win at virtual meetings: present like a pro in 6 steps

posted by Kay De Garay May 28, 2020

How to give impactful virtual presentations that will make an impression and win your audience over.

Whether you’re presenting to your colleagues, stakeholders or prospective clients, you have to assume that in the current climate, everyone has more distractions. Everyone’s lockdown experience is different, but with varying family demands, work commitments, mental health strains and the never-ending stream of social media, time is at an absolute premium.

So, your presentations need to be as effective and impactful as possible.

We’ve been helping presenters give their best for years, both in-person and online, so we’ve put together 6 expert tips for presenting virtually that will make you look and feel like a superstar speaker.

1. More is less.

When it comes to sharing your message, it’s easy to get lost in waffle – and not even the tasty kind! You may well have been on a long journey getting to that message, but too much detail will actually dilute the important bits you want your audience to take away and act on.

If you’re used to speaking at live conferences, you know there is more space for a bit of fluff: introductions, tangential remarks, even banter. But in virtual meetings now, the time for fluff is a luxury you don’t have.

So, try to set one priority objective of what you want your audience to do with your message. Keeping this in mind will help you sift your content down to the nuggets of gold.

2. Make it matter.

If you’re trying to win people over or to take action, you need to address this one simple question your audience will be asking: What’s in it for me?

The thing is, we often assume that what matters most to us is also top of the list for our audience. Chances are – it’s not. Think of it like an audience telescope – what’s big to you, may appear quite small to them. 

But you can make it bigger – not by shouting louder about the many perfectly logical reasons why they should care. Instead, you need to appeal to emotion. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to get all teary-eyed like an actor accepting an Oscar, it just means making it relatable and human.

Use analogies your audience can relate to, capitalise on emotion and show you get where they’re coming from and where they want to go. 

That way, you can cultivate a sense of togetherness, which means they’ll be happy to get on that ship to a shiny new world with you.

3. Turn a tangled knot into a single string.

It should be the easiest thing in the world to make the something complex simple. If TV advert meerkats can make it “simples”, so can you, right? But where we often struggle is knowing what to take out, when it every point seems like a no.1 priority in this complex web. 

But according to scientific studies, too many objectives are confusing and fatiguing to our brains. Numbers, data or ideas that are too big need to be broken down into bite-size clusters or explained by analogy for us to really make sense of them.

Take inspiration from the scientist who was trying to explain neutrinos. The interviewer wasn’t managing to follow why the discovery that neutrinos did have a mass was so important, so finally, the scientist gave up on jargon and said, “It means we are ghosts in someone else’s universe.” Simples.

4. Spacious slides.

Nobody wants to forget the many important things they want to say. But your slides are not your notes. They should be a visual aid prompt for your audience to connect to your words. If your slides are polluted with text, your audience will be reading when they ought to be listening to you. 

Work out the most powerful thing to say in as few words as you can and put that on your slides. Our top designer has plenty more fantastic advice on how to create slides that impress here.

5. Be real, be you.

Standing on a stage is a pretty different experience from presenting on screen, but this golden rule is still the same. It’s all about being authentic, so don’t rely on jargon and management buzzwords. In some ways, it should be easier to be natural when presenting from home, maybe even less nerve-racking. 

Make sure you’ve made your virtual meeting space as interruption-proof as possible, but if a hiccup does occur, don’t sweat it. Remember Prof Robert Kelly’s adorably innocent daughter gate-crashing his BBC interview a few years ago? We’re all in the same boat now.

6. Rehearse (even if you think you don’t need to).

Even if you know your subject as back to front and inside out as a toddler’s discarded jumper, a little rehearsal really goes a long way. Don’t just write your script, read it out loud to help you identify any sticking points. Maybe even enlist the help of a listener to check that what makes sense in your head can be understood by someone who doesn’t have the full background picture like you do.  

While you’re at it, check your video and audio settings on your virtual meeting platform are working as expected. You never know – a new update might force you to restart your PC or have changed the settings around.

And if you’re presenting with others, arrange a pre-event call. Discuss the flow of the agenda, practice timing so you don’t talk over each other and decide who will be the host to glue it all together.

 

Whether you’re presenting on stage, working from home during lockdown or even from the office post-lockdown, ultimately, the same principles for giving impactful presentations apply. With these little tricks up your sleeve, you’ll be able to wow your audience and feel like a superstar speaker.

And if you need any help, like setting up a virtual event, we’re right here.