Tuesday, May 29, 2012

8 Tips for Better Virtual Presentations

Presentation skills are important for a successful career.  You are always judged by how you speak and share ideas.  Being able to clearly and concisely get your point across with confidence is necessary if you want to be viewed as an expert.

Presentations, however, are not limited to live in-person gatherings.  Most assume these skills are for "giving a speech" at an internal meeting or industry conference.  But in today's world there are countless virtual meetings that require professionals to join the conversation.  Stumbling on a teleconference or webinar can damage your reputation.

Knowing how to present is critical no matter if you have five minutes or forty-five minutes.  Do not assume that a short talk on a call is less important.  You need to plan for all presentations... even those that are impromptu.

When delivering a virtual presentation, to your peers or as part of an larger meeting, you need to follow many of the same tips for live presentations:

1.  Be prepared.  Winging it is a common cause for missed opportunity in delivering a presentation.  People often assume they know their information, and just begin to talk aimlessly.  It is easy to sound disorganized, especially when you are not in the same room.  People's minds fill in the blanks for what they cannot see, and your rambling on the phone can quickly cause the listeners to lose interest.  If presenting on video your lack of preparation can be magnified.

2.  Keep it simple.  A virtual presentation is usually not the place for complicated theories and explanations.  People already have short attention spans, and that can be magnified when listening to a webinar or teleconference.  

3.  Energy.  Be yourself, but your most energetic self. When there is excitement in your voice, the people on the other end will pick up on that.  Nobody want to be on a call with someone drones on without inflection in their voice.  If on a phone call, standing up and moving around while you speak is a great way to raise your energy level.  Having energy will show itself in a good pace in your voice.  

4.  Tell stories.  4000 years ago our ancestors did not sit around the camp fire and read statistics and share information by spreadsheets.  They told stories.  People are wired to learn and connect by hearing a story.  Make sure that the points you are making are anchored with meaningful stories.

5.  Smile.  There have been studies done with telemarketers, and those who smile while they talk are more connective to the people on the other end of the phone.  I do not know why, but your smile comes through in your voice.  Telemarketing firms actually put mirrors in the cubicles so that those making calls can see themselves smile.  

6.  Test your equipment in advance.   If speaking on a cell phone, make sure your battery is charged and that you have good receptions.  You also want to ensure that you are in a quiet room, as background noise can ruin your presentation.  If using an online connection for a webinar, make sure that you have uploaded all the needed software and that you have the most recent versions.  You do not want any technical difficulties that can be avoided.

7.  Don't tell a joke.  If you are not a professional comedian, avoid telling jokes.  The age old thought that a joke will soften your audience is bad advice.  Telling a joke live is risky, it is even worse in a virtual environment.  If the joke falls flat you many never recover.  You also have to remember that many of the calls you participate in could involve an international audience, and jokes do not always translate.  Humor is a good idea, but canned jokes should be avoided.

8.  Do not dress like a slob.  This one is for webinars.  If the camera is on you, do not show up looking like a mess.  Even if your company is "casual", if you work from home and look like you have not showered in days, it will distract from your presentation.

In our ever-changing business world we are all going to have more opportunities to present in a virtual manner.  Do not overlook the power of how you present, be it in person, on the phone, or web.  You are judged by how you communicate.  Take the virtual presentations seriously and you will find more opportunities!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

*** I now teach a corporate seminar for groups of 10 or more employees on how to communicate in virtual meetings.  For more information contact me at 512-970-0398.

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