Are you ready for your close-up? Virtually Speaking with Roz Usheroff
When economies stumble, so does corporate spending. As global markets react poorly to international financial uncertainty, you can almost hear the off-site conferences, training courses and team meetings fall off the budget. Even the cost of flying in a single consultant or manager to make a presentation or attend a meeting starts to seem expensive.
Add to that, increasingly far-flung teams, more professionals working from home and the dramatically improved capability and affordability of communications technologies, and it’s plain to see that virtual communication situations of all types are on the rise.
The implications for all of us are enormous. Those who do not immediately boost their virtual communication skills are going to find themselves and their careers going the way of rotary telephones and fax machines. Your personal brand already depends largely on your skill and savvy in this arena. And ladies and gentlemen, it is tricky business.
The virtual world is expanding
Most of us are familiar with webinars, video conference calls and podcasts, but increasingly you may be asked to participate in the following types of activities virtually: job interviews, negotiations, brainstorming sessions, client reviews, team presentations, networking events, convention booth presentations and even virtual lunches. I know an executive who holds regular “virtual coffee breaks” with global team members.
The advantages in cost savings, time savings and the chance to reach global audiences impossible to meet in person all offer a world of opportunities.
A daunting task
As a communicator, however, the disadvantages can appear daunting.
Studies indicate that over 93 percent of communication is non-verbal. To compensate for this inherent loss during virtual communication, you must deliver your message to a remote audience in multiple ways.
The techniques applied in talk shows and radio broadcasts are good models. Timothy Koegel, in his book, “The Exceptional Presenter Goes Virtual”, suggests studying your favorite news or talk shows and noting the ways they structure and order their presentations, use multiple presenters and even “tease” upcoming content to keep their audience tuned in.
Are you ready?
Virtual meetings are now competing for front stage. Are you prepared? Can you compete with highly stressed colleagues and reports who feel compelled to multi-task, especially on virtual conference calls? Virtual presentations require you to elevate your level of detail and planning, to deliver your message in a more assertive style and execute a compelling call to action.
If you thought it was hard to hold the attention of an audience sitting in front of you glancing at their smart phones, try even getting their attention when you can’t see them, hear them, or tell for sure if they’re still there.
If only we could reach out through the wires and physically connect with a team member, then solidify that special bond with a warm handshake and eye-to-eye connectivity. Unfortunately, you are shortchanged within a virtual environment. And there is no opportunity to reinforce messages and solidify relationships at those after-work bonding dinners where borders dissolve and friendships evolve.
The rules of engagement have changed
Some of the rules of good presentation skills transfer to the virtual environment, but many do not. Plus, news skills are critical to your success as a virtual communicator – from choosing the appropriate technology, to using it effectively, to making sure your audience is engaged and comfortable interacting in the virtual environment. Traditional ways of connecting with an audience in person – such as body language and eye contact – must be compensated for using new, virtual contact tools.
I feel so strongly about the urgency for all of us to accelerate our skill sets in this area that I am devoting this and the next few e-newsletters to this topic. We will explore everything from choosing and leveraging virtual meeting technology to creating your virtual presentation, delivering it, engaging your audience during it and following up afterwards.
Four Principles of Remote Presenting
Never assume that your virtual attendees will be listening. To become a master of virtual meetings, you must remember four key principles:
1. MAKE YOUR MESSAGE RELEVANT: Your virtual presentation opening must grab the immediate attention of your listeners and be clear, relevant and succinct.
2. MAKE YOUR ATTENDEES IMPORTANT: Participants need to feel that their participation is valued and important. Express your appreciation and explain why you asked them to join in.
3. MAKE YOUR MESSAGE EXCITING: You must deliver your message with greater passion, inflection and conviction than in person.
4. MAKE YOUR MEETING INTERACTIVE: Your virtual meeting must be interactive and quick paced. The sooner you involve your audience, the quicker you create a virtual community and inspire others to participate.
What kind of participant are you?
Equally important to your personal brand is how you approach virtual meetings as a participant. The way you attend a virtual meeting, how actively you participate and support the presenter, is a leadership opportunity that I believe few have even contemplated. I don’t want you to miss a single opportunity to leverage these new ways of communicating to build your personal brand.
Tips for having a stronger virtual voice:
- Stand for projection when you are speaking
- Walk to keep your energy up
- Smile when you speak
- Vary your intonations (including pitch, volume and inflection)
- Sound animated and excited about your material
- Use pauses frequently to separate important points and when delivering complex information
- Gesture as if you have a live audience
Tomorrow we’ll look at how you plan a virtual presentation and the technologies and support tools that can help you become an engaging and successful virtual communicator.
For now, become a student of virtual communication. Next time you’re a participant, jot down what worked well and what didn’t. What would you have done differently as the presenter? Don’t forget to take notes next time you watch the news. Watch how the professionals come across screen to screen and start thinking about how you can emulate their best practices.