Over the last 3 months communication has moved virtual. For the next several months, and potentially much longer, the vast majority of business conferences, pitches, and presentations will continue to be this way.
As a leader connecting with an audience through a screen is a challenge. The initial excitement of virtual happy hours has disappeared. Zoom fatigue has set in.
To engage your audience and hold their attention, you have to bring them into the conversation early and often. Keep in mind that rather than talking to a group, you are talking to a series of individuals who are sitting remotely at their computers. The temptation and opportunity is always there to multitask.
Below are some tips to increase your effectiveness and audience engagement when using videoconferencing calls.
Presenting to a large audience
If the audience is large bring audience members together through polls, “raised hands” in response to yes-or-no questions, and the chatbox. Encourage participants to respond to questions and give comments to the whole group, or to chat directly with a “conference buddy” during your presentation, just as they would if they were sitting next to that colleague in the audience.
Presenting to a small team
If the group is small ask a question from the start and turn your presentation into a conversation. Moderate the discussion as you would in person around a conference table.
If pitching plan markers throughout your presentation to ask how this solution would work for their company. For example: Does that sound like it would address your challenges? What doubts are you having? How does this compare with other approaches you have seen? What would your ideal solution look like?
We all know the sleepy nods a monotonous speaker can induce. (memories of the movie Ferris Bueller come to mind: “Bueller? Bueller?”) Raising and lowering your voice, changing your tone, speeding up and slowing down are great ways to keep an audience listening. Be mindful of your individual audience member sitting at home and don’t crank your volume too much.
Use your hands
Record yourself in your videoconferencing software to make sure your hands are saying what you think they’re saying. Be sure to keep your gestures within the frame of the screen. Back away from the camera to include your hands in the view. A good rule of thumb is your head should take up 1/3 of the screen. If you are using a virtual background, keep your gestures in front of your body, rather than out to the side.
Be happy to be there
A smile is a great way to project energy. Of course, don’t smile if you are talking about bad news—pandemics, economic devastation, injustice, etc. Even if these are your topics, you can smile when you are introduced and when you finish. Your smile shows that you are looking forward to the conversation and you know you have value to add. Make sure your smile is genuine. A fake smile loses credibility. Look your audience in the eye by focusing directly on the camera lens.
Even though our instinct is to sit down at a computer, try standing up. In addition to improving your posture, standing for a presentation helps project energy.