Welcome to a whole new world and virtual meetings and presentations are the new normal. Even when the social distancing recommendation is lifted, virtual meetings and presentations will play a larger role than they did in the past. It’s cheaper with no need for space and travel. It’s more efficient because we can participate from wherever we are, whether that’s in another office, in the airport VIP lounge or at home in our fuzzy bunny slippers. So we might as well get good at it.
This 3 part series will give you the tools you need to lead virtual gatherings that people will find engaging and worth coming to. Now THAT is an accomplishment!
PART 2: How to Engage with Effective Visual Elements
We have many tools available to use that enable us to keep people’s visual interest while we’re saying brilliant things! Here are a few things to consider.
- Change something visually every 3-5 minutes: That’s the general rule of thumb. Whether it’s an addition to a slide or a new slide, a different video view, maybe a poll, whiteboard or prop you bring in. Their view should change frequently to keep their interest. Don’t overdo it, make it in line with your presentation, but don’t stay on the same slide with 17 paragraphs on it for 20 minutes. You’ll lose ’em!0
- Powerpoint/Keynote slide use: Speaking of slides, these tools can be very effective in driving home your point, and are easy to share on the many virtual platforms that we’re using these days. That said “Death by Powerpoint” is a very real thing, and I don’t want any of you committing these sins, so here are a few tips to keep your audience from committing Hari Kiri because of your slides.
- Your slides accompany YOU: Remember, you DO NOT need to put everything you’re saying on the slides. In fact, you SHOULD NOT! The slides are to anchor the points you’re making with your mouth, not the presentation itself. (We’ve all been to that presentation where we’ve left saying “They should have just sent the powerpoint. I can read myself!”) Give them a handout if you need them to have record of all the words. Don’t put them all in your powerpoint.
- 6 or fewer items per slide: That’s 6 MAX, and not 6 pictures because they’ll be so small your audience won’t be able to see them! (I always use one big picture) Keep your bullets to 6 max. Use another slide if you need more!
- Learn how to animate your bullets/elements: One way to create visual interest is to not expose the whole slide all at once so your audience is reading all of your bullets while you’re still explaining the first point. If you expose the bullets as you talk about each one, they’re focused on the point you’re making, and you keep things interesting by frequently adding new stuff. (See the first point.)
- Highlight where you want them to look: If you have a complicated graph or table with a lot of information that you’d like to show completely, be sure to use a box, highlighter or spotlight tool to show them the specific areas you are talking about. You can animate this in Powerpoint/Keynote very easily, or if your platform has an “Annotate” tool (like Zoom does) you can highlight in real time as you make the points. This way your audience isn’t lost, and doesn’t give up on you!
- Fine Tune your Video Feed: As I talked about in the last installment, think about your background, your lighting, how you look, and your placement in the video frame. If possible, elevate your camera to at least eye level, if not a little above. Be sure you’re talking into the camera as much as possible so that you can engage them with eye contact and make them feel like you’re really talking to them. It makes a different in your audience’s engagement. That said, it’s really hard to talk to a webcam!! A friend of mine put plastic googly-eyes on his webcam so he feels like he’s actually talking to a person. Others put a photo there. Whatever works for you to keep the energy and eye contact on your audience. They’ll feel it, whether they realize it or not. (I use 2 plastic storage boxes to elevate my computer. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy! In hotels I’ve stacked up couch cushions, ottomans and spare blankets! Whatever it takes!)
- Bring the Energy: Since you’re just a talking head on your video, if you’re not bringing a little energy to your presentation, you’re going to lose them! You will be more energetic when you stand up, so I recommend making the space to be able to stand up. Bring a smile to your eyes, and bring your “radio voice” into play with a little more variation in tone, pitch, pace and volume. Don’t go too far beyond your natural style, but have a Red Bull before you present to just have a little more ZIP. It might feel weird to you, but it will simply look passionate and interesting to your audience.
In the final part, we’ll talk about fun ways to engage people so they’re not just sitting there staring at the screen! Audiences today want to be involved and engaged, so utilize the tools, and in the last part, I’ll go through some of the ways you can do that! Until then, don’t be boring!