Speaking coach Graham Shaw on how to add real Zoom to virtual communication
Presenting to people remotely such as on video calls come with its own set of problems. When compared with speaking to a ‘live’ audience it can seem difficult to create a connection. The audience can feel distant and literally ‘remote.’
Virtual audiences are much more likely to find themselves distracted as their attention wanders. As a presenter you can often not see these things and far less control them. Even if you can see audience members, it is so difficult to pick up signals when looking at faces on a computer screen.
As if that wasn’t enough; possibly the biggest ch
allenge of virtual presenting is that your energy a
nd impact is diminished. In contrast with seeing you ‘live’ in the room, there just isn’t the same impact.
While there’s no magic wand fix this, you can make a dramatic difference. By doing some simple things in your preparation, practice and performance you can transform your impact.
There are a few main things you can do to ace your remote presentation and have impact on your audience:
- Plan with your audience in mind
Keep everything focused on the desired outcome. It can be difficult to know where to start, but asking these questions is key:
- Who will be list
ening and why? What are their expectations?
- What do you want the result of the talk to be?
- What do your audience need to see and hear to increase the chances of you achieving that result?
Use those three questions to come up with the content of your talk. Then arrange that content into has a logical progression, like a storyboard.
TIP – Start your talk with a strong ‘Why?’ Remote audiences can find their attention wandering. Therefore, immediately give them good reasons to listen. Grab their attention by stressing the importance of your talk and the benefits listening.
- Create slides only where necessary
You don’t need a slide for everything you say. Why? – because you are there to say it.
Rather than thinking of your slides as the presentation, think of yourself as the presentation. Your slides are supporting you. It is your personal impact that will influence people the most.
If you focus on the slides too much you are in danger of:
- Draining your audience
- Diluting your personal impact
- Reducing engagement
Work on creating only necessary slides that support you. Be selective so that the slides you do create will add the most value.
TIP – When you want to emphasise a key point; come out of showing the slides, look straight at the camera and make your point. The audience will feel the impact of your message when they see you looking directly at them.
- Position camera so people can see your gestures
So often people sit too close and seem like they are looking up or down at the camera.
Instead, position your screen camera at eye level so that people can see you from the waist up. Your audience will have a wide view of your upper body and can see your gestures.
- Use gestures to convey meaning
Gestures help compensate for impact that is lost when you are remote. They will increase your energy and help create a more emphatic voice. Use your hands in a natural way.. They help us ‘paint’ pictures so the audience will literally ‘see’ what you mean.’
Try the following:
- Rehearse using your hands naturally, as you would in normal conversation.
- Let your gestures paint pictures – describe size, movement, shape and much more.
- Allow ‘daylight’ between arms and body – don’t keep your upper arms stuck to your body as this can restrict movement.
“Speak slower than might feel natural and add extra emphasis to ‘land’ key points.”
- Slow down your voice and add extra emphasis
When speaking remotely, it is best to generally speak slower than might feel natural. Also add extra emphasis to ‘land’ key points. Slowing down gives a virtual audience a better chance to absorb your messages.
- Vary your voice
A few simple techniques can help to keep your voice sounding natural:
- Let your voice rise and fall – work on a natural intonation
- Avoid raising your voice at the ends of sentences; it can diminish authority
- Drop your voice at the end of a sentence to give weight and credibility
- Speak clearly – don’t rush your words or let one word run into the next
- Breathe deeply i.e. ‘diaphragm breathing’ to avoid a shaky voice and calm nerves
- Make it interactive
This applies especially if your presentation is long. People’s attention span will start to wane unless you make it feel ‘two-way.’
Here are some ideas:
- Use a poll. Many video conference platforms have the facility to ask people to react to a question with a yes/no, thumbs up or down.
- Have a question-time. Question time can be a positive experience. If you have small numbers, people can ask questions verbally. With larger groups you can ask people to write questions in a ‘chat’ feature.
- Encourage collaboration. Ask your audience for help e.g. ‘I have an idea and I’d appreciate your reactions.’ This can promote a teamwork approach.
- Have a discussion slot, if numbers are low enough to permit. Research shows the ideal number to get everyone fully involved is about seven.