Zoom-fatigue: spending time communicating in front of screens can be stressful. But it gets easier the more you feel confident, in control and at ease in the virtual presentation setting. These are my top 20 tips to de-stress and de-fatigue virtual presentations and meetings. And you can digest them in under 7 minutes. (6 minutes, 39 seconds reading time to be precise)
1. Interact With Your Audience
Nobody enjoys speaking in a vacuum. The total lack of feedback from attendees can be unsettling. How do you fix it? Begin any virtual presentation by interacting with your audience. Ask a question to kick off this interaction. Some questions ideas:
- Where are you connecting from?
- How is your day going so far?
- How many hours have you spent on Zoom today?
2. Invite Them On A Journey
We are all attracted to mystery and captivated by stories. At the beginning of your virtual presentation, show your audience what outcome they will enjoy if they follow you. Invite them on a journey with you, exploring your topic in search of a special wisdom that you can lead them towards.
3. Share Your Schedule
Time is our most precious asset. If I am giving it to you, I want to know how you will use it. Don’t just tell me the subject of your talk. Don’t just underline the outcome that I will get if I follow what you have to say. Take an extra step: tell me how you will develop your arguments, how much time each talking point will take. Let me know when there will be breaks. Tell me when there will be a q&a session. Do this up front.
4. Shorten Your Bio
You’re important. You’re so important that we’re attending your virtual presentation. Don’t squander our attention by droning about your education, titles, accomplishments, book sales, and accolades. Keep your bio short and to the point. And the point is: how is your bio relevant to the topic you’re presenting.
5. Check Your Microphone
Use an external microphone. Never rely on the mic from your computer or your device. Get a high-quality USB microphone for stationary lectures. Or a wireless lapel microphone for presentations that will require you to move around. Don’t forget: Check your levels ahead of the call through your system preferences or control panel.
6. Play With Your Voice
On screen, you don’t have the luxury of talking with your whole body language. During virtual presentations, your audience will focus on your voice. You should change your pitch, speed, tone, and delivery style with what you’re presenting. Avoid being monotonous. And never read.
7. Cut Disturbances (Or Integrate Them)
Bird chirping. Dogs barking. Lawnmowers mowing. Emergency vehicles approaching. Pets cuddling. Children asking for attention. Nobody expects your virtual presentation to happen without interruption. Be courageous: tell us about your pets, introduce us to your children, integrate the distraction into your narrative. As an alternative, insulate your office from sound, close the windows and ask your partner to take care of your loved ones.
8. Dress For Video
What looks good in real life doesn’t necessarily look great on video. Dress with simplicity. Use colors that contrast well with your background. Try to avoid anything with excessive decorative elements or with lettering on it. Stay away from brands (you will look like an advert). Don’t forget to wear a skirt or pants. If you move around, your lack of bottoms will show.
9. Dress Up Your Background
Be conscious that your background is an integral part of your message. Feel free to decorate your walls according to your next meeting or call. If you’re inviting us into your home, don’t show us anything intimate. Beds should never be in the frame. And if you decide to use virtual backgrounds, please choose something subtle. Top tip: a color gradient.
10. Get Illuminated By Soft Light
It takes days to light up a theater stage. Hours to set up lighting on a photo-shoot. Movies shoot only at certain times to enjoy the best natural light effects. You don’t have this luxury. Use a soft light coming from behind the camera. To achieve softness, try bouncing light on a white wall (or a curtain) or investing in a soft-box. Webcams work better the more you’re illuminated.
11. Tweak Your Frame
You have the power to decide how and where you appear in the frame. You should choose where your slides are displayed. Decide how to show your webcam video next to your presentation. You can also use lower thirds to enhance your message. The combinations are endless. You’re the director of your virtual performance, the screen is your canvas: play with it to your advantage.
12. Enlarge Your Fonts
People might be following you on a device. People might not have their window maximized while you talk. Everything on your slides should be big, readable. That also means having the right contrast.
13. Look At Your Audience Through The Camera
In virtual presentations, two factors make you human and relatable: your voice and your eyes. Speak to me; don’t look at your notes. Avoid your prompter. Look into my eyes by looking through the camera. Your audience will react to the right gaze by following you attentively.
14. Stand Up
Lift your laptop and stand while delivering your virtual presentations. Your heart will pump faster. Your voice will be more powerful. Your posture will be more confidence-inspiring.
15. Use Your Computer As A Mirror
Your webcam offers you an unprecedented opportunity to better your presentation skills. It gives you a mirror. You can keep in check your body language, your eye contact, your position in the frame. Use this mirror to improve the quality of your delivery.
16. Check Your Quality On Your Devices
If you’re presenting through your computer, use your tablet or phone to watch your video. Log on as a participant through your device, and you will be able to see what your participants are experiencing. Take a short break and check your audio on this device with your headphones.
17. Plan For Delays
I am not talking about trains running late. During a virtual presentation, you can’t expect your audience to react instantly, just like they would do in a room. Remember that there might be a lag in your video signal. For instance: announce that your q&a will start in 2 minutes to let people queue their questions. Also: if you assign an activity to your audience, prepare a countdown and give them the actual time to complete the task.
18. Close With A Summary
Agenda slides should only appear at the end of a presentation. They don’t make any sense at the beginning. But at the end of a talk, they provide an excellent summary. Summaries help your audience understand what they experienced. They also help people memorize and make sense of your content. Far from being boring, summaries can be an exhilarating way to end your presentation.
19. End On A High
There is nothing worse than an excellent presentation that ends without any energy. At the very end, you should underline the big-idea of your talk. Show how your big-idea makes a lot of sense now that your audience has experienced all your content. Tell them how this big-idea can be applied every day and become a habit.
20. Bring Your Energy & Be Yourself
Virtual presentations require the presenter to skillfully pack much energy and bring it to the screen. Think of yourself as a late-night show host. Do they mumble and speak to themselves? They deliver with a high degree of confidence, with a contagious positive energy and their own unique style. When tasked with a virtual presentation, you need to think of yourself like Oprah Winfrey or Jimmy Fallon.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my short guide to Virtual Presentations. If you did, be sure to subscribe to my (almost) monthly newsletter where I share my thoughts on communication, innovation, marketing, and entertainment from my very own personal perspective. And if you’re looking for a corporate training, a seminar or a coaching session please reach out and let me know more about your needs.
You make an excellent point when you mention how people will pay more attention to your voice when you are giving a virtual presentation. My wife is preparing to create a virtual introduction for new employees that will start working with her next month, but she has been worrying that she may stutter due to her nervousness. Maybe she should consider finding a professional that can help her prepare herself and adjust her tone accordingly.