Anyone who is either preparing to give a presentation or is giving one will have one thing on their mind — whether the audience likes what they are saying or not. There’s nothing worse than standing in front of an audience and watching their eyes glaze over as the look of disinterest creeps in.
The world we live in is dominated by technology and it is no longer restricted to the physical realm. Giving online presentations has become the norm these days. Whether it’s an online presentation for your boss, a client, or a regular audience in general, there are different situations where this is needed. It’s not just about getting your point across; it’s about creating an impression and a positive one at that. It is about leaving a positive impact on your audience’s mind. It’s about making them feel invested in what you are saying and ensuring you strike a chord with them.
If you want to impress your boss, client, and audience, here are some suggestions that will come in handy while creating online presentations via ZOOM, MS Teams, or Google Meets.
1. Keep Your Slides Simple and Concise
When you are present offline, your general body language and eye contact are sufficient to grab your audience’s attention. You have an opportunity to work your charisma on them. This makes it easier to build a rapport with your audience. When it comes to online presentations, it’s important to remember your visibility on the audience’s screen. You’ll be restricted to a small box on the screen. So, the chances of winning them or with your body language or charisma are out of the picture. The primary focus of the presentation will be on the slides you are presenting. If there are any inconsistencies, mistakes, or incorrect information in them, be prepared to be scrutinized.
Making good slides is not as difficult as most seem to think. You need to concentrate on making the slides look tidy. They should not be cluttered and the content should be concise. Get your point across within a line or two instead of paragraphs and paragraphs of information. The go-to tool to create presentations as power boy and fill stop if you are interested in learning to develop, and mastering your PowerPoint skills, don’t forget to go through my free eBook, ’21 Golden Rules For a Great Business Presentations’, and you can download it HERE.
2. Familiarize Yourself With the Online Tool
There’s nothing worse than fumbling on-screen amid a presentation. Ensure this doesn’t happen by taking some time and familiarizing yourself with the online tool or platform you will be using for the presentation. For instance, if you were using Zoom, MS Teams, or Google Meets, or any other videoconference software, ensure that you know how it works. Familiarize yourself with basic functions such as “Share Screen,” “Chat,” “Mute,” and “Participants” options.
3. Don’t Make It Lengthy
Humans cannot concentrate on a specific task for more than a couple of minutes at a scratch. So, the idea is to hold on to your audience’s attention without tiring them. Listening to low-quality sound and watching the screen continuously from their laptop or any other mobile device is exhausting. This is an important reason why the presentation must be short. Ensure that it doesn’t run for longer than thirty minutes. Give yourself another 20 minutes for a question-and-answer session but that’s about it. Any videoconference or presentation should not exceed an hour including the Q&A round. If possible, try to keep it even shorter. It’s about quality and not quantity!
4. Concentrate on the Visuals
You cannot give an online presentation without focusing on the visuals. Visuals are what the presentation is all about. Remember, even if you are minimized on their screens, they are concentrating on the slides you are presenting. So, you will need to use high-quality pictures. Instead of copy-pasting images, find good-quality and high-resolution pictures from platforms that offer free stock images such as pexels.com or unsplash.com. If you are looking for icons, don’t forget to check out flaticons.com or uxwing.com.
5. Keep Your Audience Engaged
Keeping your audience engaged, especially when there is no physical presence is not easy. The idea is to ensure your audience does not fall asleep. Different types of narratives can be used to ensure your audience stays active and engaged. From using anecdotes, humor, and attention-grabbing fonts to pictures, animated gifs, and timelines, different options are available. To keep your audience thoroughly engaged, you need to use a combination of all these formats of content. Don’t restrict yourself to a single format.
6. Ask Questions
Remember, giving a presentation is not just about conveying all that you want. It’s about building a rapport with your audience, keeping them engaged, and giving them value in some form or other so the presentation stays on their mind. If you want to do this, you’ll need to engage with your audience. The simplest way to do this is by asking questions. If you notice there is complete silence from the other side, chances are your audience has drifted away to their dreamland. To bring them back to the presentation, jolt them awake with a couple of questions. It’s not just about asking rhetorical questions and waiting for their answers, but you can ask them normal questions too. If you are asking a rhetorical question, pause and see whether your audience is paying attention or not.
Also, give them a chance to ask questions if they have any. Don’t just mute your audience, and keep delivering your presentation. Instead, give them time to ask questions. If you are not sure whether they have any questions not, ask them and clarify. A simple, “Do you have any questions?” Or “Is there anything else you would like some clarity about?” Will do the trick.
7. Take a Pause
A pause is like a comma in a sentence. It not only joins ideas together but also gives others a chance to think about what is said. Don’t be afraid of silence and do not try to fill the silence with filler words. Instead, take a brief pause. Pauses are your best friends because they are an incredible rhetorical tool that gives the audience a chance to think. It also makes you seem more confident. That said, it’s important to pay attention when you take a pause. You can use a pause before starting a new topic, introducing important points, and posing rhetorical questions. While using pauses, ensure they are not too long or you will lose your audience’s attention. An ideal pause shouldn’t last for longer than 2-3 seconds.
8. Slide Count Does Not Matter
A common worry most presenters have is about the ideal number of slides. Don’t fixate on reducing the slide count. Instead, focus on creating well-made high-quality slides focusing on the visuals. Don’t clutter the slide with too much information. Ideally, stick to one portion of information per slide. It means you should limit the content to a couple of sentences at the most per slide. Your audience doesn’t care how many slides you have to present. They care about the time taken for the presentation. Instead of focusing on the slides, track the time taken.
9. Relevant and Important Content
Remember, holding onto your audience’s attention virtually is tricky. At times, it is downright difficult because they are just a click away from checking their social media profiles or surfing on the net. To reduce the likelihood of this situation, ensure the content presented is brief, relevant, and important. No one will be interested in sitting through a presentation that doesn’t offer any value. While preparing the presentation, critique and scrutinize the information you have included. Share the presentation with a couple of people and seek their feedback. The most important question you must ask is, “What will my audience gain from this?” Whenever you are including a topic. This simple question will help filter out the unimportant content.
10. Think the Audience is Favorable Towards You
A common side effect of nervousness or fear associated with public speaking is panicking. Unfortunately, when most panic, they start talking quickly and it takes them a while to realize what they are doing. On the other hand, another scenario where panic sets in is when you are met with eerie silence. This is a dead-end too. In both these scenarios, your thoughts start racing at 100mph and staying calm becomes extremely difficult.
When you are presenting in front of a live audience in real-time and in person, even an encouraging nod or an understanding smile from them does the trick. In an online presentation, especially where you cannot see the audience or their cameras are turned off, it becomes quite uncomfortable. In such situations, you need to stay calm. Instead of assuming the worst, assume the audience is not hostile. Even if you don’t think they like what you are saying, don’t assume they hate it. Picture a neutral audience in your mind. If you believe you have something of value and are well prepared, share it with your audience. Visualizing a neutral audience makes it easier to share.
11. Maintain Eye Contact With the Camera
While presenting, you must look at the camera as often as possible. This is not the same as unblinkingly staring at the camera. As a rule of thumb, ensure 20- 30% of your screen time is dedicated to maintaining eye contact with the camera. This means, you simply need to look at the small circle toward the top of your laptop screen. While presenting, chances are most of your time will be spent watching the slides. Well, even your audience will do this. That said, if you are not looking at the camera, it makes the presentation seem impersonal. Maintaining eye contact with the camera is the equivalent of maintaining eye contact with a physical audience.
Whenever you are introducing a new topic or are discussing key points, maintain eye contact with the camera. This helps build a rapport with your audience. When you do this, especially during the important bits of the presentation, it creates an impression that you are looking at them. Don’t try to focus on their frames on your screen. Instead, maintain eye contact with the camera!
12. Do Some Vocal Exercises
Before any presentation, spend some time practicing a few vocal exercises. From maintaining the right tone to voice modulation, practicing vocal exercises helps create a better auditory impact. Vocal exercise helps relax your throat, mouth, and tongue along with your entire body. Any tightness in the muscles, especially in your back, shoulders, and neck harm the quality of your voice too. To avoid this, practice vocal exercises. A 10-minute vocal exercise session will not only relax your body and mind but prepares you for the vocal activity too. Apart from this, it is also known to improve your energy levels. This is something your audience will certainly pick up on. So, the next time you have an important presentation, take some time before it and practice basic vocal exercises. If you want to learn to strengthen your voice for presentations or work on voice modulation, check out my other article HERE.
13. Rehearse, Rehearse, and Rehearse
If you want to improve yourself and become an excellent present or, one aspect of presentation you cannot ignore is the groundwork or homework needed. Before you think about presenting, you will need to do some rehearsals. This is not only needed for offline presentations but online ones as well. While rehearsing, don’t forget to record your presentation. Watching and listening to yourself might not always be easy, but this is the only way to improve your presentation skills. Most online platforms such as Google Meets, Zoom, and MS Teams have a record option. You can also perform a trial run or trial connection with someone to ensure there are no tech glitches.
While reviewing your presentation, make a note of your strengths and weaknesses. This allows you to work on improving in those areas where you lag. Unless you are aware of what you are good and bad at, you cannot become better. You might also notice certain unconscious behaviors such as fidgeting, nodding, or using filler words and extra lengthy pauses. These are small issues but if left unchecked, they reduce the quality of your presentation.
14. Invest in a Good Quality Microphone
Most laptops don’t have high-quality inbuilt cameras. Similarly, laptops don’t have a good quality microphone. A low-quality microphone doesn’t produce perfect sound. Investing in a high-quality microphone not only creates a better listening experience for your audience but improves the overall quality of your presentation as well. Most poor-quality microphones result in muffled voices, echoes, or background rumble. All this can easily take away your audience’s attention from the presentation. Instead of concentrating on what you are saying, they will quickly lose interest due to the poor quality of the audio. This is especially true, for training or webinars that are lengthy. Even investing in a $50 microphone can significantly enhance the overall quality of your presentation.
If possible, investing in a good quality camera is also an excellent idea. That said, a good quality microphone takes precedence over a camera. Depending on your budget, invest in a microphone.
15. Be Mindful of the Frame
You must be conscious of the background you are using while presenting. Your audience will not just be concentrating on you, but your background too. So, ensure the background you opt for should be free of clutter, organized, and tidy. An unorganized background with too many elements will quickly distract your audience. Ideally, a solid-colored wall makes an excellent backdrop for online presentations.
16. Lighting Matters
Aesthetics matter a lot in online presentations. Since you cannot physically grab your audience’s attention, it’s important to ensure the ambiance created is such that they want to concentrate on their screens. An important part of this is lighting. A poorly lit workspace or room doesn’t create a good impression. Instead, opt for a well-lit spot. You can always use photo lamps on a tripod or ordinary lamps. If the regular lighting available in the room is insufficient, invest in additional lighting. At times, natural light will be sufficient. When it comes to online presentations, the angle of the lighting matters as well. For instance, sitting against natural light creates shadows. Instead, you will need to face the source of light! Remembering this basic principle of physics will create a better impact.
17. Better Internet Connection
Regardless of how wonderful or well made your presentation is, it doesn’t amount to anything if you don’t have proper Internet connectivity. Your audience will quickly lose interest if you have problems with the bandwidth and poor Internet speed. If the video keeps pausing, the video and audio lags or the presentation gets disconnected, you cannot hold onto your audience’s attention. Any disruption in the Internet connectivity will take the focus away from your presentation. To avoid this, consider upgrading your Internet connection.
If you are using a Wi-Fi network, shift to the Ethernet cable instead of the Wi-Fi. Ethernet provides a much stronger, stable, and reliable connectivity. This means combined you can focus on the presentation instead of worrying about the connectivity. Similarly, you should also have a backup plan in place in case of a power outage. Ensure there is proper Internet connectivity because it will give you the peace of mind needed to focus on your presentation.
18. It Goes Back to the Beginning
An important piece of advice all presenters must remember is to hook their audience right from the start. Remember, first impressions are paramount. It not only sets the tone for the presentation but is responsible for building rapport with them too. So, your aim from the very beginning must be to grab their attention. You can start with statistical data; share a story or an anecdote, an interesting question, or even a relevant quote. Within the first minute or two, show your audience why they should listen to you for the rest of the presentation. This also allows you to show them the value they stand to receive. This, in turn, will increase their motivation to listen and engage with you.
Once you start incorporating the above-mentioned suggestions and tips, the quality of your presentations will improve. Instead of dreading presentations and videoconferences, your audience will start looking forward to them. Get your audience involved and it will leave a lasting impact on their mind.
Do you really want to impress your audience? Download my free e-book entitled “21 Golden Rules for a Great Business Presentations” and start creating slides you will be proud of.