Five top tips on how to ace presenting virtually and in person

In our roles as presenters, trainers and facilitators, we are frequently asked the question of how to do a presentation with impact. Given the that we are increasingly asked this question for not just face to face presentations but virtual too. So we’ve pulled together our Five Top Tips on How to Ace Presenting Virtually and In Person.

Tip One –use your own material whenever possible.

This is primarily because if you have created the presentation yourself it will be easier to remember. Having easy recall to what it is you want to say is the most important aspect when delivering a presentation – this is key in the virtual space too. Some experts encourage the use of auto-prompts. We would suggest that for most presenters who present infrequently, using auto-prompts can trip you up, so unless you have lots of time to practice probably best to stick to preparing your own material which you can then talk through with knowledge and confidence.

However, what happens when you have to deliver someone else’s presentation?

The most useful thing you can do (time permitting) is to re-write the presentation in your own words, being careful not to change any meaning of it in the process. Once again, the writing down will help log the information in your own mind and make it easier to remember, helping to make it feel more like your own.

Tip Two – Make sure you do not overcrowd your message.

Really successful presentations are ones that are kept simple with a strong message that is easy to remember. When preparing your presentation, you can log as many pieces of information as you wish. However, when presenting, it is important that you keep your message as brief and on point as possible and this goes for any slides you might use too.

Ideally your message should whenever possible contain only “three take aways”. However, sometimes this is not possible, in which case you need to try and break messages down into groups of three before summing up at the end with “three key take homes”.

Why only threes?

Simply because, for the average human, we have a habit of not remembering more.

Tip Three – Wake Up Calls!

If you have a presentation that is going to run for longer than 15 minutes (and we would not advocate for this in the virtual space in particular), you need to find ways of keeping your audience engaged.

Much research has been done on the subject of attention span and it seems to vary from as low as nine minutes up to around twenty-three minutes, before minds wander. This is for in person presentations. Virtual one’s can be much shorter. 

How do you keep your audience’s attention?

If you wish to make presentations with an impact, there are a number of approaches. Asking the audience questions is a great way, some rhetorical and others you actually wish them to engage with. This has a way of including them more than if you are just talking to them for half an hour. This could include live polling questions. This is where virtual event technology comes into its own with lots of options for polling, word clouds etc.

Tip 4 – Props and Screen usage.

I am pretty sure that anybody reading this will at some point have experienced the legendary phenomenon “DEATH BY POWERPOINT”.

Powerpoint, although somewhat dated in today’s world of AV, is still a very effective tool if used correctly and can form part of a successful presentation. However, it has to be used very wisely.

Too much information on a single slide is just a waste of time and a waste of a slide. It tends to lead the presenter into two rather dull “cul de sacs”. Boredom and Distraction.

Boredom, because invariably when there is too much information on a single slide the temptation to ensure everybody has got the message, is to read it to the audience. The minute this has begun you have done two things; you have potentially insulted your audience by assuming that they cannot read and secondly you are now no longer presenting, but just narrating.

With distraction, even if you are not reading to the audience and continuing to present, the audience are most likely being distracted by the slide and are potentially trying to read it. That means they are no longer listening or concentrating on you as a presenter.

Back to Tip two, try and keep information to each slide to three points. Ideally these points should be single words or even images.

Back to Tip three, if appropriate add film clips or animations into the presentation to keep people engaged.

Remember, Powerpoint is there to assist the presenter, not the other way around. For more information about how to produce great Powerpoint slides we recommend you read Your Slides Suck by David Henson. And check out the concept of lightening talks or Pecha Kucha – this can be an interesting presenting approach especially in the virtual space.

Tip Five – Practice, practice, practice.

You may have heard this before; practice is however the foundation good and successful presentations.

Write it, practice it, re-write if necessary, practice it again, use cue cards if necessary. Practice it in front of the mirror or log in to a free Zoom account hit record and practice then watch the recording, and if necessary, practice it again.

The more you practice the more natural the whole thing becomes – actors are great examples because whilst some are naturally brilliant at what they do most have to work hard at their craft to make their performances seem natural. That is where practice comes in.

No matter how many presentations you make the key is not to get complacent, otherwise you risk coming unstuck.

For more top tips on presenting both virtually and in person, check out our on demand learning module Virtual Presentations that Pack a Punch. 

James Hasler of HaslerHill Consulting is a professional event host, MC/Emcee, moderator, “frontman” and anchor as well as voice artist working across industries and geographies with clients to ensure their events achieve the impact in the market that they want. If you are interested in discussing further your needs with respect to successful presentations, public speaking or voice coaching with James, he can be contacted via email james@haslerhillconsulting.co.uk or by phone at +44(0)7773 229909



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