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Presenting to the room over Zoom

Aug 27, 2020

Giving a presentation is hard enough but now we also need to grapple with technology while keeping the audience engaged. Eric Fitzpatrick outlines how you can build on your presentation skills to effectively present remotely.  

Giving presentations can be challenging at the best of times, but over the last six months, they have become a little more difficult because they need to be delivered remotely via platforms like Zoom, Webex, and Teams. We’re at the mercy of technology, feeling more distant from our audience, struggling to engage and not always certain that our message is getting through.

The following ideas will help when delivering presentations remotely.  

The old rules still apply

Many rules that work for face-to-face presenting also work for remote presenting:

  • Know your audience. Be clear about who you are presenting to so you can tailor your content to reflect what’s important to them.
  • Clarify your objective. Know what you want your audience to do, think or believe at the end of your presentation.
  • Give one message. Regardless of the length of your presentation, only ever deliver one message. The longer your presentation, the more points you will have to support that message but every time you present, deliver one message only. If your audience gets that message, that’s your job done.
  • Structure your presentation. Build a deliberate structure into your presentation so that it is easy to follow and understand. Most presenters never include a deliberate structure, which can confuse your audience and cause them to switch off.
  • Engagement is key. Build your presentation to include deliberate engagement techniques, such as questions, stories, humour, audience interaction. This will keep your audience enthralled and increase your chances of making sure they are still with you at the end of your presentation.   

Rules for remote presentations

The rules that are especially important for remote presenting include:

  • Less is more. Make your presentation short. If you deliver 30 minutes face-to-face, try to cut it to 20 minutes for remote presentations. This will increase your chances of keeping your audience engaged.
  • Slow and steady. Slow down when speaking remotely. Build-in longer pauses to allow your audience time to digest what you have said. Don’t be afraid of the silence.
  • Visual impact. If using slides, make them stronger visually. Bigger, brighter images or graphs will provide a visual stimulus that will support your spoken word more effectively.
  • Reinforce the message. Don’t finish with a slide that contains any of the following two words: “Thank you”, “Any questions?” or “The end”. Instead, finish with a slide that reinforces the message you want your audience to take away.  
  • Craft your opening and closing word-for-word. The opening of your presentation is where you are most nervous, while the words you finish on have the potential to have the greatest impact on your audience. Crafting them word-for-word increases your impact at the beginning and the end of your presentation.
  • Practice makes perfect. Practice more for remote presentations so that you can get as comfortable as possible with the content and the technology. Do a technology check in advance.

Finally, there is a debate regarding whether a presenter should stand or sit when presenting. Do what is most comfortable for you. Sitting is more intimate and can build stronger connections, while standing allows you to be more passionate and energetic.

Also, there will be occasions when the technology will let you down. Don’t be fazed by it. Most audiences are very understanding when this happens.

Finally, the two most important considerations for remote presenting are whether you can be seen and heard. Given that this is how we will be presenting for the foreseeable future, there is value in investing in a good microphone, webcam and the right lighting.

Eric Fitzpatrick is the owner of ARK Speaking and Training, the author of Persuade on Purpose: Create presentations that influence and engage.