In a training I recently held for conference speakers, their number one concern about speaking online was the lack of feedback, atmosphere and energy from the audience. Can you relate?
This is indeed a challenge. When we’re speaking online, it can feel like we’re speaking into a black hole. It’s often difficult to see the members of the audience or gauge their reactions.
Somehow, we need to dig deep within ourselves and find a source of motivation and energy, despite the lack of feedback. In addition, the camera seems to dull our energy levels, so we need to give even more enthusiasm than when we are presenting in-person.
How can you bring more energy to your online presentations?
Sit up straight!
Standing up naturally keeps your energy higher. It also allows you to move more, both with your hands and with your “stage”. Your breathing will also be smoother and more powerful, leading to greater voice control and power. If you are unable to stand when presenting (due to the space available, for example), you can sit on the edge of your chair for a similar effect. This way, you avoid slumping into your chair, you’re more grounded, and you have better breath flow and vocal control.
Here are some additional tips and simple exercises on how to warm up and get presentation ready: https://presentpotential.ch/2019/05/21/get-performance-ready/.
Make eye contact through your camera
We all know how important eye contact is. Speaking into the camera is the online equivalent of eye contact. However, this takes some practice, as it does not come naturally to most of us. It is worth the effort to practice speaking “to” the camera as it engages the audience and makes them feel like you are speaking directly to them. Speaking to the camera can also help you remember to keep up your energy and focus on the audience throughout your presentation.
To help you remember to look directly into the camera, you can put a picture or a toy behind your camera or draw an arrow pointing to it.
Say it as though you mean it
When you don’t have an audience immediately in front of you, it may be tempting to rush through your presentation or drone on in a monotone. However, if you focus on bringing interest to your voice, you will keep your own energy up and keep the audience more engaged too. Look for opportunities in your presentation where you can:
- vary your pace, speaking faster or slower;
- adjust your volume by being slightly louder or quieter; and
- adjust your pitch by lowering or raising the note at which you speak.
Put a post-it or other reminder on your screen (near your camera or on your notes) to remind you to slow down, bring more enthusiasm or dramatically pause at strategic moments in your presentation. Check out these tips on how to bring colour to your voice: https://presentpotential.ch/2018/12/14/colour-your-voice-with-the-4-ps-pitch-pace-power-pause/.
Don’t hide behind your slides
You are now a TV presenter – act like one. With most technical setups, when you share your screen the audience can also see the speaker, so don’t “switch off” and become a robot when presenting with a slide deck.
In terms of designing your slide deck, the most important thing to remember is that people cannot listen and read at the same time. Therefore, your slides should illustrate (rather than repeat word for word) what you are saying.
What images or infographics could you use to help get your message across? Are there moments when you could stop sharing and speak directly to your audience through the camera? Are there moments when you can include an interactive activity in your presentation, to break up the slide deck and shift gears?
For more tips on how to put a slide deck together: https://presentpotential.ch/2019/04/02/dont-give-your-power-to-the-powerpoint/.
Practice and become comfortable with the tech and setup
The more comfortable you are with your set up, the more you can relax and focus on the audience. Make sure that your camera, microphone and lighting is optimal. Practice speaking with the set up in place. Practice sharing and unsharing your slide deck. Practice speaking into the camera. Practice speaking with interest in your voice.
Even the most experienced speakers can get tripped up when speaking online. Energy levels can droop and Zoom gloom can set in. You owe it to yourself AND to your audience to make sure you are engaging and delivering value, no matter where in the world you are or what time of day it is.
Set up your camera correctly