What is important for successful speeches is available both in the vast literature and in this blog. But do you know how to adapt your speech in front of a virtual online audience? Since the next live events are not yet foreseeable in times of COVID-19 or Corona, online presentations will make up an important part of the future. The ongoing digitalization will further reinforce this development. The following blog series will therefore deal with the most important aspects of online presentations: Which nuances are particularly important so that you can inspire and take your online audience?
While many of the basics for good, high-quality presentations still apply in large parts, there are some key differences between live and online presentations if you want to get your message across online.
Engage your online audience
Even more than in a live performance, you rely on your audience following you, thus not taking advantage of the numerous ways to be distracted.
An important aspect is the direct contact to your audience. Especially recent online meetings keep showing me the following: Many speakers look into the laptop camera either from above or below. To avoid this happening to you and in order to communicate at eye level, you can raise your laptop accordingly. If you do not have a height-adjustable table, a small box or a stable stack of books underneath the laptop can help. On the other hand, I find many speakers looking at the screen instead of the camera lens. While they can see their audience this way, eye contact is missing. A direct view into the camera lens would help. A little training is required, but with some practice you will quickly succeed. Furthermore, I see some speakers with their face half cut off. I recommend readjusting your screen to the right angle. In any case, test how you will appear on the screen. Most of the programs allow you to test this beforehand.
Think about the possible distractions your audience is exposed. These may include incoming email, social media, private chats, phone calls and the doorbell. Other distractions can be the audience’s surroundings, such as work they want to do on the side, colleagues, roommates or family knocking on the door, the need to go to the bathroom quickly, doing housework on the side, cooking or eating, sports activities or just reading the news. The reason for this is that peer pressure in the live presentation and the associated hesitation to do anything else does not apply here. I have already seen a viewer of an online event ironing his shirts live!
Involve your audience early and proactively in your presentation. You can achieve this by asking direct questions, on the other hand by conducting short surveys. This provides interaction increasing your audience’s attention span. In addition, your presentation becomes more diverse. You may also want to include brief discussions in longer presentations.
With regard to PowerPoint presentations, I generally advise against too many animations. I have experienced numerous flashing graphics flying onto the screen, which distracted from the content of the speech. For your online presentation, however, I recommend using animations discreetly. Such moving slides can keep the attention of your audience.
Another aspect that should not be underestimated is your visibility as a speaker: If you can control screen settings so that you are visible during a PowerPoint presentation, your audience is much more likely to connect with you.
Online presentation: A success from beginning to end
“First sentence is yours!” What applies to live presentations gains additional weight conducting online meetings. A unique introduction will encourage your audience to think about your content. You can refer to the event at present or you can introduce a brand-new message that affects the whole audience. Alternatively, you can start in the classic way with a personal story or a short anecdote, which you will come back to later in the presentation. To this extent, live and online presentations are rather similar. The only difference is that distractions by external influences are much more attractive for your audience – and this you can counteract with your exciting story.
Due to the spatial distance to the audience, it is especially important to stimulate as many senses as possible in your stories. For example, while talking about bread, you can mention the taste of the fresh smelling, crispy crust. If you are well prepared, the original bread is already lying beside you; then you can hold it directly into the video camera and use the visual stimulus. If you take a digestible bite of the crust during the speech, your audience can even hear the cracking sound.
Never end your presentation with the often seen flower slides; avoid thank-you orgies and empty phrases. The best way to do so is with an inspiring statement, a powerful appeal or a clear transition to discussion.
Similar to a live presentation, many people will leave after the end of the online presentation. However, you can also keep a part of your audience in the meeting room by inviting them to further discussion and online chat. Now you can answer open questions and maintain your personal network. Also share your contact details from social media channels like XING, LinkedIn and Instagram.
The further blog series on online presentations deals with language style and body language, potential distractions and technical subtleties. What experiences have you already had with presentations on Zoom and other online channels? Feel free sharing them with a comment!
This post is also available in: German