There are loads of articles circulating nowadays about how to deliver more engaging online presentations and meetings. Most are filled with generic, barely helpful tips like “Make your presentation entertaining” or “Leave time for questions”. While we appreciate the intent, we know you’re looking for more than basic fundamentals.
This article will arm you with five simple, yet practical tips from our virtual presentation veterans to help you not only deliver engaging virtual meetings, but up-level your confidence and executive presence in an online environment.1. Set Yourself Up for Success
A wise man once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This couldn’t be more true for virtual meetings! Start by getting yourself situated in a quiet location, away from distractions and by securing the proper equipment.
For high-stakes deliveries, we recommend logging into your virtual meeting on two separate devices (such as two computers or a computer and a tablet). Make sure all devices are plugged into power and have strong internet connection. On your main computer, login to the virtual room as the host using a name such as “Your name – Presenter” so that your audience can clearly distinguish who you are in the sea of participants. On your back-up device, login as a participant using a name such as “Your name – Backup”. Be sure to mute your second device so your audio isn't picked up by both microphones, causing an echo. An alternative approach is to not join the audio on your second device at all.
Use your main computer to upload or share content, annotate slides, and watch for feedback in chat discussions. In the meantime, your back-up “participant” device will allow you to see what attendees see—avoiding the need to ask, “Can you see this?”. If your main device fails, use your back-up to continue without interruption to the audience.
You’ll also want to make sure you’re connected to the audio using a hands-free headset—avoid using your computer’s microphone and speakers because the audio quality can be poor. It’s also helpful to familiarize yourself with the audio settings in your virtual platform. Not only will this help you present more smoothly, but it also empowers you to be ready to help others with audio issues.
Another important audio tip? Make sure you know how to mute individuals who might not realize their audio line is open, causing background noise. The controls for muting participants individually vs. all participants is different in each platform, so we recommend a quick Google search around “how host can manage audio in [virtual meeting platform name]” to get specific instructions.2. Know When to Upload Content vs. Share Your Screen
If you’re familiar with virtual meeting platforms, you’ve probably noticed that some allow you to upload content directly into your meeting, while others only allow you to share content from your desktop or a specific application. Let’s explore some best practices for both.
Uploading content is best if you…
- Want to easily skip ahead or go back in your presentation using thumbnails
- Need to mark up your slides by drawing or pointing to something onscreen
- Often get “pinged” with IMs, meeting reminders, email notifications, etc. and want to keep these private from (or not distract) your audience
Share your screen if you….
- Want to edit content real-time
- Need to demo tools or products
- Don’t have an alternative (ie: your virtual meeting platform doesn’t support uploading content)
Delivering an effective virtual meeting, presentation or training takes practice. Are you comfortable multitasking online? Do you know how to transition seamlessly from your content to an interactive tool like a whiteboard, chat discussion or poll? Have you practiced using the annotation tools (that allow you to write text, highlight, or point onscreen) while speaking? Be sure to practice ahead of time, not during your live event!
If you’re serious about improving your online delivery skills, the best way to do that is to rehearse. At a minimum, rehearse your opening, transitions, and closing slides. To be clear, this does not mean you should read your presenter notes verbatim. Doing so will likely result in sounding unnatural and cause your audience to tune out. Remember: you’re speaking to your audience—not your slides! If you want to view your speaker notes while presenting in Zoom, for example, we recommend arranging your panels across two screens to give you full visibility.
Rehearsal should also include practicing with the interactive tools available in most virtual platforms. Schedule practice sessions by yourself or with a colleague, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes and figure out which tools you’re most comfortable using—and which might be best to avoid!4. Have a Backup Plan for Diverting Online Disasters
Murphy’s Law says: what can go wrong, will go wrong. Such is true for virtual meetings. As veteran virtual presenters, we’ve seen it all, so make sure you have a backup plan. Divert online disasters by including contingency plans—you will be glad you had the solution at your fingertips!
Let’s look at some examples:
- Demo not working as expected? Have backup screenshots ready to share instead.
- Low poll responses? Make sure the poll is open, verbally remind participants how to vote (and be specific! E.g. “click the submit button to ensure your vote is counted”), and fill the “dead air” (you know… that awkward silence while people are voting)
- No comments or questions in the chat panel? Use staged questions to get people thinking, model behavior by typing in chat yourself to show participants what you want, or launch an “ice breaker” poll with a related topic to get the conversation started
Virtual presenters with monotone voices are practically begging their audience to multi-task. But you don’t have to be a professionally trained radio talk show host to deliver online with energy, poise and confidence. You just need to create “virtual body language”. That’s right—the way you carry yourself in your own physical space actually translates to how your audience perceives you, which can mean a huge different between a captivated audience… and a bored one.
Here are simple techniques to use before, during and after your virtual session that will help improve your speaking voice.
- Before your session: Stretch out your face and mouth and yawn with noise (we know this sounds crazy, but it helps!)
- During your session: Stand or sit up straight, and gesture like you’re talking to your audience in person
- After your session: Conduct a self-review (if possible, watch a recording of yourself) and choose one thing at a time to improve
Ready to up-level the way you lead virtual meetings? We can help. Since 2004, our team of virtual presentation experts has helped teams at Apple, Facebook, Cisco and other Fortune 500 companies learn to plan, design and deliver online presentations like pros.
Whether you’re preparing to deliver a formal presentation or need to collaborate with colleagues our Successful Online Presentations workshop will help you create rich, interactive online experiences that are as good as any face-to-face meeting. Contact us to learn more.