This morning I was speaking to a client who has worked remotely for many years. He told me he was comfortable giving presentations virtually in the past because prior to the stay-at-home orders he travelled 50-60% of the time, meeting customers face-to-face, cultivating relationships and delivering important customer product demonstrations. He enjoyed a nice balance between giving virtual and live presentations and effortlessly toggled between the two.
Today he’s working from home exclusively with 50% more time on his hands. He said that the quality of his virtual presentations is slipping. And even though he admits that he should have plenty of time to prepare for a presentation, they are often dull and lifeless. He is lacking the excitement and passion he would so often feel when flying into a new city, meeting a client for the first time and getting ready to present in a state-of-the-art corporate conference room, complete with all the bells and whistles and an eager audience supplied. When the stakes (and the professional bar) were that high, it was easy for him to plan, prepare, practice and do everything he needed to be pumped up and ready for the “show.”
Physical and mental stimulation happens when giving a presentation in a dynamic environment, and it’s easy to be thrust into the excitement. We all know this feeling. The energy is contagious and the adrenaline is high. We also know the opposite … now more than ever. It’s difficult to be lively and animated when you are giving a virtual presentation in your bedroom with your sleeping cat stretched out diagonally on your bed. You might find that you feel “sleepy” too and you might start behaving this way. If you love your cat you may even speak in a whisper so you don’t wake her up! While stillness and calm are great skills to use for your meditation practice, they won’t win the hearts and minds of your listener on any virtual platform.
So what is the secret to giving great virtual presentations? Intensify your energy! Create a stimulating environment along with exciting content so you can deliver a dynamic virtual presentation as if it were live. Your virtual presentation, just like your live presentation, should be focused on your audience … your listeners not only expect you to present compelling content but to keep them fully engaged as well. If you focus on your audience, you will take the necessary steps to make that happen. You already know how to organize your material, develop your content and practice your delivery. Now, in addition to these fundamental presentation skills, you can use interactive virtual tools. When you put this all together and use everything at your disposal you inject a shot of energy into your listeners. That energy is contagious.
Here are a few energy-boosting tips to keep in mind:
Allow plenty of time to prepare your content: Develop the content of your virtual meeting the same way you would prepare for a live presentation – in advance. Don’t let the relaxed physical environment of home dictate a laissez-faire attitude. If you don’t plan and instead wing it, your message will fall flat. Plan your hook, establish a clear purpose statement, develop an agenda (always!), and organize your Opening, Body and Close. Build your Touch Points. Create a compelling final thought. Remember, the structure of your message is critical in helping you generate energy and connection with your listeners.
Plan how you will use your delivery skills and practice ahead of time. Your physical, vocal and verbal skills will go a long way in helping you create and maintain energy throughout your virtual presentation. Use them! Speak up. Sit up. Stand up. Stand out.
Clean out your work space. Remove all electric guitars, baskets of knitting supplies, dog beds, dirty laundry, games and puzzles. Create one area, no matter how small, that is yours and that you can keep neat and clean. If you can’t keep a neat space use a green screen background of a “faux” organized office space.
Work with other family members to set boundaries on private work time. Develop a system of ‘red, yellow, green’ and announce what kind of meeting you are entering. Red is highly important (new customer meeting) and that means everyone needs to be quiet and not interrupt. Yellow is less important (work team meeting) but still quiet is required. Green (close colleague) means anyone can come into your space and you will not have to apologize to the person you are talking to. Setting boundaries with a color code could help everyone know the rules and follow them. If you don’t have to focus on anyone else you can focus on sustaining your energy throughout the presentation.
Prime the energy pump. Prior to your presentation jump start your physical and vocal energy and wake yourself up by getting active. Speak in a loud voice, sing a song, take a walk outside or around your house, go up and down stairs, do jumping jacks, march in place … anything to get your heart rate up. Speak out loud and move with vigor and you will do more to build performance energy than you imagine.
Building awareness is key when you are trying to change behavior. So remember what you did to make your live presentations so exciting and replicate that approach every chance you get. You can no longer depend on outside influence to give you the energy you need to perform. But you can use the time-tested tools of planning, preparation and practice to help do the job for you. Use best practices. And whatever you do, don’t let the cat fall asleep in your workspace.
If you are interested in improving your virtual presentation skills, join us for Encore Virtual! Presentation Skills for Online Success.
Angela DeFinis, DeFinis Communications. All rights reserved.