Thanks to COVID19, we now live in a physically-distanced virtual world. Online virtual conferences and meetings are becoming the norm. This is a great opportunity to increase our worldwide connectivity across geographical lines. Virtual meetings mean that more people can attend and less unnecessary travels are undertaken (good for the earth!). Of course the social connections are missed but with every major change there will be positives and negatives.
Here are 5 pointers to help you increase the value of your online presentations. These are by no means exhaustive, prescriptive or conclusive. These are things I’ve learned as I have spent hundreds of hours in meetings, conferences and listening to talks. Virtual conferences are different to real live conferences and therefore we need to modify our techniques: Ready, Set, Lights, Camera, Action!
- Ready. Get ready by simplifying your content. Focus on 1, 2 or 3 key points. Most of your listeners are listening in an office between activities, lounge room, or even while they’re driving. No longer do we have the full attention of a conference hall. Most of us are juggling parallel activities while listening to talks. So leave one big message if possible. Keep slides to a minimum. Keep words on slides to a minimum as people may well be watching on a phone. (Seriously, no one is going to remember your talk details in 3 days.)
- Set. Set your timer. The most respectful thing you can do for your listeners, meeting organisers and other conference speakers is to stick to time. Speaking beyond your allocated time is basically rude. When time is up, speak forth the big message and drop the mic.
- Lights. Have light shining on your face from the front. Background lighting results on your face looking dark. Either have your desk light behind the computer you’re speaking to (like my pictured set up above) or get yourself some cheap “selfie” light you can buy and attach to your computer.
- Camera. Keep your camera level with your eyes. Elevate your computer on a platform or a box. Looking down to a camera below your eyes means that your listeners are going to look up at your nostrils. Also watch your background and sound. Headphones/earphones may improve the clarity and gain of your speech. Careful with bluetooth headphones and virtual background as it adds workload to the computer processing, which may delay connectivity or quality of your presentation.
- Actions. Maintain the tone of your talk as conversational. The elevated public speaking volume that we use when we speak on a big podium will not work too well on virtual conference. Remember that you are now talking directly to one person sitting in their lounge room, office, or car on their headphones. Facial expression matter even more now as they are almost face to face with you. Speak not with the tone of a quiet chat but that of an excited conversation so as to maintain engagement with your listener. Make them feel that you are talking to them directly.
Hope that helps!
Tell me if you have learned other helpful presentation tips too.
Artwork on my screen is a mural at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne by Elizabeth Close.