The way we give presentations has changed. No longer can we rely on our in-person charisma and presence to engage the audience—if we even had that in the first place. Instead, we have to communicate and connect through a screen. Whether you’re a C-Suite executive or a first time manager, here’s what you need to consider if you want to slay your next virtual presentation.
Multi-tasking has become a sport.
Before you sit down to craft your presentation, you have to get honest with yourself that there will be very few people who will be sitting at their computer and paying attention to only you. They’re texting, they’re writing emails—they’re even cooking. I’m totally guilty of it too. So you want to approach creating an online presentation with that in mind, and you want to make it as dynamic as possible so people on the other side of the screen are more compelled to watch your presentation than answer text messages or emails.
You want to keep it moving fast, you want to make it beautiful, and you want to make your points crystal clear so they don’t have to work to try to figure out what you’re talking about. That means you have to master your message.
Distill your message to its essence. Boil it down to one sentence max, and make it specific. You want them to remember your message at the end, so you have to do the work to get your message clear before you do anything else.
I work with so many people on presentation skills, and getting the message clear is always the biggest challenge. We think we are being clear because the idea is coming from our mind, and of course we get what we’re talking about. But everyone else is hearing it for the first time. A great presenter is, in essence, a great teacher. We have to lead our audience, step-by-step, toward understanding.
Your slides are huge, and you are in that little box.
You may be off the charts magnetic, but when you’re minimized to one-eighth of the screen it’s tough to get that energy to come across. Presenting virtually means you have to use all the tools of a great performer to make sure your message connects. You need to be more animated, and you need to use bigger gestures. You have to make sure you’re using all the screen real estate you’re given. I’ve never seen anyone be “too animated” when giving a virtual presentation, even though that’s a fear I know many have.
You have to make love to the lens.
You don’t have the luxury of stepping out into the audience and engaging the audience with casual banter or jokes in a virtual presentation because you are getting no real-time feedback. So you have to focus all your energy on that little dark circle at the top of your computer—the camera lens.
Train yourself to believe there are eyes on the other side and that you’re making contact with them. Especially when you’re telling a story or making an important point, eye contact is crucial, and for virtual presentations it means staring into the void.
I’ve gotten to the point where it’s second nature to look into the lens. But if it’s a struggle for you, you can put a post-it note next to the camera lens to remind yourself that that’s where the eye contact happens.
Slides matter more.
We’ve literally been sidelined by the slide in virtual presentations. And because they have taken center stage, they better be good. Beautiful, powerful, dare I say “visually gripping” should be the way your slides get described to others. You want to build a slide deck that grabs people and never lets them forget. That’s intense, but it’s true. Why would you give people a presentation experience that’s mediocre? And then there’s how many slides you need.
Because you want to advance your slides faster to keep people engaged, you need more slides than you would for an in-person presentation. So for my forty-five minute to one hour presentations, I often have 85 to 100 slides that I’m advancing really rapidly to keep people’s attention. That’s a lot of slides. It’s a lot of work, but luckily I really enjoy doing presentations and I like creating slides.
Presenting in any format can be anxiety-inducing, but it doesn’t have to be. Presenting is a skill like any other. When you know what to focus on and what to practice, you can master it if you put in the time.
If you struggle with virtual presentations or just want to master this skill set so you can be more visible as a leader, register for my Virtual Presentation Skills Bootcamp and slay your next presentation.