3 tips to stand out for your next virtual presentation

How to work better from home: the backdrop (not the ceiling), the position of the camera (avoiding up-the-nose peepshows), and tech set up have all been covered at length over the last few weeks. However, how to use your body language to maintain the same charisma you would have on a virtual presentation as you would in person, is an important factor we can’t neglect. (#SameButDifferent à distance)

Working from home aka “télétravail” has been a growing trend in France
(I mean, who doesn’t like wearing pajama pants… or no pants at all when at work… whatever floats your boat).  Recently, with the majority of the world on covid19 lockdown or voluntary social distancing, many of us have been thrown into the deep end and now find ourselves working from home and participating in online team meetings; giving virtual presentations to a beautiful mosaic of colleagues or clients on our screen. It has become a new reality for us, and one we need to adapt to…fast.

As if public speaking wasn’t scary enough on its own, additional challenges such as technical hick-ups, speaking to a computer screen, and adjusting our body language; have now added on to whatever anxiety some might already be feeling when delivering a presentation. Companies are astonished by how many, otherwise professional and efficient, employees are ineffective in setting up a smartphone or computer correctly and adapting their body language to project a professional image of themselves, when on a video-call from home.  

It goes without saying that virtual presentations differ from in-person meetings, but it’s useful to keep things in perspective. The essence of your presentation remains the same, so if you have experience presenting in person, you’ll be able to make the transition to presenting remotely with a few minor adjustments.

1 -THE IMPORTANCE OF BODY LANGUAGE

Even when we take away the shared, physical space of a presentation, body language still remains one of the most important factors in communication… period. When you speak with someone, on a virtual presentation or meeting, who is present and engaged, and uses their full toolbox of facial expressions and fluid gestures to communicate; it’s easy to forget you’re not in the same room with them.

Your “presence” can still be very notable, even when you’re not physically present.

  • Don’t be static just because you’re seated. Open your arms and incorporate fluid gestures while you speak.
  • Raise your eyebrows and use your full faculty of facial expressions to appear more engaged and present with your audience …. And of course, don’t forget to smile… 😊
  • Speak from your diaphragm in order to have a strong and clear quality of voice. The way to do this is by sitting up straight and contracting your abdominal muscles while you speak.
  • Maintain eye contact with your audience by turning off your self-camera (it’s like a magnet for the inner narcissist that lives in all of us) and sitting a good arm’s length away from your computer or laptop. It will take away the image that we’re looking down at the screen and give the impression we’re looking at our audience directly in the eyes.

2 – THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR VIRTUAL AUDIENCE … NOT YOU

When presenting in a virtual meeting, we focus on seeing others; and often forget we’re seen!
Much like public speaking in general, we tend to focus a lot on ourselves and how we are being perceived, when we really should be focusing on our audience and how they are interpreting/understanding our message.

Stand out and let your presentation make an impact on your audience:

  • Don’t sit so close to your computer/laptop for your audience to notice the clean pores from last night’s facial treatment #lockdownbeautysalon.
  • It’s equally important to avoid hiding from your meeting by sitting so far away your audience can’t see your facial expressions anymore. Sit about 80 cm away from your screen. Check your camera (before switching it off) to ensure your shoulders, top of your arms and face are clearly visible. This way, your adapted body language will be more visible, and your delivery will have more impact, as opposed to just another blank face on a screen.
  • Now, turn off your self-camera (why add a distraction you do not need)
  • Engage with your audience as if they were in the room with you. Ask rhetorical questions and call out someone’s name if you want to include them in the conversation. Connect with them before starting your presentation: “Hey everyone, how is home-office treating you?”
  • Don’t be afraid of the power of silence! The use of a purposeful pause (meaning you plan for it) allows for messages to sink in, they give the audience a second to absorb what you’ve said, they give you a second to catch your breath before moving on to the next point, and they avoid a presentation from becoming too monotone and too long (much like this sentence)
    *Note: When you use a pause, make sure your audience doesn’t think you’re screen is frozen. Keep on smiling and nod your head to let them know you’re still there and move on after a decent 2-3 seconds.

3 – PREP WITH PURPOSE

At Present Perfect, we know preparation is as important as the presentation itself, and that doesn’t change for virtual presentations.

Your confidence and presence come from being prepared.

  • Know your audience. Knowing who you’ll be addressing will impact how you’ll want to be perceived; thus, impacting your message and your body language. My virtual meetings with my team have been vastly different from my online training and coaching sessions. (Putting on pants seems more important for at least one of those)
  • Know your message. If you can’t recap what your presentation is about in one sentence, perhaps the message is not clear enough. Know how you will hook your audience, your key arguments/points and what you want them to do with this information after your virtual presentation (aka call-to-action).
  • Know yourself: It’s easier to know how to handle our stress when we know ‘how’ we stress in the first place. Are you a speed talker? Integrate pauses into your presentation. Do you fidget a lot when speaking? Open your arms and use fluid gestures to avoid any pen-grabbing or hair playing. In order to catch and correct these little “auto-contacts”, film yourself when preparing.
  • Your body language shapes who you are. “Don’t fake it till you make it, fake it till you become it” a favorite quote of ours by researcher Amy Cuddy. She suggests using power poses, as a prep method before any meeting, to trick our body into thinking we’re super confident. Spend 2 minutes standing straight and grounded while taking in deep breaths, and research shows a physiological and psychological shift in our stress levels.

Knowing who you’ll be speaking to, and how to adapt your body language to your message and the virtual situation, are key tools to deliver a powerful and effective virtual presentation. Stand out from the online mosaic of faces during a meeting and highlight your “presence” even if you’re not physically present #samebutdifferent  

Women virtual presentation