Unfortunately, boring, less-than-engaging presentations are the norm — especially when people are presenting over video conferencing tools to virtual teams. When the audience isn’t physically in the same location as the speaker, it can be easy to feel removed from them and feel less responsibility to capture their attention.
We’ve all been subjected to bullet-point wielding, technically incompetent presenters who drone on like Ben Stein’s character in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. But it doesn’t have to be this way. With proper preparation and practice, you can deliver compelling virtual presentations that hold your audience’s interest.
To begin, your job as a presenter is to engage your audience, to pull them forward in their seats. With variation in your voice, variation in your evidence, and variation in your visuals, you can prevent your audience from disengaging and invite them to collaborate and learn.
I’ve witnessed the benefits of employing this variation firsthand as a virtual presenter myself — as well as a communication coach for Bold Echo LLC, the Silicon Valley presentation coaching firm I co-founded.
The Stanford Graduate School of Business MBA students in my Effective Virtual Communication and Strategic Communication courses also report seeing the benefits from this simple yet very effective principle, illustrated in the presentation tips I’ve outlined here.
I’m optimistic that you’ll be pleasantly surprised by your results too!
Engage Your Audience With Your Voice
However, for many presenters, this type of speaking is not natural. I often instruct less expressive speakers to infuse their presentations with emotive words, such as “excited,” “valuable,” and “challenging,“ and to inflect their voice to reflect the meaning of these words.
If you are speaking about a big opportunity, then speak “big” in a big way. With practice, you will feel more comfortable with this type of vocal variety.
Another way to increase your vocal variety is to read emotive texts out loud. Poetry and children’s literature serve as great vehicles to stretch your vocal range. This reading aloud is akin to do drills in sports practice. It warms up the muscles and gets you used to doing the activity. Plus, it is a lot of fun!
If you're speaking about a big opportunity, then you'll want to speak in a big way. Click To Tweet
Offer Different Kinds of Evidence
Varying the type of evidence you use to support the claims in your presentation is equally important. Too often, presenters exclusively use their favorite type of evidence. You might over-rely on data or on anecdotes.
But both qualitative and quantitative academic research has found that when you triangulate your support you provide more compelling and memorable results.
So, try providing three different types of evidence, such as a data point, a testimonial, and an anecdote. This triangulation neatly reinforces your point, and it allows your audience multiple opportunities to connect with your idea and remember it, which is why it’s a technique often used by advertisers to reinforce that you should buy their product.
Think Creatively About Your Visuals
Your first step can be as simple as utilizing Google Image search for inspiration. Look up the idea or point you are trying to convey and see what comes up.
Since many images are copyrighted, you are better served to use what you find as a starting point for your own creative ideas, rather than adding the exact images you find to your presentation.
Additionally, you can improve the quality and engagement value of your slides if you follow two simple slide design rules:
1. Less is more.
Be valuable and provide insight and commentary on what you show on your slides. Avoid having them say everything for you.
2. Visual over verbal.
We process visual information more readily than verbal. Help us to see what you are talking about rather than showing us verbiage.
Variety truly is the spice of life — as well as memorable, engaging online presentations. By varying your voice, evidence, and slides, you help your audience to stay engaged and remember what you’re saying.
Less is more. Don't let your slides say everything for you. Click To Tweet
Want more expert recommendations on improving your presentations? Check out the hand-picked resources in How to Get Better at Public Speaking (Start Today!) >>