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Top five tips to make you a virtual rock star

If you find yourself giving more presentations online, you are not alone.  As companies and employees get busier and more scattered this trend will only increase.  The good news is that the web allows us access to clients or prospects we may otherwise have trouble getting in front of. The bad news is that most on-line presentations have all the sizzle of a week-old soda.  Why?

Imagine a stage actor, used to performing in front of a live audience, suddenly cast in a television show.  Rather than adjusting to this new medium, our actor continues to use the same movements, vocal style, timing and delivery that he used on stage.  After all, it worked for him there!  What happens?  His timing is all off.  He over or under projects. His mannerisms are distracting or non-existent and the audience is bored and confused.  In other words, he bombs! 

Using the same delivery techniques you use in person when you present online can have the same disastrous results as our actor.  Yet, that’s what I see happening with most on-line presentations.

To gain and hold the attention of a virtual audience, actors have to make adjustments in their style and master new techniques, and so do we.  In a virtual world, we no longer have our physicality to establish presence with our audience, our stage is much smaller, the timing much tighter and the audience knows that you can’t see them!  If you want to gain and hold the attention of an audience on the web, you need to adjust for these factors in your presentation.

Five Adjustments You Must Make for a Web Presentation:

  1. Talk to one person at a time.  It’s easy to feel disconnected from your audience when you can’t see them.  Unfortunately, your audience quickly picks up on this and disconnects even further.   Counteract this by focusing on one person at a time in your mind’s eye and directing your words to them. Really see that person. Putting a photo of them up on your wall may help you.  After you’ve made a point or asked a rhetorical question, imagine their reactions and leave space for them before moving on to your next point. 
  2. Be Visible. People respond to faces so it is critical that you use a webcam.  I know, I know…everybody hates it.  But without it, you risk coming across as a disembodied voice to your audience; easy to tune out and turn down.  If you doubt this, think about how easy it is to tell a salesperson “no” on the phone vs. in person.   If you just can’t or don’t want to use a webcam (but seriously, you need to get over this: it’s only a two-inch image of yourself after all!) at the very least have a credential slide with your photo on it and put it up during breaks or Q&A.
  3. Leverage your voice.  Nowhere is vocal quality and control more critical than in a virtual environment.  When  you’ve removed the physical element, your voice carries the bulk of your presentation – multiplying the negative impact of a monotone, weak or inarticulate voice.  As your primary communication tool, you need to make sure you are in your best possible voice. For a good, quick vocal warm-up go here.
  4. Plan interaction.  We’re quick to blame a lack of interaction on our audience -- “they weren’t paying attention,” “they were on their smartphones” -- but interaction is not your audience’s responsibility, it is yours. And it doesn’t just magically happen.  Plan a few activities every 5-10 minutes.  Whether it’s questions, a quiz or a white-boarding session, slow down and make sure your instructions and your actions are crystal clear.
  5. Rehearse with technology.  Many presenters take shortcuts when it comes to planning and practicing a presentation. This may work out okay when we are presenting in person, but online this can spell disaster.  While technology offers a lot of advantages, it also offers a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong.  Our audience may associate a poor production with our company or our product or service.  Not taking the time to rehearse with your material, whether it’s slides, polls, video or white-board is an amateur move that can cost you business.

A virtual presentation doesn’t have to mean nap time for your audience.  Thinking of yourself as a performer and the web as your stage will help you to maximize those critical moments in front of your customers, clients or prospects.

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Julie Hansen

Julie Hansen, author of Sales Presentations for Dummies, helps sales and business executives craft and deliver winning presentations and demos by applying today’s best practices from business, acting, improv, and storytelling. Julie’s techniques for leveraging proven performance skills in presentations have been adopted by Fortune 500 companies across the globe, including IBM and Oracle, as well as local Colorado companies. Learn more about sales workshops and keynotes at  PerformanceSalesandTraining.com, start a sales conversation at Julie@actingforsales.com  or connect with Julie on LinkedIn.

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