The impact of the pandemic on the way we work, maintain relationships and communicate has been transformative.
Staying connected with colleagues, clients and customers across the world means virtual meetings and events. It’s clear that, for the foreseeable future, Zoom, On24, MicrosoftTeams and AdobeConnect will be our online event space, networking forum and meeting room.
Technology has delivered a lot over the last 12 months, but there is no doubt that presenting to a roomful of people is very different to a webinar or video conference. However, throughout 2020 our Social Media & Events Executive Krista learnt a lot about virtual presentation skills and how to keep an audience engaged throughout an online event. Here are her top tips:
We’ve all done the quick hair fix, office tidy and “is there anything in my teeth?” check before heading onto a virtual meeting, but often the aesthetics are the least of your worries.
There are, however, a few key things you can do to ensure that your audience doesn’t become too distracted and to make sure you look and sound your best while presenting.
Plug in a DSLR camera
This will vary depending on your computer and camera, but plugging in a DSLR or mirrorless camera will automatically increase your video quality, making you appear more presentable and appealing for your audience to watch.
Buy a microphone
These things don’t have to be expensive. Buying a small desktop microphone or lapel mic will do wonders for your audio quality, which is arguably the most important part of a presentation. After all, if your audience can’t hear you or experiences sound issues, they’re likely to log out.
Don’t worry about the background
It feels like people and professionals are more understanding than ever before and aren’t too concerned if you are presenting from your lounge, bedroom or kitchen. However, keep it tidy and, if you are self conscious about your environment, you can blur your background. Using virtual branded backgrounds is also another way to block out the laundry behind you, but refrain from making a physical backdrop behind you, which could be a health and safety hazard.
Use a phone torch for lighting
If you’re presenting for an extended period of time, you may find the natural lighting starts to change, and those venetian-blind-stripes aren’t the best look. You can pick up inexpensive ring lights online which can be set up behind your computer to give you consistent lighting, or you can put your phone’s torch on a tripod which will give you the same effect for no extra cost.
Look at the camera
When you are presenting, it’s best to turn off your video view box so you can’t see yourself but your audience can. This way, you won’t be distracted by what you look like and can focus on looking into the camera. This way your audience feels more involved and it creates a similar feeling to real-life eye contact.
Content is arguably more important than ever; remember, it’s harder to keep your audience engaged online. Here are a few ideas to focus on:
Keep your slides minimal and consistent
Having consistent-looking slides is important for both brand awareness and audience engagement. Too much text and inconsistent branding can be hard to keep up with, so keep it simple and eye-catching.
Use more images than text
Using imagery allows you to have a simple yet eye-catching presentation and allows you to speak in depth about your presentation, rather than simply reading from a slideshow. This is also important from a commercial perspective. If all the information is on the slides, then what is the point in watching and listening to your presentation? To keep people engaged, having less text will mean they need to listen to what you have to say, otherwise they could just read it all themselves.
Animations & video
If your audience has poor WiFi, those funky animations you spent hours on can look juddery and unpolished. Try embedding video into your presentation as this should overcome that issue.
Don’t finish with a Q&A
Ending with a Q&A is a common strategy, but not always the most effective. If an audience member has nothing to say, they will likely sign off before you completely finish. Make sure to keep an important or fun piece of information until after the Q&A to ensure your audience members stay for the entire duration of your presentation.
3.Keeping your audience engaged
For those without disabilities, this can often be overlooked, but we don’t always know who is in our audience. You may have people in your virtual audience who are blind or hard of hearing, so make sure you take the necessary measures to ensure everyone can enjoy the experience equally. Try not to cover your mouth so that people can lip read, and don’t fully rely on visuals to explain your point so visually impaired people can still understand.
If your software allows it, breakout rooms are a great way to virtually network and allow your audience to get to know each other while you take a break from your presentation. You can open multiple rooms and randomise who is in each, giving your audience the opportunity to network and discuss what they have learnt. Having breaks will keep them engaged for the latter part of the presentation.
Third-party interactive activities
While this may sound counterintuitive, giving your audience a space to connect that is not directly on the webinar can give them that mental break they need and keep them interested in your discussion. You can do this via a WhatsApp group for smaller audiences, or get everyone involved in third-party polls, questions and word clouds.
Stop talking every 10-15 minutes
Being constantly spoken to for hours on end is hard work and isn’t a good way to retain information. Make sure to give your audience regular breaks by adding in video content, questions, polls and other virtual activities to keep them on their toes and help improve their learning and engagement levels.
If your business is thinking about hosting a virtual or hybrid event, drop us a line on firstname.lastname@example.org.