How to Deliver a More Effective Virtual Presentation (Top 7 Ways)

In the last twelve months, it’s become clear that virtual presentations aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Whether you’ve come to terms with it or not, cultivating meaningful connections online has simply become a critical part of our new normal. 

It feels like not long ago that we were all trying to figure out how to navigate platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, etc., just to stay afloat in our businesses and daily lives.

Company meetings and check-ins, family gatherings (don’t even get me started on trying to teach my Mother to use Zoom), game nights… the list goes on — were all happening virtually, and still are. 

A year ago we had a lot of questions on whether or not we could get the same results in terms of connection through video. While that question still might be up in the air, I believe there are a number of virtual presentation tips and techniques we can use to make the most out of these online platforms and deliver kick-ass presentations that connect with our audience.

There are also certain universal principles that can be applied to any presentation, whether it’s in the current virtual world or future in-person events. In this blog post, I’m going to share 7 ways to create and deliver a more compelling and effective virtual presentation that gets you results. 

1. Tap into your Creativity and Ditch the Criticism

You might be thinking, what does creativity have to do with my presentations? Something many people don’t realize is how big of a role creativity plays in developing their presentation idea and structure. And on virtual platforms, creativity plays an even bigger role.

People’s attention spans tend to be shorter when operating on platforms like Zoom. So, there is a huge opportunity to let your creativity run wild when coming up with what you’re speaking about, as well as how to keep your audience engaged from a visual standpoint. Mix up the mediums that you use to display information. Try adding photos, videos, gifs, or change up your background virtually. All of these things are creative ways to add to your presentation’s effectiveness.

Before you begin working on your presentation, it’s important to be feeling inspired and creative. Not only will it show in the structure of your presentation and the physical display, but also in how you deliver your content.

Here are some ideas to enhance your creativity and get you feeling inspired:

  • Enroll in a virtual improv class. These are great for getting more comfortable with on-the-spot presenting and speaking.
  • Engage in your favourite art activity; painting, drawing, music, dance, etc. All of these things will engage the right side of your brain, spark creativity and get your body working in different and challenging ways.
  • Try some reflective activities like journaling, meditation, yoga, etc. We often think that creativity exists in our surroundings when in reality, we have extraordinary creative capabilities within us, waiting to be unleashed.

Something to look out for with creativity is the inevitable negative voice in our heads — also known as criticism. It may sound something like, “You’re going to forget what to say next”, or “They look bored”. Being overly critical of ourselves is the ultimate downfall of any presentation, not to mention our creative freedom. 

The main way to overcome this voice is to become aware of it. Once you start to recognize that those thoughts don’t harness any power over you — that’s when you gain control. If you struggle with negative self-talk during your presentations and are looking for a long-term solution, reach out to us and see if communication coaching could be a good fit for you.

2. Be Prepared for Anything

A great way to mute the negative voice in our heads is through preparation, which is the key to every effective presentation. A common misconception is that preparation destroys spontaneity. In reality, preparation enables you to take more risks because you’re prepared for nearly every possible scenario. 

An example I often use to convey the importance of preparation is comparing it to a sport like basketball. Basketball players practice and train consistently so that when it comes to game time, they don’t have to think about the intricacies of their skills. All they have to do is focus on playing because they’ve already put in the hard, technical work.

In the context of virtual presentations on a platform like Zoom, it’s important that you’re extremely comfortable with the interface. This includes knowing how to share your screen (if necessary), making sure your PowerPoint or other type of visual works, and understanding how to operate the other functions of the platform that relate to your presentation (1). That way you can focus on your content and deliver it in the most compelling way possible.

3. Convey Passion and Connection Through the Camera

If you want your audience to believe what you’re saying, you have to be passionate. And in order to create real change, the audience needs to feel moved not only by your information, but how you deliver it. This can often feel challenging through a screen, and there are a few steps you can take to help.

My first piece of advice is to get comfortable looking directly at the camera (2). This can feel awkward at first, but it makes a huge difference to your audience. The goal here is to get as close to eye contact as you can, which means that looking at your audience on the screen or other elements won’t be as effective. If you need to, turn off your self-view so you’re less distracted, and prepare as best you can so you’re not referring to your notes as often.

Another way to connect with your audience is to engage with them. As often as you can, add sticky content — which means attaching the information to something memorable. Ask questions, use metaphors, quotes or humour, and address the participants personally to keep your audience feeling involved (3).

It’s also important to truly believe in what you’re saying and communicate with conviction. This will serve you far better than any logical argument. Tapping into people’s emotions and allowing yourself to be vulnerable is what will ultimately create the connection between you and your audience, even through a screen.

4. The Best Universal Presentation Structure

Here’s my recommendation for a structure you can use for any virtual presentation, in-person presentation, or piece of writing:

  • Tell them what you’re going to tell them. (The opener)
  • Tell them. (The body)
  • Tell them what you told them. (The recap)
  • Add a call to action. (What’s your audience’s next step?)

This simple presentation structure has been around for centuries and is what I recommend in our Encore Communication Coaching Program. It makes it easy for you to organize an effective presentation, and also provides a familiar format for your audience to follow. This is especially helpful for virtual presentations where your audience’s attention span will be shorter.

5. Use Storytelling Techniques to Spice Things up

Adding your own personal experiences and stories is a great way to add a sense of uniqueness to any virtual presentation and connect with your audience in the process. 

However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind in order for this to be effective:

  • Make sure the experience is well-aligned with and relevant to the presentation and your audience. A story that goes completely off-topic will actually take away from the message you’re trying to convey.
  • Speak about experiences that are more recent where you can. If you’ve told a story a million times, this will likely make your delivery a little stale. Prepare a fresh story or new take on an old story. This will add to the passion and connection you are able to make with the audience.

Here are a few techniques and tools that you can use to add to your presentation content to make it even more effective:

  • Imagery: The art of using language to create a mental picture. Using imagery in your content will create a more all-encompassing experience for your audience allowing you to be more persuasive.
  • Metaphors: Metaphors are a great way to simplify complex ideas to help your audience better understand your points.
  • Humor: When used effectively and appropriately, humour can bring everyone to a common ground. This is an especially good idea to bring people together through video.
  • Current Events/Facts and Statistics: Current events appeal to our senses and make what you’re saying more relevant. Statistics, when used sparingly, can be used to drive your point home and add to everything listed above.

6. Pausing, Pacing, and Volume

One of the most effective speaking techniques, believe it or not, is silence, also known as the pause (4). Pausing after a key point you’ve made allows your audience to absorb what you’ve just said, and make your argument more persuasive. Don’t be afraid of silent moments, even on Zoom — they will actually be what makes your presentation memorable and effective.

Pacing is another technique that is vital to any successful presentation. Speaking too slow is boring, and speaking too fast may affect your audience’s ability to understand what you're saying. Varying the pace of your presentation will keep your audience engaged.

Finally, the volume. There’s nothing worse than a presentation where you can’t hear the speaker, or in contrast, when you feel like you’re being yelled at. Pay attention to where your computer is located relative to where you’re presenting to help determine your best vocal volume level.

7. Dress for Success 

The final aspect of how you present yourself to others while delivering your presentation is how you’re dressed. This means wearing clothes you feel comfortable in and being well-groomed. As a rule of thumb, if you wouldn't wear it to an in-person meeting, don't wear it on video (yes, I’m talking to you pajama-lovers). 

Here are some clothing and aesthetic considerations to keep in mind for your virtual presentations: 

  • Wear solid colours whenever you can. Bright colours are ideal but black and grey also work.
  • Avoid patterned shirts (like stripes, checkered, etc.). They often cause a "buzzing" effect on camera and create distraction (5).
  • Makeup is an important element for both men and women when on camera. Some great makeup products that can be used by anyone are translucent powder to get rid of any sweat or shine, and concealer to cover any blemishes, dark under-eyes, etc.

Wearing clothes that are well-tailored to you and wearing makeup to enhance your appearance will make you more confident internally, allowing you to come across more confident to your audience.

If you’ve struggled at all with virtual presentations over the last several months, my team and I at Connect To The Core are here for you. There’s been a lot of changes over the last year, including how we connect with one another. I hope that this list gave you some guidance or reassurance for the best practices to use for online presentations. 

If you haven’t already, head to this link to download our free Ultimate Guide To Video Conferencing that contains even more tips for how to look and sound your best on video.

Before your next virtual presentation, be sure to refer back to this blog post or your new PDF guide when it comes to the creation, preparation, and delivery. I know you’re going to knock it out of the park. 

 

Sources:

  1. 9 Tips for Giving Engaging Virtual Presentations
  2. Best Practices for Virtual Presentations: 15 Expert Tips That Work For Everyone
  3. 9 Important Virtual Presentation Tips For You
  4. Coronavirus: How To Deliver a Dynamic Virtual Presentation When You Can’t Go To Work
  5. Presenting virtually? Here’s a checklist to make it great.
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