(Part 2) Your Virtual Stage Presence with Roz Usheroff: Preparing for Your Virtual Presentation
Confidence is preparation. Everything else is beyond your control.
The number one reason virtual presentations fail is lack of planning. Whether you’re the facilitator or attendee, you don’t have the luxury of not being prepared! With an invisible audience, you can’t know who is listening so the investment you make beforehand to feel confident will determine whether you capture your virtual audience’s attention or not.
Succeed and be heard
- Plan as much for your audience’s experience as you do for your content and delivery.
- Hook your audience with a “30 second” compelling WIIFM (what’s in it for me) message.
- Build a reputation for delivering value in virtual meetings both as a presenter and a participant.
Rotate Team Meeting Times
A client on a global team complained that her boss insists she participate on weekly virtual calls scheduled at 4:30 a.m. her time. For global team members, time zones can become the enemy and impact everyone’s delivery and contribution. No single time slot is convenient for all members.
- Rotate the meeting time for each virtual team meeting.
- Explain to your team that while rotating meeting times is a scheduling challenge, it allows every member of the team to be at their best when on their time zone.
While every generation is more tech savvy than the last, there are still those of us – including some of your virtual audience members – who are terrified of technology and can become easily derailed on their way to your virtual presentation. Take steps ahead of time to help diverse audience members share a positive experience.
- Choose your webcast provider wisely. There are many good vendors. I suggest choosing one that offers hosted webinars, which means you’ll have a partner who is an expert at the software’s functionality to help you and your audience prepare and troubleshoot in real time if anything goes wrong.
- Send explicit directions ahead of time. Email participants multiple times before the presentation with sign-in instructions, software or hardware requirements and a resource they can contact with questions or for trouble shooting.
- Let them know there will be interaction. Let your participants know ahead of time there will be interactive elements to the presentation. This will serve as a wake-up call to those who were planning to dial-in, then nap. Provide a link to a resource that explains features like polling, document sharing and online chat functions for those who would be more comfortable doing a little research ahead of time.
- Think-through technical details. If you are speaking to a group using a speaker phone in a conference room, make sure you have a partner on the other end who is ensuring the speaker phone is centrally located and that participants move close enough to it when they speak.
- Invest in a headset. This will free up your hands, make your voice clearer and save your neck muscles.
Grab their attention – again and again
Virtual presentation experts suggest starting your presentation with an interactive element to pull your audience in quickly and focus their attention. Online professional development expert Dan Balzer uses an interactive map and asks participants to use drawing tools that come with most conference software to show where they are located.
- Polling – This is when you pre-load questions relevant to your topic and release them intermittently during your presentation, allowing participants to click to answer yes/no or multiple-choice questions.
- Text chat – This allows participants to type in questions or comments during the presentation.
- Video or audio interaction – Taking audio questions is a good interactive element. Your conference coordinator can instruct participants when to punch into the question queue. Live video two-way interaction is best used in small-group or one-on-one meetings when line speed, hardware and software are all sufficient to sync audio with video and prevent frame freezes.
Don’t go it alone
Last month, a client insisted that I listen in on his weekly conference calls, as he was concerned about the lack of audience participation. Only five of his 30 direct reports asked questions. After observing, I shared the following ways to enlist support:
- Contact individuals personally who will be invited to contribute during the meeting or presentation. Share your perspectives, vision and any other information that will be important for them to know in advance.
- Plant questions with certain attendees in advance in case the conversation stops or goes in the wrong direction.
- Select a responsible recorder to distribute a meeting summary and action steps.
If you are a participant, distinguish yourself and support the speaker by listening carefully and asking thoughtful questions.
Know what evil lurks in the hearts of busy professionals
To ensure full engagement, invest time before the meeting/presentation:
- Send out an agenda that includes purpose, objectives, topics, relevance, situation and targeted end results.
- Include a list of participants with titles to build the sense of community and involvement that occurs naturally when everyone is in the same room.
- Outline your expectations for participants, including courtesy rules such as banning taking or making phone calls, emailing, texting or other distracting activities.
Preparing your presentation
Tomorrow we will dive into this topic in detail, including how to avoid “death by PowerPoint” Until then, I’ll leave you these questions to ponder as you start to map out your next virtual presentation:
- What are your critical topics?
- What order should they fall into?
- What depth of information needs to be shared?
- How much time should be allotted to each topic?
- How will you transition from one topic to the next?
- How and when will you build in audience participation?
- What is your desired end result?
- What is unique about this audience and how will you tailor your presentation specifically for them?