Presenting on the virtual stage - 5 tips to avoid.

by Catherine Ma
Jul 22, 2020
person discussing while standing in front of a large screen in front of people inside dim-lighted room

           If you're a speaker, MC or facilitator, you've had to adapt your business to the virtual world 🧩

Does a virtual setting make your content more engaging? I hope the answer is yes. However, since your audience is at their home office, coffee shop, or back yard, there are many things that can distract them from your presentation. There are also the classic distractions that are still there from in-person events like emails, social media, and news. 

As a result, adjustments have to be made in order to tailor your message to ensure it reaches your virtual audience. We've summarized some of the most common mistakes speakers are making at virtual events and tips to help you overcome them. 

Use these 5 tips to keep your audience on the edge of their seats.

  1. YOUR SLIDES ARE UGLY, AND YOU HAVE TOO MANY.

For virtual events, one effective way to win your audiences' attention is through beautiful slides. Good slide decks take work, but you don't have to be a graphic designer to improve your slides, just try to avoid these three common mistakes that can leave a bad impression. 

  • Poor directory or overview of your presentation
  • Unclear key messages and no storytelling from slide to slide
  • Overwhelming text or long paragraphs

It is more important with virtual events that you lead your audience through your presentation smoothly. Create a table of contents in the beginning and have a directory on each of your slides to show clear progress. Second, when people feel distracted to follow you, messages shown on slides are the best way for them to catch up. So summarizing one-sentence key takeaway for each slide would allow attendees to follow easily and help facilitate your storytelling. Last, to keep your audience from feeling overwhelming, please keep the text on each slide short and to the point. Use more images and graphics to make your content looks more appealing instead of long paragraphs.

2. SET THE RIGHT SCENE.

When you're speaking, everyone in the audience will be inspecting every little thing in your background. Plan very carefully what fills the 4 walls of your Zoom window...this is the image you're now projecting to the world.

Give yourself and your audience more professionalism and create a sense of ritual by getting your A/V resources right.

  • Light 💡: Don't underestimate the importance of lighting. Natural light is best, but you can use lighting sources to ensure your face is bright and your background is dark if you don't want to provide your audience with poor video quality with blurry and noisy images.
  • Audio 🎙: Pay attention to your audio quality when you present. It would be ideal to invest in a laptop connected microphone to provide a high-quality experience since a microphone will only pick up your noises, not the other noises outside. 
  • Camera 🎥 : To look professional, you need to use proper camera framing: put yourself in the center of the frame, select some interesting but not distracting artifacts for your background, and ensure the camera is horizontal. An eye-level webcam setting will make it feel like you're making eye contact with your audience. 
  • Video platform 🖥 : Make sure you're familiar with the video platform the event will be used to make yourself more comfortable during the actual event. You need to know how to manage tech settings and interact with the audience during Q&A sessions. If you have a moderator who will be running your Q&A for you, meet them and run through your presentation ahead of time, indicating when you'll stop for questions and how they can help. 

3. YOU MAY NOT SOUND OR SEEM ENERGETIC IN VIDEOS.

If a speaker at virtual events doesn't sound or seem energetic, there will be a higher chance that audiences will lose their attention quickly. There are three ways you can help your passion explode through your audience's screens during virtual events.

  • The tone of voice 🎵: In order to keep your energy high, you should fluctuate your tone of voice by emphasizing important words when needed, improving intonation and melody, and adjusting your voice volume. Keep it different to keep it interesting. 
  • The pace of your presentation 🏃🏽‍♀️: Don't talk nonstop or too fast. If you "have a lot of slides to get through", then you have too many slides. Make sure to pause before emphasizing important words and to slow down the overall pace so your audience can hear you clearly and absorb your content. 
  • Body language/facial expression 🙃: Remember to include facial expression or bigger hand gestures to use body language to communicate your emotions and show your excitement. Your audience will remember how you felt, and how you made them feel. 

4. THE PRESENTATION BECOMES A MONOLOGUE.

Nobody enjoys listening to a monologue, especially in a virtual setting. Those are called Youtube videos. You may not know when your presentation becomes a monologue so we've come up with three main tips for you to break it up.

  • Audience Engagement 🤹🏼‍♀️ : The most important and difficult thing for you to light up a virtual event is to improve audience engagement through interactions. Understand why virtual engagement is necessary and use audience engagement tools to interact with them through live polling, collaboration, and games. 
  • Allow for breaks 🌊: If you're speaking for more than 45 minutes, don't forget to schedule a few breaks during your presentation since both you and your audience need to snack, go to the bathroom, change a diaper, or just their daily scream into a pillow.
  • Make the presentation conversational 🔄: When you write the script, remember to make your words sound more conversational. Having a flow and telling a story will draw in your audience, and make the content easier to follow.

5. USING THE SAME CONTENT AS YOUR IN-PERSON PRESENTATIONS.

No matter what format of your presentation, content is king. When events are going virtual, you need to adapt the content to make it more interesting than ever to attract your audience. Here are a few tips you can take!

  • Cut your materials ➖ : If you originally have a 30-page slide deck, cut it at least in half: ditching any unnecessary information, and complex graphics. Move these slides into an archive at the end of your presentation for reference if a question arises. 
  • Use more graphics than text 🖼: For the same content, infographics, photos, and charts are always better than long paragraphs since they are easier to read, understand, and follow. These should be reinforcing the words you speak, not distract from them. 
  • Alternative formats to present 🎨: Slides are not THE ONLY way to present your content. Don't be afraid to ditch your slides if you think other formats like infographics, animation, or short videos would be more compelling and fun to use. 

These simple steps to improve your presentation tech, style, and content can make a world of difference to your audience.

As a speaker, you are the key to creating an interactive, fun, and psychologically safe vibe during events. We believe anyone can translate their content into virtual events. So go out there and make amazing things happen!

Thanks for reading 😊

Catherine Ma 

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