10 best practices for acing virtual presentations

In this uncertain season, communication with employees and customers is crucial to help address concerns, inform and engage. Be mindful of these guidelines to make the most of video chats.

Acing virtual presentations

Editor’s note: We are re-running the top stories of 2020 as part of our year-end countdown.

With most everyone working remotely—many for the first time–meetings via conference calls, webinars and video chats are becoming the norm.

Whether you are talking with 10 or 1,000, leaders must perfect their content and tailor their delivery specifically for virtual presentations. To help, here are 10 best practices for effective communications when no one is in the same location:

1. Be genuine. Think of your presentation as a conversation. It’s important that you come across as authentic and transparent. It is extremely difficult to keep people’s attention if it sounds as though you’re reading a script or just going through the motions. Be genuine, and speak from the heart.

2. Lead with empathy. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. People are feeling anxious and uncertain. Address those concerns first, and make it clear that people take priority over profits.

3. Less is more. Don’t overload the audience with all the information you have. It should be about what your employees and customers most need to know.

4. Make it a team sport. Assign roles to colleagues so no one person is speaking for more than 10 minutes. Give each a compelling introduction. Show their photo if you are not using video. Affirm and support each other’s comments to instill a team dynamic and to facilitate a better dialogue. Rehearse in advance so all presenters know each presenter’s content and the transitions are smooth.

5. Rev up your energy. Be sure to enunciate and speak loudly. Standing up will help you project your voice more effectively. To practice, consider having a member of your family serve as your “audience.” Speaking with passion, emotion and energy will help you grab—and maintain—attention.

6. Strive for interaction. Solicit questions from the audience in advance. During the presentation, ask for questions and comments after each segment. Don’t wait for the end to say, “Any questions?”

Instead, ask something specific such as, “What are you hearing from customers?” Anticipate questions by brainstorming what could be asked so you are prepared. Live polling is another technique to try. Show a multiple-choice question, and share the results in real time.  Using the “Chat” feature is also an option. If you run out of time, answer any unanswered questions afterward.

7. Prepare for disruption. Partners, children, roommates or furry friends may all make unexpected appearances during your presentation. Go with the flow. If it happens, take a moment and introduce the surprise star. Acknowledging that this is not a normal work environment can add a much-needed moment of humanity and humor.

8. Look your best. Place your camera at face level relatively close to you, but not too close. Use a stand or stack of books for your laptop camera. Look directly at the camera while speaking; your attendees will feel more included in the conversation. Make sure you are in a well-lit area. There should be nothing distracting in the background. Smart, business casual attire is most appropriate. Avoid loud colors, stripes and flashy jewelry. You want people to focus on what you are saying.

9. Check the tech. Have people sign in for the meeting at least 10 minutes before the start to give them an opportunity to test their own equipment and sound, and provide a dial-in in case they have trouble connecting via the internet. Make sure you have a good microphone.

10. Have three key messages. Help your audience understand the crux of your talk. Be explicit and clear by saying something like, “Here are the three things you should remember from today’s session.” Then, end with an inspirational and uplifting closer that will make people feel better in these uncertain times. That’s something we could all use more of right now.

Valerie Di Maria is principal and co-founder of the10company, a strategic communications firm dedicated to helping C-Suite executives transform their businesses. 


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