It’s so easy now to film short pieces on a phone camera and upload them to social media in the blink of an eye. When it’s something fun to share with friends, the quality isn’t the biggest concern. However, when you are presenting a professional webinar, hosting a virtual meeting or having an on-line interview, do you have the skills to excel on the small screen?
Here are some key points to consider as you get ready to appear on the small screen.
Is your set up comfortable? If you are delivering a webinar you will be sitting in the same chair for at least an hour. Ensuring you are comfortable; good back support will help. Consider the position of your laptop or camera in relation to where you are sitting. Movement is tricky, if you lean forward towards your camera, the audience will get an unexpected close-up.
Do you swivel your chair or touch your glasses? Habits like these seem small, but they can easily become distracting for the audience.
Allowing time for introductions? If someone has booked to attend your webinar, they may have done so for several reasons; you’re an industry expert, your webinar has been recommended, or they liked the subject matter of your webinar. It’s likely every attendee will have a different entry reason. Providing a brief introduction about you and the purpose of the webinar helps settle the attendees. If you have over 20 attending, it may not be possible for everyone to introduce themselves. If it is a business meeting, a small conference or an interview, it is definitely worth knowing who else is there. Allow time for simple introductions.
Can everyone hear? This is the biggest issue when delivering online. You need to check in with your online audience and determine that they can hear you. You don’t want to be battling with software and, the audience doesn’t want to fight to hear you.
To avoid background noise from attendees mute the audience if you can. If not, encourage them to mute themselves. There may be times when, despite all the checks, the signal just isn’t good enough. Be prepared to redeliver key points when you recap.
What will be seen behind you? Whenever possible a clean background is best. If you work in an office surrounded by glass, it can be distracting to have people walking behind you when you are delivering your presentation or pitch. If it’s a virtual interview, definitely clear up the clutter and check what photos etc. are visible. You need ample lighting for your face, particularly if your background is very bright (it will obscure your face) or the room is dingy. Does any of the lighting cast shadows on the wall behind you? If it does, change this.
Test and test again. Practice your online presentation with a test session. If you are handling technical aspects, it’ll give you one less concern when you are delivering. For webinars, definitely consider recording and watching the test session. You can use this to make any necessary changes. Also, if you have technical problems on the day, you can always use this version to send out to the attendees of your webinar if required…
How you look
Just like meeting people face to face, you have to look the part; your appearance matters. Being well groomed will help you and your confidence, particularly in an interview situation. Clothes, hair, beard etc. should be neat, tidy and professional. In the world of bigger and bigger screens, makeup is the norm for a reason, for both presenters and actors. Consider how to take the shine from your forehead, taking out redness from the face or concealing dark circles under the eyes. The camera picks up all those blemishes and to you, they will seem to be magnified and you will focus in on them. Be confident and use makeup if you need to.
Reading between the lines. Try to avoid reading from notes. You will look down and your audience will have a great shot of the top of your head. If the notes are on screen, the movement of your eyes will look odd. All the warmth you will have generated will be lost as you are more likely to come across as stern and robotic. Know your presentation inside out, so that you appear natural. Having prompt cards with key words on that you can glance at can help if you feel you need some additional reminders. How about using post-it notes on the side of your screen? You can see them, but the audience can’t.
Question time. Be prepared to answer questions. Some systems allow attendees to message you rather than interact vocally. How will you manage this? You may want to consider having support to deal with the online questions as they arise. You can have some standard responses ready which you can add into your webinar as you go along. If you are managing the live stream and the questions by yourself, pause after key points check in with the audience that they are following you. This is a good time to ask for questions, which you can then be addressed before you move on.
Time to deliver. Start punctually. Greet your audience, colleagues or potential employer with a smile. All the skills that you have developed presenting in person apply here too. You have to engage your audience to ensure they receive your message. A mic or headset may be required, and if you are waving your hands about, you may knock this. So, endeavour to keep your hands out of shot, if need be, sit on them. Be aware of your none verbal communications, your eye contact, body language and facial gestures; they all come into play. Allow the best of your personality to shine through.
By following the suggestions above, you soon gain confidence and become more comfortable delivering digitally and have gained an essential modern business competence.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Helena Brewer is from Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org