The times, they are changing. With remote working and virtual meetings becoming the new normal, the way we present and perceive things changes. Even if you are a skilled presenter, the playing field has changed, and so has the skill set needed for making an effective presentation.
The challenges are numerous: you are presenting virtually to a group of people who can easily mute themselves or even walk away from the presentation if they feel like it. On top of that, there is no real-time feedback, which can be crucial in determining your talk’s tone and flow.
Here are some tips to help you overcome the hurdles of making a presentation in a virtual world.
The lack of face to face communication can sometimes trick you into forgetting that there are real people at the other end of the line, or behind another keyboard. Respect their time to establish trust and engage your audience more.
- Be prepared. Check that all the equipment is working correctly and that you have the exact link or app for the meeting ready. It’s common courtesy to show up online at least five minutes before the scheduled appointment is supposed to start.
- Be professional in your mindset and appearance. Just because no one can smell that you need a shower doesn’t mean they can’t tell that is the case. You don’t have to dress up, but do put on a clean shirt. Make sure that your computer is placed in a well-lit, quiet area where there are no distractions. Prepare yourself a glass of water. And, speaking of preparations, take a few minutes to meditate or relax to get yourself in the right state of mind for holding a presentation.
- Stay focused. Even if you’re on mute and not on camera, resist the urge to check your phone or go to the bathroom. Even better, put your phone in Do Not Disturb mode and place it somewhere out of your reach. Don’t let your attention drift away to another tab of the web browser.
- Don’t derail the discussion. Even if you are in a meeting with the folks that you would regularly be in the office with, once the business talks get going, don’t interrupt the flow. That is, treat the online meeting just as you would any face to face interaction.
Cut to the chase
Clarity (expressing your point simply) and conciseness (not wasting words) are essential, elemental communication skills. They should be practiced for effective virtual communication as well.
Without the in-person cues to tell you how much your audience is engaged with the content you’re presenting, it’s easy to lose focus and alienate them in the process. Come up with a plan on how to express your ideas in as few words as possible. Remember, your colleagues are just as busy as you are, so show them respect by going straight to the point.
Don’t forget the personal touch
A study conducted by Gallup has demonstrated that the lack of social interaction and human touch is the main reason for the decline in remote workers’ morale and productivity. We are social creatures that can quickly start to feel isolated and disconnected from our peers and the company if left to deal with day to day tasks on our own.
On the other hand, the better you know your coworkers, the easier it is to work together. Efficient teams tend to be more empathetic and more invested in seeing each member succeed, leading to better corporate resiliency and business results.
The solution? Spend the first couple of minutes of every meeting on catching up with your coworkers. Find out what is going on in their lives, and show genuine interest in their everyday activities. Personal connections and emotional bonds can be essential in creating an effective team.
Be extra clear when communicating your wants and needs
Another downside to virtual communication is that, in a regular workplace, people have more time and more opportunities to ask for additional explanations and clarifications.
To avoid this, over-communicate. Virtual teams should always be asking questions, clarifying objectives, reporting progress on goals, encouraging and affirming others’ efforts, stating requirements, and providing feedback.
Constant communication can help avoid surprises, keep everyone on the same page, and reduce the risk of invisibility and isolation, the factors that could lead to diminished productivity. Ask or tell if you need something, or if you’re waiting on something. Keep your teammates up to date on what progress you are making, or if there is something you don’t understand. Encourage others to do the same.
Use all the resources needed to get the message across
Your focus should always be on the audience, specifically on how your message is being received. Because virtual communication lacks the subtle cues of in-person interaction, it’s easy for messages to be misinterpreted or misunderstood.
The same rules that apply to general online communication are valid here: avoid strong language, dry humor and sarcasm, and anything else that might be taken the wrong way. Use emojis and additional explanations to get the point across if you have to.
If you are communicating in writing, read everything out loud to yourself before hitting Send. If you are on a video call or regular old phone call, be sure to pause for feedback or questions.
Never stop learning
Remember, not everyone is enjoying the fact that they have to work remotely. Many people struggle, as the fluctuating world around us keeps bringing us new challenges almost every day. Keep this in mind and be forgiving to others who seem to be off their game.
There are great teams of professionals who offer presentation coaching for companies. Consider reaching out to such a service to help you master the skills needed to develop and upgrade your presentation skills in a virtual world. The way things seem to be heading, it will prove to be a useful skill set to have for the many years to come.