We run a lot of presentation skills courses with all kinds of people and businesses. But in today’s digital world, we’re finding more and more people who are being asked to deliver ‘virtual’ presentations. These are presentations that use a virtual platform such as Webex, Go To Meeting, Zoom, Adobe Connect or even Skype. They require a digital presentation to take up part or all of the screen, while the presenter talks to their computer screen, transmitting to the people on the other end who could be anywhere. This adds in a whole new set of complications and skills that you need to make it a great presenter. After all, being a good in person presenter doesn’t mean you’ll be a good virtual presenter. So how can you improve that specialist skill?
Common Mistakes Of Virtual Presenters
In general, there are 3 mistakes that most first time (or seasoned) virtual presenters make:
- Failure to Prepare: There is much more that can go wrong in an online presentation. The technology can decide not to work, connections can be bad and tools might fail at the last minute. So more preparation is needed for a virtual presentation than a face to face presentation. It’s a delusional and over-confident person who thinks they can just get online and ‘wing it’, without having prepared anything beforehand. The result can be a disorganised and unproductive event that makes the presenter look unprofessional and turns the audience off engaging in it.
- Talking At Their Audience: Generally speaking, online audiences need to be engaged much more frequently than a face to face audience. Participation is the key, and the virtual presenter has lots of functions and features at their disposal to achieve this – not just the chat box! Failing to do this results in the presenter giving a lecture and some disinterested viewers.
- Lack Of Knowledge Of Their Medium: Presenters who don’t know how to share a document, use the whiteboard or work with the tools on their chosen platform seem unprepared and amateur. This undermines the credibility of their message and ultimately leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the viewers.
How To Adapt
The key is to remember that the dynamic of the presentation is completely different online. Some presenters are ‘show people’ – they win an audience over with their charisma and personality in addition to (or sometimes instead of) the content of their presentation. But this simply doesn’t work in a virtual medium, where all you have is your voice and your visuals. So you need to make sure your content and supporting materials are up to scratch. In fact, they have to be excellent. Death by bullet point and reading lines of text is guaranteed to put your virtual audience to sleep (or worse make them hit mute) much quicker than it would in the physical meeting room. Make visuals big and bold, use pictures rather than text and show one visual every 2-3 minutes if you can. And never forget that there are thousands more distractions available to your online audience, so you need to work twice as hard to keep them engaged in what you’re saying. You can do this by adding variety and making full use of the features included in your chosen platform.
A virtual presenter needs to engage the group and keep the narrative flowing. They need to manage and facilitate discussion, make sure everyone interacts and deal with questions effectively. On top of this, they need to make sure they are managing the technology and environment around them, dealing with challenges ranging from microphones not working to their kids walking into the background. So we recommend that if you’re required to make virtual presentations, don’t leave anything to chance. If things go wrong in the physical meeting room, people can at least see what’s happening and provide help where necessary, and be more forgiving if they can’t be solved. In the virtual world, the presenter is pretty much on their own, and mistakes tend to be viewed more harshly. So it definitely pays to do your homework and rehearse your material and technology. Some virtual presenters script their entire presentation and then practice it until it sounds natural. There are pro’s and con’s to this approach, and not everyone can make it work well. But it certainly helps to write yourself a framework and make a note of the narrative that goes with each slide. That’s one of the advantages of a virtual presentation – no one can see how many notes you have in front of you!
A virtual presentation is every bit as effective as a face to face presentation, provided that you have the skills, knowledge and confidence to work with the medium and make it a success. At Learning Curve, we love helping professionals build the skills they need to present effectively online, no matter where they are. In fact, we love it so much that we’ve put together a book on it! It’s called ‘Virtual Presentations Made Simple’, and you can buy it on Amazon now in print and in Kindle format. Just click here. And if you would like some more hands-on support, just get in touch with us today to arrange your consultation.