Presenting in virtual meetings has become THE business skill of 2020. However, many people find it uncomfortable and feel they are lacking in audience connection and engagement.
Here our presentation trainer Sue Carruthers explains how to come across confidently and engagingly with any virtual audience.
Twelve steps to online presentation confidence
1. Make sure your introduction grabs your audience’s attention
This is important in a real-life presentation but even more so in a virtual one.
2. Use the chat function, especially at the start
Pose a question and ask the audience to respond by typing a word or two into the chat. You can then read some of the answers, referring to people by name so they feel more a part of what you are talking about.
3. Ask your audience to use speaker mode
You want them to look at you and not at each other. You should be in gallery mode so you can see your audience – and switch yourself off from the screen so you are not pre-occupied with what you look like.
4. Use rhetorical questions to keep up the interest
Again, this is a technique from the non-virtual world which is even more helpful online.
5. Look into your camera as much as you can
Imagine it’s someone you like and who’s opinion you value. If it helps, put a photo of that person near your camera so it draws your eyes towards the camera.
Find out more: presentation skills training
6. Don’t be afraid of using gestures
It looks unnatural if you don’t move at all but keep gestures within the width of your body, so you don’t appear to be flailing around or your hands keep appearing then disappearing.
7. Be aware of your energy level – as energy is contagious
If you are low energy it will rub off on your audience. High energy and enthusiasm rub off too. Ask yourself how you want your audience to feel then be that yourself.
Read more: the six Ps of presentation training
8. Choose a good mix of fact and feeling
Many online presenters focus on just the facts (often supported by a plethora of dense slides). What really persuades, however, is human contact and connection. Tell a story or bring in your feelings about a subject and your audience will thank you for it.
9. Use polls – and break out rooms for brief audience discussions
Both are good ways of changing the dynamic and making the presentation more involving.
10. Keep your background minimal and tidy
Your audience will notice what is behind you so make sure here is nothing you would not want them to see.
11. Dress appropriately
Block colours are best and, in particular, avoid stripes and busy patterns. For ladies, a little more makeup than normal is a good idea as the camera tends to drain our colour.
12. Practice in front of your webcam
Review what you have done – ideally with a supportive colleague or friend.