Executive presence is a powerful part of any presentation. So how do you maintain authority and control when you and your audience aren't in the same room together?
Technology has facilitated virtual communication and remote presentations in a way that makes it easier than ever to integrate live and virtual guests — both audience members and presenters. At the same time, as people, we are still used to listening and paying attention to the person in front of us speaking. To conquer the audience’s impulse to get distracted and tune out, foster engagement in remote settings by following these virtual presentation techniques.
As you would for any presentation, virtual or otherwise, the first step is preparation. Research and understand your audience, identify their concerns and pain points and tailor your words to what will be most effective to engage your audience. Just because the audience is out of sight doesn't mean that they should not be on your mind.
Speak Naturally, but Make Adjustments
Structure and rehearse your presentation as you would any other, paying attention to the opening and closing, keeping it concise and practicing how it will flow. The same speaking skills apply to presenting remotely as they do in person. Speak clearly and confidently while avoiding racing through your prepared statements. Just keep in mind that you may have to adjust your timing to compensate for the lack of live feedback.
Consider the Technical Aspects
Like giving a speech to a live audience, the technical aspects of a presentation to virtual guests are as vital as the words themselves. Before you go live, be sure to give all of your technology a test run, monitoring for volume, latency (delay) and any audio or video distortion that may occur. Make sure any microphones and headsets you are using capture your voice clearly. Check that your audience is able to access the presentation as you intend.
Framing and Reframing
If there is a visual aspect of the virtual presentation, take into account how you will appear on screen. How will the camera frame you? A close-up shot may create an intimacy but also undermine your authority. Too far away, and you can seem small and inconsequential.
TED Talks are the gold standard for filmed presentations, with multiple camera angles positioned to capture the presenter fully, but not the entire stage (unless needed). Even if you only have one static camera, framing yourself from the waist up as though the viewer is anywhere from five to ten feet away is ideal.
Like any other presentation, visual aids can be a valuable tool to help audiences better understand your speech. With remote presentations, capturing visual aids can take on different forms — all of which serve different functions. If you want to convey detail, you can share your screen and effectively have the visual aid be the only thing your audience sees. This can come in handy if you need to make adjustments and don't want your remote guests to see it.
Enlist Technical Support
If you do run into any technology challenges, having designated technical support to assist you can be a lifesaver. Rather than pausing the presentation to try and fix whatever issues you may be having by yourself, enlist someone to join the conference and keep an eye on the feed, stepping in and making adjustments as needed.
Create Challenge Points
Part of what makes virtual presentations tricky is that both audience and presenter can feel at a distance from each other. To avoid this, create moments in your presentation where you issue what we call a "Casual Challenge" to your audience. Pose rhetorical questions, pause for effect and challenge your audience to really think about your words every few minutes. These moments can shake your audience out of complacency.
Remove Distractions and Engage with Questions
When dealing with a virtual audience, focus is crucial — both the presenter’s and the audience. As the presenter, remove anything that might be a distraction including cell phones, email services and anything else that might result in a pop-up on your screen. From there, keep the talk-back and chat function disabled until it’s time for questions.
Having the ability to communicate with your audience can be a big help. When you solicit feedback, address the questioner by name and use high-level paraphrasing to make certain you are hearing the discussion correctly. Make note of audience members who are active participators.
By tailoring certain aspects of your presentation to the virtual setting, you can harness the same skills for public speaking as you would for a live audience — making sure that even when your guests are out of sight, they are still on your mind.
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