Here are 14 expert tips to set you up for success with your Bridging the Gap virtual presentation:
1. Get the Lighting Right: As a presenter, it is essential that people can see you well. Make sure you have good front lighting—meaning the light shines brightly on your face. If your back is to a window, close the shades.
2. Choose the Right Background: Try to use a background that enhances your professional image and is aligned with your message. Avoid a cluttered background or anything that can be distracting. Your background can either add to your professional presence or detract from it.
3. Know the Technology: Nothing kills a presentation faster than a presenter who fumbles with the technology. This is a performance, so make sure you know how to make it work. A dry run is essential so that you’re comfortable with the platform features. Make sure you practice with the same technical set-up (computer and internet connection) that you will use when you deliver the presentation.
4. Play to the Camera: When you are the one speaking, look directly into your computer’s camera. This takes some practice, but it makes the viewer feel as if you are looking right at them. Put the camera at eye level. Try not to have your camera too far above or below you. If it’s too low, then you run the risk of creating a double chin. A camera too high makes it difficult to maintain eye contact, as you may find your gaze dropping as you speak. If you are part of a panel or a team of presenters, make sure you are aware of when your camera is on. If you are not speaking but your camera is on, make sure you look like you are paying attention! Powerful presenters understand the importance of making eye contact with their audience, so this means you have to simulate the same effect virtually.
5. Get Close (But Not Too Close): You want the camera to frame your face, neck, and shoulders. People are drawn to faces, so you don’t want to lose that connection by being too far away, but you also don’t want your face to take over the whole screen. Practice your positioning and distance.
6. Stand Up: If possible, use a standing desk or position your laptop so you can stand at eye level with your computer. Standing up provides a higher energy level and forces us to put our body in a more presentation-like mode. If you have to sit, lean forward as you would if you were presenting at a real meeting or as if you were a TV news anchor. Avoid slouching away from the camera, as that sends a signal that you are disconnected from the audience.
7. Be Animated: Just like in a live presentation, you want to present with a little energy and animation. Too slow or too monotone in your voice makes it easy for folks to disengage and tune out. Keeping people engaged virtually requires you to actually be engaging.
8. Pace Yourself: Without real-time visual audience feedback cues, getting the pacing right can be difficult. Even though you want to infuse some animation and energy into your presentation don’t pump up the speed too much. If you tend to be a fast talker in real life, practice slowing down just a bit. If you’re a slow talker, you may want to speed up just a bit.
9. Do A Sound Check: If your sound is garbled, people will tune out. While people may forgive less than perfect video, if they can’t clearly hear you, they will leave. Practice by recording yourself using Zoom. Review the recording and make sure your sound emits clearly. Sometimes headphones or external microphones work better than the computer audio, sometimes not. Every platform is different, so make sure your sound quality is excellent every time. Again, you should practice with the same technical configurations and location that you will use for your presentation.
10. Incorporate Redundant Systems. If using slides, make sure someone else (another co-host) also has a copy of the slides just in case your internet goes out. If you are using slides, make them visually appealing. Use high-quality graphics and limit the amount of text on each slide. It’s your job as presenter to deliver the content. The slides are meant to enhance your spoken words, not replace them.
11. Evaluate and Enhance: If possible, record your session using Zoom and take the time to play it back and look for areas that worked well and areas that you might want to improve upon. Great presenters, whether virtual or in person, understand the value of continually honing their craft. Be sure to acknowledge your strengths as well as your areas of improvement.
12. Dress the Part: Wear solid colors (jewel tones), navy blue instead of black, and avoid stripes and wild patterns. You want the focus to be on your presentation not on what you are wearing.
13. Find a Quiet Place: Plan to host your presentation in a quiet setting and be sure to silence notifications on your devices so they do not interrupt the presentation.
14. Be Yourself and Have Fun: Again, just like in face-to-face presentations, audiences connect to authenticity, so be yourself! Let your personality show through. Have fun. If you look like you’re enjoying the presentation so will others. Research shows that happy people retain information better than bored or disinterested people, so model the energy that you want to create. The audience takes its cue from you.
Remember, whether you are presenting in-person or virtually, all presentations are performances. All performances are in service to your audience. Their time is valuable, so honor that time by delivering the best presentation you can. No matter what kind of presentation you are giving, you must find ways to create authentic audience connection, engagement, and value.