It may come as a surprise, but presenting online isn’t the same as presenting in person—many speakers who are naturally good at public speaking struggle to make the transition to presenting online. Sometimes when you take away the human element and try to speak to a computer screen, it feels awkward and artificial. But since the world has embraced hybrid working arrangements and we don’t see them going anywhere after the pandemic has ended, it is time to beef up online presentation skills.
As with anything, practice makes perfect. If the average presenter spends 20 - 50 hours practicing before a presentation, that time should be at least equal when presenting online. It is encouraged to prepare notes or a script in advance and practice a natural delivery on camera.
Whether you favor abbreviated notes or a full-line script, the key is to get comfortable with your delivery. Find a comfortable pace, add deliberate pauses, and insert placeholders for engagement opportunities. Practice your presentation until it feels comfortable to you. Record yourself on video and make sure that you are relaxed and smiling.
Set up Your Background
Presenting online is basically the same as being on a television screen. With the high-definition video of today, every detail in the background is visible to your audience. Begin by making sure that you have a well-lit room. If you have a room with a window, always face the window so that the natural lighting does not cast a shadow over you. Add minimal touches of photos, art, and plants to give the space some character. But avoid any decorations that can be distracting. If you do not have access to a well-lit, tidy, and minimalistic space, then consider using a very plain digital background.
Make Eye Contact
The number one thing that online presenters overlook is the element of eye contact. For the speaker, it is almost unnatural to look at the camera instead of the thumbnails of the participants. And online presenters don’t get the same feedback as in-person presenters do. However, for the audience, the illusion of eye contact is vitally important for engagement.
Did you know that making eye contact can make you appear more confident? Human beings are hardwired to respond to eye contact. From infancy, we recognize it as a form of connection. And in social situations, we tend to associate eye contact with trust. But this simple exchange is the most hindered by virtual communication.
Giving the illusion of eye contact by keeping your gaze on the camera is something that you cannot afford to skip. But it is harder than you might think. Assuming that you don’t have the laser focus to do it on your own, there are some tools like virtual teleprompters that can help.
Use a Virtual Teleprompter
Apps like VODIUM provide a convenient way to keep your notes or scripts handy while presenting online. These apps are designed to sit on top of your video conferencing software and remain visible to only the presenter. With features like free-form text boxes and autoscrolling, the app offers many flexible uses. Plus, the native placement of the VODIUM app is in line with your camera, so it actually helps keep your focus on making eye contact with the audience.
Present From a Standing Desk
Presenters are often more lively and animated from a standing position. Using a standing desk rather than a seated position will encourage you to move naturally with gestures and body language that augment your verbal presentation. Sitting in a chair while giving a presentation can feel restrictive and force unnatural movements that are broadcast to a captive audience in 4K definition. At best, this detracts from your presentation by drawing attention.
Remember, This is the New Normal
The pandemic might have catapulted workplaces around the globe into the virtual world, but now that we have the hang of it—it’s here to stay. Hybrid working arrangements are the next new thing in promoting work-life balance. They offer the flexibility to work in different ways instead of fitting everyone into the same boxes. This flexibility yielded dramatic increases in productivity for employers, and that’s a perk they would like to keep around.
Some people have a fear of public speaking or a social phobia that makes it difficult for them to present effectively. Other people are uncomfortable with technology. And most people are relatively new to the concept of a virtual presentation. Around 10% of the workforce will suffer stagnant wages and missed opportunities if they are unable to overcome these deficits.
The good news is that the majority of workers will be able to improve their skills and present online more naturally. This skill will become increasingly desirable to employers, and many new opportunities will become available.
Can I Use My Computer As a Teleprompter?
With no shortage of word processing and notepad apps already available for computers and mobile devices, you may be wondering if a separate teleprompter app is necessary. Although some users have tried some creative workarounds, using a teleprompter app is still much easier. With apps like VODIUM, you will get features like autoscrolling and the ability to lock the app under your computer's camera. This can prevent embarrassing mishaps when you accidentally close out of your notepad in the middle of a presentation.
A virtual teleprompter is an accessible app that brings the secret of professional video production to your personal computer. It’s true—news anchors and public speakers have been using teleprompters for years. As technology makes it easier to produce high-quality videos, the expectations for online presentations will continue to grow.
The Bottom Line
Pulling off a natural delivery in an online presentation takes a combination of preparation, practice, and tools. If you are in a position to frequently present online, you will naturally become better with practice. But if it is your first time or you feel awkward, then plan to commit a significant amount of time to practice. You can record yourself on video and analyze it as you smooth out your delivery.