"After working with Kristi, Hope Services' board members are much more engaged and collaborative. Before designing the retreat, Kristi took time to learn each person's thoughts and goals, then during the retreat she was an attentive, effective facilitator, flexible yet authoritative. She kept a roomful of high-powered executives on track! Kristi also did follow-up for some of the board's committees. We are more focused now, and making good progress on our goals, thanks to Kristi."

Cameron Haste, Chair, Board of Directors
Hope Services

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Virtual Presentation Tips Pt 1 - Before Your Talk

(posted: November 20th, 2020)

Best practices for powerful, effective presentations are the same no matter whether you are in an auditorium with an audience of thousands or on Zoom with 15 people. Right?

Well, not exactly.

The skills for presenting well on stage and online overlap, but virtual presentations have some unique challenges.

When you present in person you get feedback from the expressions and body language of your audience, and they respond to your gestures as well as your words. In video conferences, not so much.

In person audiences tend to stay engaged, or appear engaged, because there is less to distract them.

On a Zoom session, especially with a lot of attendees, they can check email, read articles, yell at the dog, and even eat or snooze.

In Part One of this series on touching up your virtual presenting skills we'll look at a few of the things you can do before your presentation to increase your success.

Virtual Presentation Tips, Part 1

Webinar or Meeting? If you've got the choice, and the audience is small enough, make it a meeting. It's more intimate and you've got more tools to increase interaction and engagement. More on that below.

Slide Design

Start by using more slides. We always encourage presenters to stick to just one idea per slide, but it's even more important virtually, as attendees' screens could range from desktop monitors to smartphones. If your idea has several points to it, put each on it's own slide.

Use images.' The right image really is worth 1000 words. Include images that tell a story, or that illustrate your concept. Even add some (gentle) humor with your images. Vary them--Don't use all black-and-white photos, or a long series of graphs, or just icons. All of these can add value and visual interest, but become boring if that's all people see. And go big. Take up the entire slide and put a small amount of text on top of your image.

Text.' Use simple fonts and avoid the fussy, decorative ones. Your goal should be readability on any device. Serif fonts, like Georgia, Garamond, or Palatino are good choices, while sans serif options include Ariel, Tahoma, Verdana and Century Gothic. For size, think bigger; shoot for 48 point for titles when possible, and try to keep body text at 40 or 36.

Simplify.' Complex animations, transitions and videos can all cause problems in virtual presentations because of the variety of internet connections, especially on mobile devices. If you are presenting to a familiar group (your team, for example) and you know the status of their connectivity, go ahead. But in a presentation to a wider audience, default to creating the best experience for the majority of people.

Engagement: Use the Tools

Getting and keeping people engaged in a virtual presentation or a webinar is harder than in person, so you need to know and use the tools built into the programs.

Webinars are usually more limited, with polls and some chat.

Meeting software has a lot of options, like breakout rooms, annotation capability, chat, stamps, raise hands, and, of course, the option to allow your audience members to speak.

Learn what is available, and then plan in advance how you want to use it.

In a webinar, if you are not the host, create your polls and send them to your host in advance, with notation on where in the presentation you'd like them to occur.

For a meeting-style presentation, plan to ask questions of your audience. Do you want them to respond via chat? If so, read some of the responses (or all if it's a small audience). Create activities that your audience can do in breakout sessions of 3, 4, or 5 people. Then bring everyone back together and have them share what they discovered or learned or came up with.

Of course, there are many more things to consider as you plan and craft your virtual presentation, but these will get you headed towards greater success as a remote presenter!

Next time: Personal / Executive Presence - How to project big-stage presence even on a small screen.

The Virtual Presentation Skills Series:

  • Virtual Presentations, Part 1 - Before Your Presentation
  • Virtual Presentations, Part 2 - Executive Presence in a Virtual World
  • Virtual Presentations, Part 3 - Set the Stage

Stay grounded, healthy, and hopeful,
- Kristi


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