2020 was a year of change for most of us. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to retreat indoors and away from public spaces under government-imposed lockdown orders.
Despite many job losses, working from home has become the norm for many people as employers have realized the manifold benefits of this approach.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing, however, as people have been required to get acquainted with technology pretty quickly. For instance, from university lecturers to business executives, professionals who once gave in-person presentations have now had to learn this online.
Although, in theory, this may seem like a pretty easy transition to make, it isn’t.
Just like public speaking in general, online presentations require a certain skill set that needs to be developed over time.
Understandably, for those that are unfamiliar with the digital workspace, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with technology and to fumble when it comes to presenting and interacting with audiences online.
With that being said, however, it is important to realize there are many people in the same boat. Furthermore, the challenges posed by having to give presentations online aren’t insurmountable and with just a little bit of help, you’ll soon find your feet.
Here are a few tips to help you become a pro at online presentations :
Simplify Your Content
Keeping your visual content simple is important, especially when you are just getting started with online presentations. Make sure that any slides you use are simple and easy to read.
Remember that your audience is likely to be multi-tasking or taking notes as you speak so make sure your slides don’t contain too much information. Alternatively, make sure that they receive a copy of your slideshow beforehand so they don’t frantically need to take down any notes.
Prepare Your Technology
Even if you consider yourself to be a pretty tech-savvy individual, it’s important to understand that things go wrong so it is always good to have a back-up plan.
There are loads of technological tools at your disposal so be sure to explore your options thoroughly and choose one that works for you. For instance, Callbridge is an excellent video conference software that provides a user-friendly experience when it comes to doing simple online presentations.
Declutter Your Background
Do a little tidy up before presentation time. Try to eliminate as much of the visual clutter in the background as possible. Ideally, sitting or standing in front of a plain wall will give you the most professional look.
An alternative idea is to make use of some of the virtual backgrounds available on the video conferencing platforms. Just be sure to choose something relatively neutral that won’t distract your audience from what is being said in your presentation.
Understandably, most people who work-from-home won’t dress in a business dress as they would if they were heading to the office. However, it is important to look your best when giving a presentation.
While you don’t necessarily need to wear a suit for online presentations, avoid anything too bright or patterned that could act as a distraction. Shiny fabrics could also cause an issue if they catch the light at a bad angle. Go for simple solid colors. At the end of the day, you’ll want your audience to focus on the content of your presentation rather than your outfit.
Be Mindful of Your Lighting
Think of your online presentation as a movie. Lighting matters. To ensure optimal lighting set up a lamp behind your laptop, over the camera so it lights up your face.
You can also minimize lighting from other parts of the room using shades. You should also avoid sitting in front of a bright window as this will make you appear as a dark silhouette. Rather turn your laptop around so the window is in front of you instead of behind.
Remove Noisy Distractions
Ideally, you should make sure you do your presentation in a quiet room. However, this is something easier said than done when you are working from home. Controlling background noise is especially difficult if you’ve got kids around or you live in a small apartment where noise from other parts of the building carries through. One solution would be to invest in a good quality bluetooth headset with a built-in microphone that can cancel outside sound. On a more basic level, remember to remove or mute any noisy computer notifications that pop up.
Maintain Eye Contact
Maintaining eye contact is always important when you want to engage an audience. There are a few things worth noting when it comes to eye contact during an online presentation. Firstly, you should raise your laptop using a box or stack of books so the camera is at eye level. You’ll also need to become accustomed to speaking to the camera rather than watching yourself on the screen. Setting up your laptop in such a way that places you in the center of the frame is also crucial. Sitting too close to your screen won’t provide the most flattering angle either – so play about with positioning till you get it right. Finally, sit up and smile – along with eye contact – this will help engage the audience.
Engage With Your Audience Throughout The Presentation
Being unable to be in the same place as your audience physically can make it difficult to truly engage with them. The fact that you’ll be speaking into the camera might also make it hard to keep track of whether or not you have your audience’s full attention. Some web conferencing platforms do have tracking features that indicate whether audience members are accessing other apps during the presentation. Another way to maintain audience attention is to have a larger number of slides that change at a faster pace. You can also change your speaking pattern by asking a rhetorical question or soliciting some audience feedback.
Times are changing and we need to change as well if we don’t want to be left behind. Although the great technological tools we have available to us today serve to make the world of work far more efficient, they also pose their own unique set of challenges. While video conferencing platforms allow us to connect more readily with colleagues from across the world, using this software effectively is something we will need to get used to. Following these simple tips should help you on your way to becoming proficient in the execution of engaging online presentations.