In today’s world presenting yourself well on the small screen is becoming an essential business skill.
It’s so easy now to film short pieces on a camera phone and upload them to social media in nanosecond.
When you are sharing with friends, the quality isn’t a big concern. However, when you are presenting a professional webinar, hosting a virtual meeting (possibly with people around the globe), making a marketing video, or having an on-line interview you need to up your game.
Consider the following points as you prepare for your next small screen appearances.
Are you and your kit positioned well?
If you are delivering a webinar you are likely to be sitting in the same chair for at least an hour so ensure you are comfortable; good back support will help. Then there’s the position of your laptop or camera in relation to where you are sitting, which parts of you can be seen? Movement is tricky, if you lean forward towards your camera, the audience will receive an unexpected close-up.
Who are you? And who is there?
If someone has booked to attend your webinar, they may have done so for a variety of reasons. Providing a brief introduction about you and the purpose of the webinar helps settle the attendees and allows you to briefly indicate you’ll be addressing all their needs.
If you have over 20 attending, it may not be possible to allow time for them to introduce each other. However, if it is a business meeting, a small conference or an interview, it is definitely worth knowing who else is there. Allow time for simple introductions such as name, position and company. This will assist you in knowing if all key stakeholders have joined and, if not, have they sent a representative instead.
Can everyone hear?
This is the biggest issue when delivering online training sessions. You need to check in with your online audience and determine that they can actually hear you. You don’t want to be distracted battling with software when you should be focused on delivery. Equally, the audience doesn’t want to fight to hear you.
When joining virtual meetings, there can be surprisingly loud background noise. If you can control muting attendees, do. If not, then encourage them to mute themselves while listening. There may be times when, despite all the checks, the signal just isn’t good enough. Be prepared to redeliver key points when you recap.
Is your choice of language clear?
There are many turns of phrase that are quirky and local. For example, will an audience of retailers understand the British BOGOF or the North American Twofer? When you add local phrases, consider how your attendees will interpret them. To avoid confusion and wasting time explaining what you’ve said; think about the language you use and make it appropriate to the audience.
Lighting and Mics
You need to ensure ample lighting for your face, particularly if your background is very bright (as it will darken your face) or the room is dingy. Does any of the lighting cast shadows on the wall behind you? If it does, change this.
A mic or headset may be required, and if you are waving your hands about, you may knock this. So, endeavour to keep your hands out of shot, if need be, sit on them
What’s in the background?
Whenever possible a clean background is best. If you work in an office that has glass screens, walls and doors, it can be distracting for your audience to have people walking behind you when you are delivering your presentation or pitch. If it’s a virtual interview, definitely clear up the clutter and check what photos and artwork are on the wall.
Treat online presentations the same way as you would face-to-face presentations and practice with a test session. If you are handling technical aspects, it’ll give you one less concern when you are delivering. For webinars, definitely consider recording and watching the test session. You can use this to make any necessary changes. Also, if you have technical problems on the day, you can always use this version to send out to the attendees of your webinar later.
Notes or not?
Try to avoid reading from notes. You will look down and your audience will see the top of your head. If the notes are on screen, the movement of your eyes will look odd. All the warmth you will have generated will be lost as you are more likely to come across as somewhat robotic. Know your presentation inside out, so that you appear natural. Having prompt cards with key words on that you can glance at can help if you feel you need some additional reminders. You could try post-it notes stuck on the edge of the screen.
Looking your best?
Just like meeting people face to face, you have to look the part; your appearance matters. Clothes, hair, beard etc. should be neat, tidy and professional. Consider how to take the shine from your forehead, taking out redness from the face or concealing dark circles under the eyes. The camera picks up all those blemishes and to you, they will seem to be magnified and you will focus in on them. Be confident and use makeup if you need to.
Be prepared to answer questions. Some systems allow attendees to message you rather than interact vocally. How will you manage this? You may want to consider having support to deal with the online questions as they arise. They are likely to follow themes based on what you have said so you can address them in groups. You can have some standard responses ready which you can add into your webinar as you go along.
If you are managing the live stream and the questions by yourself, pause after key points check in with the audience that they are following you. This is a good time to ask for questions, which you can then be addressed before you move on.
Start with a smile
Start punctually at the scheduled time. Greet your audience, colleagues or potential employer with a smile. All the skills that you have developed presenting in person apply here too. You have to engage your audience to ensure they receive your message. Be aware of your non-verbal communications, your eye contact, body language and facial gestures; they all come into play. Allow the best of your personality to shine through.
By following the suggestions above, you soon gain confidence and become more comfortable delivering on the small screen. Your professional credibility and your business will benefit.
About the author
Helena Brewer is from Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org