Best practices for presenting at virtual events

INSIGHT

Be the talking head everyone is tuning into

When people present live on stage, there’s loads for the audience to look at – the on-screen visual aids, the speaker’s body language, how they use the space, their clothes, their movements, the backdrop and even the audience around them. Switch to a virtual presentation and you have a static talking head or torso with a small background.

Breaking the virtual barrier when presenting online can be tough. But with enough practice and technology know-how, you can be the talking head everyone is tuning into.

Best practice for virtual speakers starts with outfit and background selection.

  • Ditch the tracksuit and the bed hair. Select an outfit and hairstyle you would wear if you were presenting on stage. Consider your background. What does the space behind you say about you? Tidy up your background or present against a neutral wall. You could be presenting like a champion, but your audience could be too busy looking at how messy your loungeroom or office is.
  • If you’re sitting down to present, position your laptop or camera so it’s either in line with your eyes or slightly higher. Try not to have your camera looking up on an angle to catch your double chin and inside of your nostrils. If you want to look at your presentation as you talk, make sure it’s at the top of your screen where the camera is. To avoid slouching or lounging, set up your laptop on a shelf, bookcase or high countertop so you can stand for your presentation. Most people feel more natural presenting this way and your body language will be more authentic.
  • Staring at a single talking head for an hour can get a little boring for your audience. Break your presentation up with help from different visual aids and share your screen with delegates. Incorporate some background data with the help of Prezi, Visme or PowerPoint. Show some compelling photos, a video or include animation. And as with any presentation, don’t read your notes word for word.  
  • Use multiple screens to help with your presentation notes. You may have a second monitor, an iPad or another phone with a screen that you can have your notes typed into neatly, rather than scrawled on paper, which will make your head tilt downwards when you read them and make noise when you flip pages.
  • Keep an eye on the chat box for any questions that come through. Or have someone monitor and read the questions to you. Make sure you inform the audience how and when you will take questions. Via the chat box or by people raising their (virtual) hand and unmuting themselves. And whether you’re open to questions during your presentation or at the end.
  • Add an interactive element to your session with breakout rooms. Breakout rooms send smaller groups of people into their own private discussion ‘rooms’ for some time. The ‘rooms’ give delegates the opportunity to discuss content, work on a task, network and ask questions. And if you give the audience the heads up at the beginning of your session that breakout rooms will be used – they may be more inclined to listen so they can participate.
  • Public speaking whether in person or virtually takes practice. Being a virtual presenter is no different. Run through your session, your notes and your technology as many times as you can. Record your presentations, to hear the way you sound and get an idea of how your session will flow.

Presenting virtually is not just about you and what you’re saying. To really capture your audience’s attention, layer your session with creative visuals, colour, sound and plenty of interactive time. Keen to know more? Talk to the virtual event specialists at FCM Meetings & Events. 

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