We’re all fidgety and weird in online conf calls. In my view, we just haven’t had enough practice. But, just like everything else, becoming able to deliver engaging and useful webinars, talks, or interviews is a matter of practice.
It always helps to know where to look when improving your performance as a speaker in online events. Creatopy got together a wonderful band of pros who share their evergreen online speaking tips and give people a memorable moment.
I’m lucky to be a part of this wonderful group along with Andy Crestodina, April Dunford, Chris Lavigne, Heidi Cohen, Jay Acunzo, Jay Baer, Kaleigh Moore, Larry Kim, Marijana Kostelac, Oli Gardner, and many others.
Because I had a few connected ideas to the main article, I decided to also share them in a standalone article which you can come back to when preparing for your next online event (webinar, quarterly work presentation – you name it, this helps with it!).
Besides the obvious things you need to pay attention to, your list should also include key points that are more difficult to set up than good lighting and sound, a clean background, and a touch of make-up.
Here are my tips for online events so you can deliver experiences that create a feeling of connection and engagement that’s almost as good as the real thing.
1. Practice, but not to memorize.
Delivering a good online presentation takes even more practice than in-person experiences because you have to work extra hard to convey nuance, emotion, and connection.
Becoming a better public speaker positively impacts every area of your life and you’ll definitely need this skill going forward, no matter your role. You’re already doing video calls and talking about your work, but what if you could do this A LOT better?
I learned a great deal from Scott Berkun’s book, Confessions of a Public Speaker, and I hope he considers writing a sequel for online events because they might soon become the norm and not the exception.
Here’s a key idea Scott included in his book:
“Practice: stand up at your desk, imagine an audience around you, and present exactly as if it were the real thing.”
While you may be delivering your presentation while seated, doing a dry run (or several) will help you work out the kinks before tens or hundreds of eyes follow your every word and facial expression.
Practicing your presentation is not just about how you deliver it, but also about what you deliver your audience.
Does your presentation include an interesting opinion?
Does it reflect clear thinking and clearly made points?
How do you plan to make those points relevant to your audience?
Start with these questions to shape and polish your presentation until you reach a stage that suits your audience, that makes excellent use of your allotted time, and that leaves attendees with the desire to act.
2. Deserve your audience’s attention.
Your audience members are now at home with kids, partners, and pets. They’re not in a dimly lit theater, sitting in a chair that puts them in the “conference” state of mind.
If you don’t capture and hold their attention, then you’ll just be wasting your time and theirs. Reestablishing the attention of the room is a lot more difficult to do online because you can’t connect visually with one or several members of the audience and ask them questions to create a moment.
The common setting is virtual, so there’s no shared energy, no energizing rounds of applause. It’s a lot more difficult to follow your presentation flow and the attendees’ reactions at the same time. But there’s no way around it but learning how to do it.
That’s why preparing your presentation’s content is fundamental. Weave in storytelling, use powerful examples and words that bring up positive emotions and reactions.
This is all possible when you know your audience and what they need from you. As a speaker, your role is connecting your experience to their needs.
3. Take advantage of comfortable surroundings.
In his book, Scott says that a relaxed body is essential for delivering a good presentation or talk. If you’re tense, you will project the same onto your audience, online or off.
“As a rule, I go to the gym the morning before a talk, with the goal of releasing any extra nervous energy before I get on stage.”
Since you’re at home, you can exhaust all that tension with your choice of Youtube workout, even if you’re not a gym goer.
What’s more, you can hydrate well before the talk, drink some warm tea, do some voice-warming exercises (especially if you haven’t talked much all day), and even treat yourself to a cookie to put yourself in a good mood.
Getting comfortable doesn’t mean forgoing pants, but it certainly helps that you don’t have to wear uncomfortable shoes and that you can sit in your favorite chair. Set up and relax everything around you so you can be fully present for your audience.
4. Feel what you want your audience to feel.
“I have to embody what I want the audience to be. If I want them to have fun, I have to have fun. If I want them to laugh, I have to laugh.”
Scott’s advice applies perfectly to online audiences. Your appearance, manner, posture, and attitude still matter. Getting comfortable doesn’t mean slouching or sipping water audibly.
People can – and should – see your face as well as your slides. Don’t forget that!
Also, keep in mind that awkward silences are even more awkward online. So are “uhms” and other sounds that are best left out of your presentation.
Start with empathy towards your audience and their needs.
What do they need to feel right now?
What can help them make the most of your presentation?
What experience or emotion can you give them to use even after they’ve clicked on “leave meeting”?
Once you’ve figured out the tech, so you don’t stumble (that much) or get stuck, and your presentation, think of what state of mind you want to project.
In an online conference, people depend and feed on your energy, even more so than in online events. Keep that in mind.
Derek Sivers also extracted some key ideas from Scott Berkun’s book which also apply to online events. Give them a read and also pick up the book – it’s the one book you need to be a better public speaker, online and off.
Good luck with your presentation!