(Part 4) Your Virtual Stage Presence with Roz Usheroff: How To Make Your Virtual Meetings Visually Entertaining
How many of you would bet that your audience will be multi-tasking as you host your typical Monday virtual meeting? Grabbing and holding their attention is not an easy task, but it can be done and, as usual, I have my perspectives.
To lead a successful virtual meeting, add facilitator to your role. You then become responsible for setting the stage by engaging them with thought provoking questions and entertaining them with visuals that capture and hold their attention. Sadly, virtual meetings can often appear to be a disorganized assortment of unprocessed ideas, boring delivery and overstuffed slides that leave participants frustrated and feeling that nothing much was accomplished.
If you invest your time and talent to capture your participants’ attention, you’ll brand your meetings as productive and entertaining. This eletter will provide you with visual tips to assist you.
Make your visuals as important as your agenda
Put yourself in the shoes of your participants. Will they understand your perspectives? Will they see the logical progression that must come together to achieve your desired outcome? Will they enjoy the delivery as much as the content? If the information is critical to seeking consensus or a decision, ask yourself if your visuals paint the picture you want to paint?
Studies by 3M/Wharton School demonstrated the positive effects of using visuals in presentations and witnessed improved group consensus by 79 percent. Another study determined that audiences retain 10 percent of audio heard and 20 percent of visuals seen, but retain 65 percent when audio and visuals are combined. If you really want to excel as a virtual presenter, your visuals must be purposeful and memorable.
Death by PowerPoint
PowerPoint does provide a visual element to what would often otherwise just be a conference call.
But one of the biggest mistake presenters make is to view their PowerPoint deck as their presentation. A successful virtual presenter knows PowerPoint is simply a vehicle for varied and creative visual images that support a powerful and well-constructed message.
The PowerPoint experts will tell you to plan one to two slides per minute and approximately six lines with six words per line. I suggest using photos, video, YouTube clips and even animations liberally along with 10 words or less per slide.
Three things you must never say during your virtual PowerPoint presentation:
- “I have a lot of slides here, so I am going to move through them quickly.”
- “I know this slide is a little hard to read.”
- “This chart is really too complicated to explain.”
It’s not your audience’s job to blink through too many slides. As a presenter, it’s your job to hone your presentation until every slide is clear, creative and absolutely necessary.
Four things you must never do while making a virtual PowerPoint presentation:
- Never read your slides. It sounds obvious, but this can insult your virtual colleagues.
- Never write your entire presentation in bullet points on a series of slides. This is called “Death by PowerPoint” because that’s what it feels like to your audience.
- Never present more than one idea per slide. Your audience will finish reading your third point before your first one leaves your lips; then good luck getting their attention to make a U turn.
- Never recycle a slide deck from another presentation just because it already exists. If you start flipping through and skipping less-relevant slides, you are showing your audience they are not important enough to merit creating a presentation specific to them and their needs.
Interactive and personal
We have discussed in previous newsletters the challenge of engaging the virtual audience and making your presentation personally relevant to them. This is where PowerPoint can actually be your pal.
Let’s say you are planning a presentation to an international team, many of whom may not have met in person. You might solicit photos or trivia from your participants in advance that you could work into your PowerPoint slides. I did this recently in Mexico City and the participants were so appreciative.
Tips for a successful virtual PowerPoint presentation:
- Create at least one slide that calls your audience to action. For example, a simple quiz that asks them to write something down or choose between options or vote for their favorite idea. If you get them to pick up a pen or click on a polling question, they are engaged.
- Count your slide; count your minutes. Practice your presentation out loud and time it. Plan to take at least five minutes less than your allotted time.
- Think white space. When creating your slides, go long on photos, evocative quotes and symbolic images and short on words. A slide should be aesthetically attractive, simple and easy to digest. It should never be cluttered, crowded, or cause your audience to squint.
- Use simple charts and graphs. Each should illustrate a single point. If it takes you two minutes to explain a graphic, it’s a bad graphic. Toss it and start over.
- Use photos liberally. The cliché is correct: a picture is worth 1,000 words, especially to the substantial portion of your audience who are visual learners. A memorable photo appropriately paired with a core message will anchor that message in their brains.
- Consider creating separate handouts that you can email your participants after your presentation to fill in details that are not fleshed out in your slides.
Remember, your PowerPoint is NOT your presentation. It is an entertaining visual vehicle to reinforce your core messages. So keep the momentum going and use your slides to animate your ideas, help your audience to visualize a key point or share a personal side of you. Never use slides as a substitute for not knowing your material. Remember: It is quality not quantity that counts.
Expand your creative talents and listen for the applause!