(Part 3) Your Virtual Stage Presence with Roz Usheroff: Your Virtual Stage Presence
Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.
This is the third of a series of newsletters to ensure that you’re ready for your close-up as in-person presentations give way to virtual ones, a transition that requires some adjustments on your part as a presenter.
For example, if you’re on a stage speaking to a large audience, exaggerated gestures are imperative to making an impact. However, if you’re speaking to just as many people via video link, those exact same gestures might make you appear frantic or too emotional. Regardless of live or virtual presentations, speak as if you’re having a personal conversation with every person.
In person, movement is a good choice, adding impact and energy to your presentation. In a virtual presentation, however, your movement is very limited, but similar impact can be achieved by moving between live shots of you speaking and selected slides that help illustrate the points you are making.
In the end, the goal is the same: to engage and connect with your audience, to clearly communicate your message and to help them remember your message (and you) long after your presentation.
Studying newscasters in action is a good place to start. The best ones almost seem like they are sitting across the table, talking directly to you. Set up your video shot similarly. Sit up straight in a relaxed, yet alert, position. A warm smile and a steady gaze can simultaneously convey authority, sincerity and accessibility. Diane Sawyer is a good example.
Start by introducing yourself. If your intention is to have viewers get to know you and form a bond with you while watching your video, they won’t bother to connect with you if you don’t first (metaphorically) offer your hand and say hello. Welcome your viewers and thank them for attending.
About those hands
While the camera can exaggerate your gestures, you still want to use gestures in a natural-looking way.
- Avoid frequent, fast hand movements that flash in and out of the frame. Make sure the video camera has a wide enough shot on you so that you have room to make natural gestures within the frame of the shot.
- If your hands get too close to the camera, they appear larger than they are in proportion to the rest of your image, so not too close.
- Don’t fidget. A presenter is most likely to fidget during the question and answer period. If you do, you will look nervous. If your hands are empty, they have nothing to fidget with, so it’s best not to hold a pen.
- Use well defined gestures. The more defined your hand gestures appear, the more defined your message will appear. Use your hands to reinforce your message.
- If you are talking in threes, count off with your index finger first. People remember three points at a time, so this is a powerful technique and a good example of hand gestures that support your message.
- Always use palms open to gesture; avoid clenching your fist or pointing your finger.
Using your eyes
Eye contact is trickier on camera than in person, but even more important to connecting with your audience. It takes some practice to get used to looking into the camera, rather than staring at it.
- Try looking just beyond the camera and visualizing your audience.
- Mix it up. It’s not natural to stare directly into the camera continuously. Look down at notes or glance to the side as you direct your audience to a slide that is about to appear. This adds variety and visual interest.
- Don’t, however, continuously glance to the side or off camera – you’ll look nervous or even dishonest.
- If you’re simultaneously speaking to people in the room and those watching by camera, it’s perfectly fine to direct some eye contact to your live audience. In fact, it’ll look odd if you don’t.
Giving voice to your message
Using your voice correctly to enhance your message is one aspect of presenting that varies little between live and video delivery. In fact, all the good habits of using tone, volume and inflection to punctuate your message on a teleconference also apply in front of the camera.
- Get excited. Your audience is completely dependent on you here – they’ll never get more excited about your message than you are. Make sure you reconnect with your message before you deliver it, so you bring all that excitement with you.
- For conference calls, try walking around as you speak which will make you more energized and reflect in your voice.
- Speak loudly. Practice with someone listening to your presentation using the same technology your audience will be using so you’ll know how loudly to project to ensure their easy listening. You have no control over the volume setting on everyone else’s computers, but you can make sure they don’t have to turn the volume all the way up to hear you.
- Speak slowly. Use pauses frequently to delineate your thoughts and ideas.
- Repeat what’s important. Repetition is a critical part of any presentation and it’s a natural teaching tool. If you want them to remember it – make sure they’ve heard it at least three times.
- Listeners should feel that you’re speaking directly to them. Use the singular “you” in your statements and questions. Instead of saying, “I wonder if anyone out there can answer this question”, say “What are your thoughts about…?”
- Finally, never end a presentation with a Q & A session. Instead, use an inspirational finale and a call to action.
Most important: don’t forget to smile. It’s the quickest, surest way to connect with your audience and start to build a bridge over the miles and through the computer screens. Remember, no matter how diverse and geographically scattered your audience is; everyone smiles in the same language.
Stay tuned for more strategic virtual techniques next post.