With the COVID-19 global pandemic many in-person meetings have been moved online. In the age of zoom fatigue how do you capture the viewer’s attention and keep them engaged? Use these seven tips to level up your online presentations.
Who am I and what authority do I have on the topic? Hi, I’m Celeste Greene and I’ve given hundreds of presentations to all kinds of organizations. I’ve facilitated a free Laughter Club for over a decade now. We now laugh online twice a week. Find out more here.
Before we get into the specifics, let me go ahead and get this out of the way. The format of your online presentation does not matter. Whether you use Skype, Zoom, or another type of software, this advice will hold firm regardless of which platform you choose.
In this article I outline 7 key strategies to deliver online presentations that shine.
- Prepare the Stage: Check Your Environment
- Engage Participants Early: Hook the Viewer at the Beginning
- Stand Up and Immediately Bring More Energy to the Presentation
- Dress to Impress: What to Wear to and Online Presentation
- Simplify Your Slides
- How to Get Comfortable on Camera: Practice Record Repeat
- Tips for Starting and Ending Your Presentation
Let’s dive in.
Prepare the Stage: Check Your Environment
Before giving an online presentation, you’ve got to prepare the stage. Take a look at your background. What’s behind you? Make sure your background is not too distracting. If you do not have a clutter-free background, you can use a black backdrop. It’s easy to set up and it works great at keeping the attention focused on you and not your background. You can also create a sophisticated virtual background using a green screen. Check out Canva’s free virtual backgrounds as an example. You can upload these designs to use in any video conferencing system that allows for customized backgrounds.
Level up your lighting. At a minimum, face a window or other light source. Be sure that a window is not positioned directly behind you, or you will look like a dark and shadowy figure. If the lighting in your room is not great, set up a desk lamp behind your laptop, centered right over the camera to light up your face. For this to work well, minimize the lighting from other parts of the room by lowering the shades to prevent light coming from the side or the back.
You can even purchase great lights like these to up your lighting game. I use two of these lights at 45 degree angles and they work great. Plus, they are super portable if I want to take my Laughter Yoga sessions on the road.
We can’t always control ambient sound in your space (think: a neighbor’s leaf blower turning on during your big presentation). Consider how you can make your environment as quiet as possible. Close the windows. If you really want to take your presentations up a notch you can add an external microphone or ear buds. If you have an external webcam, use it. If you do not have a webcam consider investing in one.
Position your camera about arm’s length away. Your head and shoulders should be visible and there should be a little bit of space about your head. Position your camera at eye level.
Use a wired internet connection if possible instead of a WIFI connection. You can even have a backup way to get on the internet, like a mobile hotspot. I have a mobile hotspot on my iPhone. I keep my phone handy just in case. If you have another laptop – or tablet or phone – keep it signed on using another internet source in case you run into connectivity problems on the main network.
Close any unnecessary applications. This will ensure that they don’t interfere your web conferencing software. Also shut off any other background activities that require a substantial amount of memory or bandwidth, such as downloading or uploading large files.
Engage Participants Early: Hook the Viewer at the Beginning
Arrive to your online presentation a few minutes early and check in with people. Make small talk with the attendees. Refer to attendees by their name. Show them that you care. This makes your audience member feel more welcome, but this small interaction before the presentation has the added benefit of putting you at ease.
In the first few minutes of your presentation you want to invite interaction. You can ask attendees a question using the poll. You can invite participants to use the chat.
Stand Up and Immediately Bring More Energy to the Presentation
Making the change from sitting down and giving your presentation to standing up and delivering your presentation will immediately bring more energy to your presentation. So stand up and bring enthusiasm to your message.
In order to stand and still connect with the viewer, you’ll need to raise your laptop higher so that the camera is in your direct eyeline. Practice smiling and making a connection with the camera. Look into the camera lens. Imagine that the lens of your camera is a person. Imagine that as you look into the camera lens, you are looking into that person’s eyes.
Dress to Impress: What to Wear for My Online Presentation
Treat your online presentation as you would a presentation in front of a live audience. Get spiffy! When I am on camera I like to choose a solid color instead of a busy print. It is easier on the viewer’s eyes. The main thing is to wear something that you are comfortable in, but do keep it smart.
Simplify Your Slides
Each web conference platform has its own distinctive way of displaying slides. Avoid technical hassles by designing simple, easy-to-read slides.
Place text in the center instead of at the edges of the slides. Also, consider creating high contrast slides—they are easier to read for your virtual audience.
How can you use video, pictures, music in your presentation? Be creative. Your supporting material can really enhance your presentation, but remember to keep slides simple.
How to Get Comfortable on Camera? Practice. Record. Repeat.
It takes time to get comfortable on camera. At first you are wondering, How do I look?
Did I smile enough?” Record yourself practicing. Watch it! I know it can be hard to watch yourself on camera, but it’s worth it! Practice, record, and repeat and you will get more comfortable on camera.
You will become aware of your pace, posture, and any micro-facial expressions that you make.
Show the video to someone you trust and ask for feedback. The only way to get comfortable with being on camera is to gain familiarity with being on camera. How you gain familiarity with being on camera is to actually be on camera! So practice. Record. Repeat.
Tips for Starting and Ending Your Presentation
Just as you would do in an offline presentation, you want to start on time and end on time. Have an icebreaker activity at the beginning to engage participants as you are waiting for others to join. Remember, your most important person is the person right in front of you. Encourage conversation among participants by asking open-ended questions.
Ending an online presentation can be awkward. One way I end my presentations is by thanking people for coming and then encouraging participants to wave goodbye to each other while laughing.
Find out more Celeste and her work at CelesteGreeneLaughs.com.