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How to Bring Your Virtual Presentations to Life

January 16    |    Steve Mandel

It can be difficult to make virtual presentations interesting. 

If you’ve ever attended one where a low energy voice was accompanied by drab slides, you know the problem first-hand. 

I often hear audiences complain that virtual presentations are boring. Those same people report “multitasking” during presentations.

It’s not really a question of whether your audience “might be” multitasking during your virtual presentation. They are. Unless you’re addressing a client who has requested targeted information, it’s safe to assume you’re not getting 100 percent of your audience’s focus and energy.

Studies have shown that people don’t actually have the capacity to do more than one thing at a time. “Multitasking” really means quickly switching attention from task to task. In any online setting, you’re competing with people’s temptations to tab surf, read email, and respond to chats.

Connection and engagement are the keys to success.
Online communication has unique challenges, so it requires a unique skill set. At Mandel, we’ve been coaching organizations and corporate teams in virtual presentation skills for years. The issue we hear most about in these coaching sessions is a lack of connection and engagement.

People want to know how they can get audiences to engage with their message and take it to heart when they’re not in the same room.

In a virtual scenario, it’s your job to pull people’s attention back to your content throughout your presentation. Here are four ways to make sure your audience stays focused on your message instead of on cleaning out their email inbox.

1) Eliminate distractions before you start.

  • Know your tech. Know how to turn your sound on, play videos, administer polls, and advance slides.
  • Practice. Be comfortable navigating slides and reacting to slight glitches or hiccups before you go live. Prepare to minimize any disruption to the audience experience.
  • Log on early. Get online well before your presentation start time to make sure everything’s working and to fix any issues before your participants show up.

2) Focus your content.

  • Focus your presentation. Text-heavy slides and interesting side information overload and disengage learners. Keep your slides simple and focused on your main objectives.
  • Keep slides colorful and use graphics/photos. Good visuals provoke quick impressions and emotional connections for your audience.
  • Don’t stay on one slide for too long. Move along so your audience has new material to recapture their attention.
  • Add more slides or screen movement. Frequent changes on the screen pull audiences’ attention back from other distractions. Introduce motion by moving to a new slide, bringing something up on an existing slide, or using your pointer to emphasize some detail.
  • Use only the time you need. Does your presentation really need to be an hour long? Could you deliver it in 30-45 minutes? It’s easier to keep people engaged for shorter periods. Also, if you leave time between hour blocks, your audience won’t spend the last 10 minutes of your presentation mentally preparing for the next meeting. 

3) Actively engage your audience.

  • Plan an interaction every two minutes or so.
  • Ask your audience questions. Let them know at the start that you’ll be randomly calling on them with questions throughout the session.
  • Call on people by name. Start questions with an individual’s name. For example, “Elaine, what has been your experience?” instead of, “What has been your experience, Elaine?” Grab people’s attention first so they’re alerted to hear the question.
  • Use your platform’s features. Bring people back to your presentation by giving them something to do. Use the chat feature for real-time Q&A. Ask a question on screen and have people respond in chat. Set up a clickable poll or invite people to use the “raise hand” feature to respond to a question. 

4) Bring energy to your delivery.

  • Communicate passion and energy for your ideas. If you’re bored, your audience will be too.
  • Practice making your voice dynamic and engaging. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s important to project more vocal energy than you would during an in-person presentation.
  • Use gestures for energy and emphasis. Practice gestures to see how they play on camera. Limit your movements as needed, but keep your presentation dynamic by including physical emphasis.
  • Make eye contact. Set up your computer so you won’t be looking down. Raise it up so you’ll be at eye level with the camera even when you glance at your slides or your audience on the screen.
  • Check your camera angle. Make sure your audience is seeing what you want them to. Check the lighting to make sure you don’t have deep shadows on your face and that the lighting is as even as possible. Test it with someone else—what’s the optimal angle and height for your camera?

Build your team’s virtual presentation skills.

Keeping remote audiences engaged is no small job. If your organization is ready to invest in its employees’ virtual presentation skills, Mandel can help.

Our virtual and online Extraordinary Presenter workshops teach teams the ins and outs of planning, designing, and delivering virtual presentations. Download overviews of our Virtual Workshops or contact us to learn more.

Whether online or in person, the messages you and your teams present matter. Be proactive about developing the skills to ensure those messages get heard.

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About Mandel
Mandel is the global communication skills training company for organizations that believe in unleashing the power and potential of their employees. As proven experts in the science of communication in a complex world, we help companies around the world discover new ways to help their people think and speak more effectively, and make every communication count.
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