Adapting presentation for online audience

So much of our lives have changed over the last 6 months, including how we have to deliver presentations … for the time being, at least.  If you’re due to deliver a presentation to a large audience over the next few months, there’s a good chance you’ll be asked to deliver it online. So you need to be prepared with the strategy and skills to keep a virtual audience engaged.

Delivering your presentation online has its own unique challenges. What works for you on the podium doesn’t always translate well with a virtual audience. Holding their attention is harder, gauging their reaction can be difficult and there are more ways for your audience to be distracted with doing their online shopping rather than listening to what you have to say.

As a leader you need to adapt, and adapt quickly to these changing times, so let’s dive in and look at some simple strategies you can use to ensure you hold a virtual audience just as you would if you were in the same room as them.


Lights, camera, action

In my opinion, you don’t need a professional setup, like a studio grade light or mixer… Basic, minimal tools will work just fine – good mic, and decent light. That’s it. Make sure that you follow the tech set-up tips below to make sure you’re seen and heard.

  • Try to position yourself facing the light (natural if possible) and use a ring light if you have one.
  • Your computer should be wired to the internet, not wireless. I’ve had an online presentation for 400 live audience, and just as the MC introduced me, I lost my wireless connection!
    If wired is not an option for some reason, have a back up Wi-Fi, like your personal hotspot.
  • Your camera needs to be at the same height as your eyes. You don’t want to be looking down at your audience…and they don’t want to be looking up your nose!
    If you are standing, I recommend using a riser to adjust the height of your laptop.
  • Test your screen share and ask the host to enable screen sharing for you. The audience will be more engaged if you can switch between your presentation, whiteboard and just your face so make sure you are clear when you are switching between your screen and camera.


Understand the key differences when presenting online

Most ‘unconscious’ signals that we use to make judgements in a face-to-face setting such as what the presenter is wearing, and their body language are lost online, which means that as presenters, we need to be prepared to over-deliver on the ‘conscious’ signals – the aspects we can control – so that we come across positively, and are as convincing and persuasive as possible.

Nonverbals such as gesture and facial expression adds up to 90% of how we communicate. This means that tone of voice and facial expression is more important when delivering online.


Embrace the pause

Longer pauses can elevate clarity & gravitas and help strengthen light and shade. But be careful using too long a pause. You don’t want your audience to think “ah oh, did I lose my internet connection?”

When presenting live, you can pause, stay still, and milk the moment.  When presenting online, you can pause verbally, but you could move your head slightly as if to scan the live audience. This way, you can use the power of pause effectively online.


Utilize online tools to maintain engagement

Use the online tools that are available within Zoom, WebEx and Microsoft teams for audience interaction and engagement.

For example, an online poll that your audience can answer which leads into your topic at the beginning is a great opener, or a whiteboarding session to visually reinforce key points. Let them know at the start that you’ll be randomly calling on them with questions throughout the session to keep them engaged, so they are ready to participate on a moment’s notice.

It’s easy to lose audience’s attention online. If you use run-on sentences, you will not only lose their attention but also turn them off. Be succinct.

Your audience are likely to be more distracted and check out time to time. If you repeat or review your messages multiple times throughout your presentation, even if they miss it the first time, they’ll catch it later.

During these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to be able to adapt your presentation to an online audience. If you feel stuck, or need help restructuring an existing presentation, whether it be a webinar, live presentation, shareholder meeting or sales pitch, book a 15-minute Discovery Call with me so that I can help you make a lasting impression with your audience online.

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