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Do You Need to "Up" Your Remote Presentation Game? Five Questions to Ask Yourself.

Do You Need to "Up" Your Remote Presentation Game? Five Questions to Ask Yourself.

It’s been a year since COVID-19 hit and we all made the move to working, meeting, and presenting remotely. Some of us have made the transition to presenting remotely successfully and others – maybe not so much. Here are five questions to ask yourself to determine if you need to “up” your remote presentation game.

1) Do you have a Zoom studio from which to stand and present?

I recommend standing when you’re presenting – yes, even in a remote environment. Standing allows you the full benefit of both your body’s energy and your diaphragm. Plus, in an in-person presentation you would (should) stand, so why not for a remote one?

Therefore, you need a place where you can put your laptop or camera so that it’s at eye level. My Zoom studio is in my kitchen. My laptop still needs to be propped up, but a kitchen counter is higher than a desk or table, making it easier to accomplish. (Dirty secret: Mine is propped up on a box of wine – yep, no shame.)

Make sure that you are looking at the camera – not at the thumbnails of your audience members. Only by looking at the camera will your audience feel that you are making eye contact with them.

Be sure your face is well lit. This means having light coming from in front of you. I stand in front of a window. You can also put a bright lamp directly in front of you, or purchase a ring light and set that up in front of you. The more light on your face, the better.

As far as your Zoom studio background, it can be interesting, but it should never be messy or distracting. You want the audience’s focus to be on you and your presentation, not on a messy closet or weird piece of art.

[Related: Here's How to Nail Your Next Remote Presentation]

2) Are you getting to the meat of your presentation quickly?

We used to have the luxury of giving a longer-than-necessary introduction (or two or three). It was what I call "audience abuse" - introductions that were “all about us,” that our audience couldn’t care less about and were forced to listen to.

In a remote environment, the audience can flee at any moment. In fact, they can make it appear like they’re there, but in reality they’re surfing their phone, getting something to eat, or talking with their spouse or significant other or roommate or child or cat.

In a remote presentation, you must get to the meat of the presentation - what matters to your audience - as fast as possible. You want them to know right away that you’ll be speaking about what they care about.

You want your audience to be riveted, not daring to take their attention away for a second, and the way to do that is to make your presentation about them and what they’re interested in, right from the beginning.

3) Have you given your presentation structure?

Being an audience member is hard work. Being a remote audience member is even harder. Distractions are everywhere and non-stop. At the same time, many of the cues we get in an in-person presentation are missing, or harder to see.

We can help our audience a lot by giving our presentation structure. I love the rule of threes. If we organize our content into three buckets and label those buckets for our audience, we give them a big boost in the understanding and remembering of our presentation. Perhaps there are three big problems that you’re solving, or three parts to your solution.

If you’re giving any kind of update presentation, you can easily organize your information into past, present, and future buckets: Here’s where we were, here’s where we are, here’s where we’re going. This organizing makes your presentation easier for you to retain and deliver,  as well.

[Related: Managing People in Abnormal Times]

4) Are your visuals (slides) truly aids for your audience?

This is where most presentations fall down. Before the pandemic, you could get away with slides that really only acted as speaker notes for you. Why? Because your audience would either read them and ignore you, or if you are a dynamic presenter, listen to you and ignore the slides. Humans cannot read and listen at the same time.

Whereas in an in-person presentation, your audience pretty much had to stay put and listen to you or read the slides, in a remote presentation, they can split! Especially if you’ve sent your slide deck ahead of time. Why stay and read? They’ve got better things to do.

Make your slides visual aids for your audience. How? They need to be image-based - charts, graphs, icons, photographs. Your visuals should be synergistic components; they should help you explain your message in ways you alone cannot. And they should animate; you should give the information to your audience one bite at a time, so no one gets distracted or lost.

If you create visuals that a) require you to explain them and b) animate one at a time, you'll have your audience enthralled. They won't go anywhere because they want to understand what they're looking at and know what comes next.

5) Have you practiced your presentation OUT LOUD?

The only way to know you’ve got all of this right is to practice your presentation out loud in slide show mode, clicking and talking. Don’t be discouraged if you only get to about slide three the first time through.

Of course you’re stuck! You need a transition between your very short introduction and your first big idea. You may get stuck again and again (I do). Maybe a slide needs more animation, or needs to move to another part of the presentation, or needs to be deleted. Often you’ll have to stop and think of what you want to say. (Better now than in front of a live audience.)

Once you’ve got the pieces in place, you only need to practice maybe three or four more times. Do not memorize your talking points and do not read. Snore. (And remember, your audience can easily go to sleep – they’re probably not far from a couch or bed…)

Ask yourself these five questions. If you can’t answer in the affirmative, you probably need to up your presentation game. The good news is that other than question #1, all of these things will serve you well when we get on the other side of the pandemic and we’re presenting live and in-person again. Either way, you’ll be heard, and be nailing it.

[Related: Four Ps for Powerful Communication]

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Debbie Fay is the founder of Bespeak Presentation Solutions, LLC, providing one-on-one presentation coaching, presentation development, and communications training to businesses worldwide.


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