Improve Your On-Cam Presence
Video conferencing, whether one-on-one or within a group, is a staple of modern life. Zoom, Google Meet, Skype and Slack calls might be made internally, or with external vendors, but most require a level of attention and poise to both convey and receive information effectively. As teams become more remote, office collaboration means jumping on a call, rather than in-person check-ins. And presentations demand an extra level of savvy for the virtual audience.
Our own Richard Taylor shares tips on improving your presentation skills, specifically for video conference platforms.
Structure Your Presentation
Planning is the first key step to presenting. Building out a running order, or the basic sequential steps of your presentation, will allow you to quickly keep track of your progress, stay on top of timing, and help you maintain focus.
Engage with Your Audience
There’s nothing so nerve-wracking as presenting in front of an unresponsive audience. If you were speaking in front of a group of people in person, you would benefit from verbal and non-verbal affirmation of attention. Virtual meetings are plagued with muted mics and low connectivity. People are loath to take attention away from a presenter and equally as unwilling to draw attention to themselves.
As you build a plan, it’s important to work in places where you can engage with your Zoom audience.
- Start with a warm-up. This can be especially important if you are presenting to a group of people you have never met before, or if they themselves are strangers to each other. Ask questions to get people engaged and excited about sharing. Encourage their personality and presence.
- Encourage non-verbal interaction. Set your expectations for interaction right away. Zoom and other video meeting platforms have interactivity built in, so get your audience acclimated to the tools at hand. Raise hand, thumbs up, clapping, and polls are all tools you can use to gain instant feedback. Tip: During your warm-up, have everyone find these tools and use them to answer questions you pose.
- Give time for questions/answers. Whether you are asking a question, or soliciting questions from your audience, you should be comfortable with the time it takes to formulate. It can be helpful to remind your attendees when you start that there will be a Q&A period at the end.
- Add a quiz or poll. This is especially great as a midway break point.
- Separate attendees into breakout rooms. Zoom has the ability to create breakout rooms for smaller groups of your total. If you have a large number of attendees, and you are looking to build collaboration, this can be a useful tool.
Zoom and screen fatigue is real. You and your attendees might be working harder than normal to process non-verbal cues that make up conversations because facial cues and voice modulation is inhibited by mediocre connections and grainy screens.
Fight Zoom fatigue by building in times where cameras are off. This can be a quiz, as mentioned above, or a slide in your presentation, or sharing your screen. Add something in the running order that will give you a break; turn off everyone’s video and take a breather.
Find Your Frame
You are presenting a complete image of yourself. Pay attention to what is in your frame, and how it is shown.
- Position yourself. Make sure there isn’t too much headroom above you. The closer your eyes, the better people can engage with you.
- Angle the camera. You should be square to the camera, at eye level (not looking too far down or up).
- Pay attention to lighting. Soft light from the front is best. Find the best room for light/direction, and adjust window coverings if you need. Bring in a lamp or ring light (see Tools) if you have it to add a spark in your eyes.
One of the most important parts of presenting on video is this: look into the camera. It can feel counterintuitive because we naturally focus on others’ faces to talk. But don’t miss the opportunity for connection here. Your audience will be more engaged if you appear to be looking directly at them.
To help with this, arrange your call windows as close to the camera position as possible. Even if you do glance down at your attendees, the difference in eyeline from the camera to the screen is less stark.
Boost Your Energy
Because this is distanced, it is easy to lose your audience.
- Keep energy levels high. If you are engaging, people will engage with what you are saying.
- Stand up if you can. Staying upright can help improve blood flow, and allow you to create movement in your body, which allows your brain to stay active.
- Move your hands. Gesticulating more than normal may seem silly, but can maintain audience attention levels.
Show Your Personality
Following on energy, your personality is what is going to make your presentation stand out and maintain focus.
- Speak with passion. Work on your vocal control, and pay attention to your levels. Try not to drop into monotone, or low voice.
- Practice your facial expressions. Record a run through and see what your face is doing. Sometimes passion translates as anger, focus translates as bored. If you can slightly alter what you are putting across, it can make the difference in your presentation.
Apps like Krisp can help keep background noise out and bring clarity to your voice.
You can find inexpensive ring lights that clip to your phone or laptop. These small LED lights, popular with selfie-takers, bring a spark of light to your eyes.
If you have one, a DSLR or mirrorless camera is a better option for a clearer, more balanced video. You may need additional adapters to work with your computer during Zoom calls. Or if you think it is worth it, you could invest in a better webcam just the same.