Most leaders are relatively confident when presenting face-to-face, even to large audiences when they perform on stage.However, many leaders need to improve their skills when presenting through videoconferencing. A phenomenon that has quickly become essential for many during this period of social distancing.
I have spent a career training and preparing leaders to master communication. The following advice will not go astray post-COVID-19 as experts predict a major portion of the workforce will continue to work from home in a post-COVID-19 era.
These simple tips can help you present with confidence when leading via videoconferencing.
How you look (and how your setting looks) matters.
To elevate your appearance on video calls:
Position your webcam at eye level. Prop your laptop up on a pile of books and tilt your screen to achieve a more flattering and practical angle.
Maximise your lighting. Harsh, fluorescent overhead lighting is distracting and unflattering. Instead, set up in front of a window and utilise natural light, or use a desk lamp with a warm bulb to create a healthier glow.
Ensure your background is tidy, sleek and professional. Set up in front of a blank wall or clean office space to achieve maximum focus. If your home office isn’t available, you can use an appropriate digital Zoom background.
Soundcheck. When setting up to present, make sure you minimise unwanted noise and other distractions. Hard surfaces can create unwanted echo and reverb. Soft objects such as clothing or books can absorb echo and cut extra noise. I often present from inside my walk-in wardrobe!
Where you look matters
When presenting directly to an audience, eye contact is crucial. Similarly, when presenting through videoconferencing, you need to maintain a sense of visual directness. Even as faces are replaced with video boxes, it is essential to deliver your main points directly into the camera, so it looks to your audience that you are speaking directly to them. Try not to let your eyes wander to other areas of your screen, glance down at your phone or across the room to your dog.
Look ‘commanding’ by being in command of your technology.
To do this, practice makes perfect. The only way to improve your confidence when presenting virtually is to practice videoconferencing.
(1) Start small scale – even presenting to one other participant to gain confidence will help you get the hang of presenting via video.
(2) Screen record your video presentations and watch them back to see what you could do to improve. Are you speaking too quickly? Is your microphone too quiet? Are you making eye contact?
(3) Seek feedback from your employees! It is essential to allow your colleagues to communicate with you about what is working and what isn’t during this time of change and adaption.
(4) If things go wrong, stay calm and in command.
Trim your presentations
Your audience’s attention span is less in a video presentation than in a live performance. Avoid waffling and cut straight to the point – try to keep presentations under an hour to maintain focus.
Switch it up
People switch off when hearing just one voice. Consider including guest presenters and encourage your audience to speak up and contribute. When teaching Radio Journalism via Zoom, I’ll often strategically place radio report examples throughout the presentation to add variety.
Provide clear instructions
Be clear and set-up what you expect people to do. Provide an outline or schedule for each session. For example, “I’m going to share the latest figures and then we’ll get Bob and Jane to add their comments.”
Don’t be scared of silence.
Allow your audience time to react and respond. Silence and ‘dead air’ can sound awkward, and presenters often move on too quickly before people can get involved. In encouraging student engagement, I’ll often say something like: “As you listen to this radio example, be prepared to unmute your mikes and share what you think could be improved. Now, it can take a while to master your controls, so we’ll wait for your contributions.”