As the pandemic has dragged on, you’ve probably come to accept that presenting virtually will be the status quo for the foreseeable future. While many of us have fallen into the routine of participating in virtual meetings and presentations, those who continue to develop their skills will differentiate themselves from everyone else.
- The first rule that will help tremendously is to Facilitate an experience that separates you from everyone else. Don’t just use the platform you’re on – leverage it to engage others so well that the rest of their meetings seem boring in comparison. This doesn’t mean you have to be a wizard on Zoom, WebEx, Teams, or other platforms. By simply being proficient on the platform(s) and excellent at facilitating, you should stand out significantly.
- Communicate and confirm the agenda beforehand. While this is pretty straightforward, you’d be surprised at how many people skip this step and wing it because they’re stuck in back-to-back meetings all day. When we confirm the agenda with others beforehand, everyone is clear on how we’ll spend our time, they come prepared, and presentations are much more efficient. It also allows us to get timely feedback up front and make any necessary adjustments. For example, I’ve had clients invite additional team members to presentations after receiving the agenda, which has accelerated their decision-making process significantly. Otherwise, we would have needed to schedule additional meetings, which would have taken several weeks.
- Build your virtual presence.
- Just as you’d make sure your office looks great for an in-person presentation, you’ll want to make sure your background looks great for a virtual presentation. A neutral approach is usually the best. Avoid cluttered backgrounds, distracting ceiling fans and virtual backgrounds that don’t match the tone you’re trying to set. Consider getting a ring light so your face is properly lit and there aren’t shadows.
- Look at the webcam when you speak, not your screen. This builds trust with others. When someone appears to be looking in a different direction while speaking, it can look like they’re distracted or maybe even multi-tasking. I tend to position the Zoom window directly below my webcam, so I’m only going to move my eyes up and down instead of dramatic side-to-side movements, and it helps me.
- SMILE! It’s amazing how much of a difference this makes. I’ve been told that I have a very intense face when I’m looking at the computer screen or my phone. I never realized how true this was until we started presenting virtually. I looked angry, which is definitely not what I’m feeling or wanting to project. Since I’ve started smiling more, I’ve gotten better reactions. When we smile, people smile back at us. And who doesn’t need a little more happiness in this world?
- Give positive feedback to others who have their cameras on. This will encourage others to turn theirs on, which increases engagement.
- Increase your energy by 20%. One of the reasons virtual presentations can be so boring is because the people presenting often sound bored! If we want others to be interested, or dare I say, excited – we need to have an appropriately elevated level of energy ourselves.
- Know your audience and what you want from each other. Knowing what actions you are trying to get the audience to take will help you to craft and deliver your presentation effectively. If you’re trying to pitch your products or services, you’ll want to know what goals and challenges they’re trying to address and how your offerings will help. You’ll need to be able to clearly articulate how they can benefit from following your recommendations.
- Utilize storytelling to engage others. When encouraging others to act, relying on storytelling can be very effective. Jennifer Aaker, a marketing professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business says that neuroscience studies show that our brains are wired to better remember stories more than data, facts, and figures. “When most people advocate for an idea we think of a compelling argument, a fact, or a figure, but research shows that our brains are not hard-wired to understand logic or retain facts for very long. Our brains are wired to understands and retain stories.”
- Aaker describes how a marketing researcher asked students in her class to make a 1-minute pitch. Only one out of ten students actually used a story in their pitch. She then asked the class to write down everything they remembered about each pitch. Five percent of the students cited a statistic while 63 percent remembered the story.
- Ask questions and solicit feedback regularly. One-sided presentations are boring, and people will tune out even faster when they’re virtual. Asking for specific feedback can strengthen engagement. For example, after presenting a fact and a benefit, consider asking the audience how they think this may help them to achieve a specific objective that you know is important to them. This not only keeps them engaged, it also provides you with valuable feedback about how they’re feeling. Another interesting strategy is to use the platform’s whiteboard tool (if it has one) to capture ideas and feedback in real time.
Invest the time to hone your virtual presentation skills and you will differentiate yourself from the competition! To learn more or to explore how we can support your team, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.chicago.dalecarnegie.com