August 3, 2020

The Art of Presenting via Virtual Platforms

By Terri Sjodin, Principal and Founder, Sjodin Communications

Working from home and adopting or converting to video meetings and sales calls now dance together hand in hand. Whether we like it or not.

Of course, the video call option can be a great tool; but, like anything, it must be used in moderation and with listeners’ attention spans (and comfort) in mind. Meeting remotely comes with both highs and lows:

Highs – New technology can be fun and different; plus, seeing people on a call is nice and adds a layer of connection. It’s effective at maintaining and moving things forward in existing relationships and, when used correctly, has a “wow” factor.

Lows – It is harder to create a new connection virtually, especially with new prospects. A below-average or average presenter seems even more difficult to listen to on video/virtual platforms. Common comments are: “Ugh! So boring. Too long. Waste of time. I have video/Webinar fatigue. Where is this going?” And, on unplanned calls: “What are they wearing? What/who is in the background?”

It does not have to be that way.

Here are a few quick tips to put together an effective online video meeting:

  1. It’s not an easy pivot – make time to get some training.
    It will take time to master presentations virtually. (Trust me, I feel your pain. I am working every day to get better at giving my talks to an online audience – and the rehearsals are illuminating!) It’s not the same as being in person. It is more challenging to create connections, and it is a lot of work! Transitioning that fun Zoom call with family and friends to a video meeting with a client or prospect is a totally different ball game.”
  2. Your speaking and verbal communication skills matter!
    Fancy technology can’t make up for a boring, data-dumping presenter; in fact, it makes things worse! To craft an engaging online call, you may need to “level up” your delivery and engagement skills. Word selection, vocal variation and tone, your presence, and style all play significant roles when presenting virtually.Most platforms allow you to record the call, so make time to record a practice run and watch the playback. You can learn a lot when you view your meeting through the eyes and ears of your listener. My motto during this forced down time is: “We all have to go through it…so we might as well grow through it!
  3. Don’t wing it.
    A bumbling-along effort with your new Zoom skills might have been acceptable at first, and people are still forgiving (for now). The higher the stakes, however, the less forgiving the listener. When in doubt just keep it simple. People create the connection – the technology is just a tool to help you do it! In addition, consider the issues related to your environment – sound, lighting, image quality, background, and even visual aids – to make the best use of your time.
  4. Time is not on your side.
    You must balance your content with the amount of time you have for your meeting. Fatigue typically sets in at about the 30-minute mark on a video call.
  5. You only get one take.
    Many of these calls are recorded and there are no do-overs – you get one take! So the stakes are higher, as it is a less forgiving format for presenting than a face-to face meeting.
  6. Prepare for possible tech fails and human error.
    Technology fails are a huge hindrance to any presentation; but, without a backup plan, it’s a human error – so have a Plan B. Make sure you have the basics of the technology down: that the attachments and links work. Also, consider having an assistant by your side to manage A/V issues so you are free to engage with ease and flow. You can recover if you have a simple “old school” backup strategy.
  7. Give your message structure so it lands in your listeners’ minds.
    The same principles and skills for giving a great in-person meeting apply – which means a strong case, thoughtful creativity, and a solid delivery.
    Case: What do you want to prove or say? Why does the listener need to hear your message? Why now?
    Creativity: Intrigue listeners with some thought-provoking illustrations, stories, and examples. Add a little art and clever anecdotes they can relate to… small, subtle details leave big impressions. This is an important step in creating connection.
    Delivery: Speak in your own authentic voice, with just a touch of polish and finesse – don’t get too familiar or lazy! (This includes clothing and your overall appearance)
  8. Don’t forget to close.
    What do you want to have happen as a result of your meeting? You don’t have to be hard sell. As the saying goes, “You don’t have to score on every play – just advance the ball!”

The good news is that in-person meetings will be back – hopefully sooner than later – and research shows that in-person meetings have higher conversions. For now, though, we have to do better with the options that are available.

I believe the future will provide for a combination of both virtual and in-person meetings so, until we meet again, this is a great time to level up your skillset for all opportunities! Onward!

Terri Sjodin (pronounced: show-dean) is the author of the national best-selling book, Small Message, Big Impact. She is the principal and founder of Sjodin Communications – a public speaking, sales training, and consulting firm based in Newport Beach, CA – and is an award-winning speaker who has specialized in helping people build and deliver more polished, persuasive, and effective presentations for over 25 years.