Presenting Well Virtually

Virtual conferences have become the new norm. Even when we are able to attend conferences in-person we expect that a virtual component will still remain since there are so many benefits. Many seasoned presenters are quickly realizing that presenting at a virtual conference is very different than presenting in person to a live audience.

We’ve put together some tips for nailing the virtual presentation.  By “virtual conference” we mean any live or pre-recorded video that has a live audience including web or digital conferences, webinars or webcasts.  The key here is whether there is an interactive component (like Q&A, polls, live chat, comments, etc.) to the presentation. If not, it’s just a video.

  1. How do you engage with an audience you can’t see?

The biggest difference when presenting at a virtual conference is the lack of audience feedback.  Seasoned keynoters have told us that this difference can be shocking. People that thrive from seeing the audience engage with them can feel very uncomfortable when they lose this direct audience connection. While it can’t take the place of live audience interaction, most online platforms have tools, such as audience polls or Q&A which enables presenters to quickly engage with the audience.

  1. Why are you there?

Keep your reason for presenting at this conference top of mind. Is it to share new information about your company? Demonstrate thought leadership? Strengthen the company’ reputation? Whatever that main reason is, make sure it gets across, directly or indirectly through your presentation content.

  1. What does the audience want?

Also remember what your audience wants from your presentation.  Are they hoping to learn about a new issue or a new technique they can directly apply to their own work?  Or are they looking for inspiration?

  1. Show your face

Presenting virtually can make it harder to use body language, since the camera is mainly on your face.  Keep this in mind as you speak and ensure you are emphasizing facial expressions that accentuate your points, and don’t forget to smile. Most important in connecting with your audience is eye contact.  If you can, place your active conference or slide windows close to your camera so your eyes are consistently pointed to it.

  1. Lights, camera, action

A few little things in setting up your recording environment can also make a big difference.  First is lighting.  If the room you’re in has a window, try to have the light from that window, or a separate lamp, light your face.  If the window or light source is behind you, your face will be in a shadow.

Also think about where your camera is located.  Many folks use their laptop’s built in camera, which is fine, but ensure that your laptop is at a proper height (use a book or other object to prop it up) so that the camera is lined up with your face, instead of looking up your nose!  Be aware of what is in your background as well, so you don’t create distractions for your audience.

  1. Be sharp

When you’re presenting, be clear, concise, and fast moving. Make your points and move on – dwelling too long on a single point can bore your audience.  Enunciate clearly, you may have a more international audience than usual where English is a second language.

  1. Humor

Using humor can be an effective way to keep your audience engaged but be careful with it.  You won’t hear any audience reaction so your joke can feel like it didn’t work.  And again, with a potentially international audience, make sure your jokes translate.

  1. Expect the Unexpected

As you’ve undoubtedly seen yourself by now, unexpected things will happen when you’re presenting. Your kids or dog could come into frame, you could lose your connection, you could spill your coffee – it’s all happened!  Our advice is to simply play through and handle it as best you can.  The good thing is everyone knows we’re broadcasting from our homes, and mistakes like these are understood by all.  So don’t panic, take it in stride and move on.

Presenting via video conference is convenient and even fun with the potential to reach a large global audience.  But it’s important to understand the nuances when presenting virtually versus in person and prepare and practice as best you can.