If you’re like most businesses today, then the lockdown has forced your company to go remote. You likely have staff working from home and now have to conduct most meetings via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or another video conferencing platform.
That means all your important business communication – strategy meetings, sales pitches, presentations – is now virtual. And if you’ve already held at least one remote meeting with your team, you know that presenting virtually is not the same as doing so in person.
As the lockdown continues to keep us at a social distance from each other, virtual speeches and presentations aren’t going away. If you’re not proficient at presenting online, then now’s the time to hone your virtual presentation skills.
But don’t fret, mastering virtual presentations isn’t impossible. You just need a little practice, the right equipment, and this ultimate guide to online presentations from our team. In this guide, we’ll cover the following three topics:
- Requirements (non-tech and tech) for an effective online presentation
- Choosing the right video conferencing tool for you
- The differences between presenting remotely and in-person
…plus our four best tips for nailing your virtual presentation.
Let’s get started.
Non-Tech Requirements for an Effective Online Presentation
For writing and delivering a presentation online, the most important considerations are:
- Your background – Try to set up in a neutral room or space in your home, without distractions behind you. If you don’t have one, then experiment with blur backgrounds or uploading a background on your video conferencing platform. If you’ve got a messy bookcase behind you, try draping it with a pretty scarf or throw for an instant arty backdrop (just make sure it’s not going to fall down mid-presentation!)
- A dedicated presenting space – Setting up a desk or room reserved for writing, practicing, and delivering your virtual presentation will help you focus. Having boundaries – like a locked door – will keep distractions at bay. Also, make sure your presenting space has good lighting and acoustics. You can add soft cushions or furnishings to the room to absorb some of the sound.
- Comfortable desk and chair – Working at the kitchen table or on the couch seems like it would be more comfortable, but it’ll kill your back and bring down productivity. Get a proper desk chair so you can sit squarely in front of your webcam, at eye-level, while presenting. If your chair won’t give you the height you need then propping your camera up on some books is a simple work-around.
Tech Requirements for Online Presenting
Your tech requirements comprise of three main things:
- Strong Internet connection – The last thing you want is your connection dropping out in the middle of your presentation. Make sure your WiFi signal is strong enough by doing a test-run of your video conferencing platform while practicing your presentation. For minimal interruptions, hook up your laptop or computer to ethernet instead.
- Good audio quality – Test the sound quality with your laptop speakers by recording yourself. If they’re shoddy, consider getting a USB microphone.
- Video conferencing platform – You should pick the best platform for your presentation’s needs. Read on for advice on selecting the right tool.
How to Choose the Right Video Conferencing Tool
There are many video conferencing applications and platforms available – some free, some paid. GoToMeeting, Zoom, WebEX, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and Skype are just a few of the most popular. You’ll want to consider the following things when picking your video conferencing platform:
- Audience size – Some platforms only accommodate a certain number of users at a time. Others let more people join the call, but only if you pay for a subscription. Tools like Zoom and Teams are perfect for a virtual sales pitch to a small group of investors. For a remote conference or speech, webinar platforms like WebEX or Demio work better.
Remember to do test-runs of the application before your presentation starts. You should make sure it works and familiarise yourself with it. Know the platform well enough to teach it to your audience members if necessary.
Presenting Remotely vs. In-person
Presenting online and in-person are not the same. The three biggest differences are:
- You can’t gauge audience reactions during a virtual presentation
- You can’t interact with your slides physically (i.e. gesturing)
- Your audience has many more distractions than a usual presentation
To address these differences, your remote presentation needs to work overtime. Your focus should be as audience-centric as possible.
How do you drive audience engagement with online presentations? We have four solutions for you:
- Don’t let your listeners stare at a static screen for more than 30 seconds
- Ask more questions than usual – every few minutes is good
- Learn your video conferencing application’s interactivity features – like chat or live polling – ahead of time, so you can teach your audience how to use them
- Encourage your listeners to keep their webcams on. They’ll naturally stay more engaged if they’re on camera. Plus, seeing faces (rather than staring at your webcam) will help you with your delivery.
Our Top Tips for Presenting Online
Create Visually Engaging Slides
To keep your audience’s attention during an online presentation, your slides must be twice as engaging as usual. Animations are a great way to do this, but only if they’re used correctly.
Keep Your Content Short
Make your content direct. What’s your objective for this presentation? Everything you include should serve that objective. Good presenters are direct while still being engaging. So, using hooks like statistics or anecdotes at relevant times will keep your audience listening for longer.
Make You Presentation Succinct
Chunk relevant information together, giving your presentation a clear structure. Rather than a big call-to-action (CTA) at the end, sprinkle smaller CTAs throughout the presentation. These could be as simple as asking discussion questions or doing a live poll. Finally, include a menu slide in your deck with hyperlinks to the parts of your presentation. With a menu slide, you can jump between topics while making your slide deck keep up with you.
Don’t Forget About Your Audience
Although it’s tough with a virtual presentation, always remember that you’re speaking to people, not to a webcam. Relax and engage your audience. If both you and your listeners have your webcams on, it’s easier to build engagement. And, if possible, increase the size of your webcam window onscreen so your audience can see you more clearly.
Giving an effective presentation online has become a must-have skill since the coronavirus outbreak. With the resources in this guide, you’ll have the right tools to give an engaging and impressive virtual presentation. Browse our website for more resources and blogs about designing and delivering effective presentations.