for presenting virtually.
– Number one, set it all up so that it flatters you and it’s not distracting.
– Number two, look right into the camera.
– Number three, make sure that you plan and prepare what you’re going to say and say it in the fewest words possible.
– Number four, make sure that you interact with your audience. Call them by their name, ask them questions, have them talking backwards and forwards to you.
– And number five, gesture right up near your face. There you go, five tips.
Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation & persuasion in business. Michelle is a CSP (the highest designation for speakers in the world), creator of the Persuasion Smart Profile™ (a world-first psychological assessment tool that reports on your persuasiveness at work), best-selling internationally published author (Wiley), and a regular commentator in print, radio and online media. www.michellebowden.com.au