Five top tips to make successful virtual presentations

Five Top Tips to make successful virtual presentations

In my role as both presenter and trainer, I am frequently asked the question of how to prepare and give a successful presentation with impact. However, these individuals are usually asking because they are planning a face to face presentation.

Given the times we are living in, I thought it would be useful to adapt my advice for a virtual setting as we will increasingly be asked to present at virtual meetings, conferences, seminars etc. over the coming months. Fortunately, my business partner, Rebecca Hill, has extensive experience of giving successful virtual presentations both in her previous global role at a large organisation and currently with her own consulting practice. The two of us have put our heads together and come up with the following five top tips to make successful virtual presentations – we welcome your questions, thoughts and feedback!

As mentioned, we will increasingly be asked to give virtual presentations using technologies like Zoom (www.zoom.us)  or Skype (www.skype.com). This blog is intended to focus more on the how of planning, structuring and giving successful virtual presentations rather than the technological aspect of managing a virtual presentation. If you are interested or need help/guidance in the technological aspects, I would strongly recommend the following two links and also check out the website for the tech package you are due to use as many of these have some great tutorials in their resources sections – https://xblog.xplane.com/xplanes-top-25-tips-and-tricks-for-remote-collaboration and https://learning.linkedin.com/blog/productivity-tips/new-to-working-remotely–these-resources-can-help?mc_cid=6bfc881279&mc_eid=27ceffce26.

Tip One – how to set yourself up for success

Think about the setting where you are making your presentation. Make sure you have a backdrop that works – this includes appropriate lighting.  I know this is easier said than done given many of us are working with numerous other family members at home right now but it really does make a difference. And make sure at least the top half of your outfit looks professional (that’s the bit the camera picks up on – we have been on calls with presenters in pyjamas or their work out clothes).

Think about the stability of your broadband. If it’s like my house, to get the best signal you really do need to be near the router (even with boosters).

Have at least a basic knowledge of the tech package you are using (see earlier links for further info) – this includes knowing how to mute, un-mute and manage volume settings, turn laptop camera on and off and how to share and stop sharing your screen (this is important because if you are using a programme such as Powerpoint you will need to be able to share and manage your slides). And if there’s a chat function, how to manage it (more about that later). Also, if you are both the host and presenter, you may want to assign a co-host if your tech package allows you to do this, so that should you for any reason lose connectivity etc your co-host can step in and manage the situation, giving you time to re-join the meeting.

Remember to talk to the camera (not the screen), set the camera at eye level, speak clearly but with animation and use voice intonation. My business partner gives her best and most successful virtual presentations standing up as she believes it gives off greater energy and creates more engagement from participants (she does have a standing desk).

Finally, ensure you have everything that you need to hand (including a glass of water).

Tip Two – know your audience and manage them.

Knowing your audience is critical particularly when it comes to giving successful virtual presentations as the temptation to multi-task and check out from what you’re saying for participants as they sit behind their computers can be very high.  If you know your audience well then you can make sure the presentation is targeted to their needs and requirements. If you’re not sure, ask the meeting or event organiser to provide you with a clear brief on the audience, their expectations etc. and what will provide them with the most value from your presentation.

Tip Three – use your own material whenever possible and be concise.

The main reason for this is if you have created the presentation yourself it will be easier to remember. Being able to remember what it is you want to say is the most important aspect when delivering a presentation.

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.

Really successful presentations are ones that are kept simple with a strong message that is easy to remember and that use examples and stories to bring it to life.

Ideally, your message should whenever possible contain no more than “three key points”. 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 due to our wiring.

Finally, it is really important with virtual meetings or events to stick to time – start on time and end on time and make sure there is sufficient time to ask and answer questions.

Tip Four – make it as engaging and interactive as possible

The key to keeping participants engaged when giving a virtual and successful presentation is to have a clear structure (keep it simple) and make it as interactive as possible.

If you are both host and presenter for the event or meeting, start with making sure participants are clear on the ground rules – this includes having their webcams turned on (wherever possible), keeping their microphones muted except when you want to invite them to speak, knowing how and when to use the chat functions (eg if you want to field all questions through the chat function). If you are going to record the meeting or event, then let participants know upfront so that they are aware and clarify with them where and how the recording will be shared.

If you are a guest presenter, ensure the event or meeting organiser gives you a clear brief on the queues they will use for introducing you and how they would like you to hand back to them and if there is a Q&A whether they are hosting it or if you will be hosting it.

Be careful of overusing Powerpoint, – use it sparingly and pay attention to how the information appears on the computer screen (is it too much, too small etc.). Remember, Powerpoint is there to assist the presenter, not the other way around and slides can always be shared afterwards along with any key actions/next steps.

You need to find ways of keeping your audience engaged. Check out in advance if it’s possible with the tech package you are using to schedule polling questions, breakout rooms or share film clips or animations and test beforehand.

With regard to Q&A this can be run via the chat function with participants posing their questions in the chat function for you to answer. It can be helpful to line up someone to help you triage the questions – this could be the meeting or event organiser – or if you are the host as well as the presenter, you may want to ask one of your colleagues to help.

Tip Five – Practice, practice, practice.

You may have heard this before; practice is however the foundation of any successful presentation – it really helps with managing any nerves you may have.

Write it, practice it, re-write if necessary, practice it again, use cue cards if necessary. Practice it in front of the mirror or the dog, but make sure you know what you want to say and so if necessary, practice it again.

Additionally, as the meeting is virtual you need to practice using the tech as well. If you have someone you can run your presentation past then I would recommend it. This will allow you to get used to dropping in shared documents and using other controls that are there to aid and make the meeting special.

The more you practice the more natural the whole presentation 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 – it really does help manage nerves on the day.

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

Finally, with each virtual presentation you will learn what works and what doesn’t, and you will get braver with experimenting. Remember to keep a note so that you can develop and evolve your approach and produce successful virtual presentations every time. 

We believe virtual meetings are here to stay so we would encourage you to hone your presenting virtually craft!

Our next blog will focus on top tips for curating virtual meetings. In the meantime, if you would like further guidance or assistance with preparing for virtual presentations or if you need to plan and host a virtual meeting, event or conference and don’t know where to start or you just need some on your presentation skills, then please feel free to contact us at www.haslerhillconsulting.co.uk +44 (0) 7773229909 and we would be happy to help.



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