8 Tips for virtual presentations and online meetings
Virtual meetings and conferences are here to stay. Even if we get a vaccine tomorrow, the perks of a virtual meeting or conference are established and will influence business going forward. These benefits have opened the world up with new and exciting opportunities…right from your living room. It is time to convert that rectangle on the screen into a tool that builds your brand.
As online meetings and conferences become the “new normal,” there are a few things that will boost your presence on the virtual stage. Here are eight tips to tickle your brain as you prepare to commit to this new arena.
A dedicated space
A dedicated space can assist with planning the elements of your space and ensure that your presentation has a firm foundation. The lighting, props, and sound can be optimized when you plan your zone in advance. If this space is in a multi-use zone, place markers for lights and props to ensure a quick set up and consistent quality.
Keep your brand visible.
Everything that seen and heard establishes your brand. It all matters from the professionalism of your slides to the visible decor in the room. Make sure every little element within your camera frame is there on purpose. Does the blanket on the back of the couch look slothful or cozy? Are there nicks and dents in the wall? Are your clothes appropriate? Does the color choice of your shirt blend into the background or provide a pleasant contrast? Whether you are going for edgy or polished, every detail should lend itself to building your brand story.
Picking a background is important. Most people aim for a blank wall as their background. This is a waste of prime real estate! If you are presenting at a conference, have a logo and contact information in that area. Create a virtual image with the graphic strategically placed. Orchestrate where you are in the picture so that it is balanced and readable.
If the app you are using doesn’t allow for virtual backgrounds, get the logo printed and place it on the wall. Make sure it is large enough to fit within the screen. Don’t print out an 8.5x11 and slap it up. The size you need is deceptive, and that piece of paper will appear smaller than a postage stamp.
Invest in a nice printed piece. There are decal materials available that that are flat cling decals that won’t damage walls and are reasonably priced. OR it can be printed on canvas that can be hung up and stored after it is used. (I found that 36 x 48 works well if it is within 18 inches behind you.) The larger the distance between you and the wall, the bigger it will have to be in order to fill your rectangular home on the screen.
Avoid a high gloss print and choose a matte finish. Lights will bounce off of a shiny surface and produce hot spots. Hot spots can distract and blind viewers to the information in your image. Printing on fabric reduces glare plus provides the added benefit of dampening sound.
Make sure you are well lit, and you are not shadowed like a bad character in a movie. It will impact your trust factor if you lack facial features by sitting in the dark. Aim the lights so that they are facing you. Place them a few feet above your line of sight and aim them down. This can eliminate raccoon eyes and double chins. Tweak it until you create a lighting situation that makes you look healthy and vibrant then mark it if it has to be put away after each production.
Avoid colors that are too warm or too cool. There are many YouTube videos that can expand your knowledge about lighting techniques. It is amazing what lights can do to make you look younger and thinner.
The first impression can be a lasting impression. Your facial expression is the first thing that is judged when participants enter an online room. It says to the world what kind of person you might be. Are you nice with an easy smile or grouchy with a grimace? Many people are unaware of what facial expressions are displayed on their faces. I have been shocked when a grimacer started to speak and their face transformed into a friendly demeanor. Conflicting messages can paint you as inauthentic.
People get bored. They will begin to study at other people while they are listening or waiting for the next interesting thing to happen. They are evaluating the trust factor of the faces in the virtual crowd, including yours. Always be aware of your expression while you are waiting to speak or listening to another presentation.
When you are on a panel and awaiting your turn, your facial expressions dictate whether you are approachable or likable. This can affect the reception of your information when it is your turn to speak. Place something that makes you happy behind the camera to remind you to wear a happy expression.
Echoes can be harsh and come off cheap. Walls, glass, and hard surfaces send sound bouncing like a racquetball. Soften these surfaces with acoustic foam or cloth to catch and hold the unwanted noise. Even something low budget like a terry cloth towel will help soften the reverberations. Record a practice session to see what is working, or not working, then adjust until it sounds good.
Invest in a microphone. Prices are reasonable for a decent mic. It provides a richness to your voice that is pleasant to hear. Look for one that has a pop filter. Pops are the sounds that come out of your mouth with a burst of air that is harsh. It is common with the “p” sound. Pop filters dampen the unexpected explosion of sound that can rattle your listeners.
Microphones that wrap around the neck or a badly placed lavaliere tend to rub against clothes and are hard to listen to. That scratchy sound is like nails clawing down the proverbial chalkboard and will light up the nerve endings in your audience. You may not be familiar with a chalkboard or the sound that nails make on it, but, trust me, it is a bad thing. (shiver) Don’t do it.
Test your sound quality on the computer. The distance from a computer microphone can impact the sound. Many systems have a noise cancellation feature that eliminates unwanted background noise. If a speaker is too far away, it will break up your words like bad cell service.
Watch the pacing and the pitch of your voice. Nerves can make a speaker talk faster and higher. When an audience listens to a rapid pace, it can be stressful. Parts of the story get lost as the listeners struggle to keep up. Silent pauses are just as critical as words. They highlight something important and provide a moment for an audience to absorb what was said. It provides a break in the flow that catches attention that may have drifted.
High pitches can grate on nerves and can be described as “screechy.” This is especially important for female speakers as they begin at a higher pitch. The English Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, took lessons to lower her voice and cultivate a deeper tone that helped her win debates and trust. A pleasant voice is unhurried with a midrange to deep tone. Your message will be unheard if people resist the sound of your voice.
The voice is an instrument that becomes better with practice. Practice is necessary to build that silky tone that feels good. Working with Impromptu speaking can make those Q and A sessions more eloquent, professional, and memorable. There are different speaking clubs that can provide this valuable experience, plus training, tips, and feedback on how to improve within a safe environment. Many clubs and groups are online since the pandemic began. This provides an opportunity to explore clubs around the world from your living room. Discover different strategies and find mentors that can help develop your speaking skill.
Let everyone know about the event. This promotes the event and increases your value as a presenter. It adds credibility to your brand and gives you an excuse to engage with your social community. Many promoters have general event posts that can be shared. Smart promoters will provide special posts highlighting their speakers and sponsors. Share most of them with a blurb about your presentation.
Create a few posts that give a sneak peek to your presentation that whets the appetite and incites curiosity. Arrange for a recording of your presentation. Usage rights and permissions should be spelled out in the speaker contract and agreed upon. Use cuts and snippets to create a trailer for the next opportunity or to recap the event where you rocked the “stage.”
There are many things that can impact a presentation. Pay attention to them all. Mitigate what you can and enhance what is important. Prepare, polish, present, and repeat.