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give amazing virtual presentations

At one level, giving online presentations at a business meeting or event should be so easy.

After all, you don’t have to invest time, energy, or money to travel anywhere. You merely need to open a computer, check your WIFI is on, click a few buttons to log into Zoom or some other virtual meeting platform, look at your inbuilt camera or webcam, smile, and ‘hey presto, you’re ready to give a live talk’.

But, and maybe this won’t shock you if you’ve been finding yourself attending a gazillion online events in recent months, truth is: Most people find online meetings suck!

And if you’re thinking: “Steady on Eamonn, that’s a bit strong” …

…Can I invite you to read the following findings from a very recent study conducted by CV-Library of UK professionals affected by coronavirus lockdowns (per Stuart Gentle of Onrec) that I suspect apply worldwide?

  • 75.9% of Brits think virtual work meetings are a waste of time
  • 34.4% of UK professional admit to excusing themselves from boring meetings

And FYI it’s no wonder so many folks are complaining of Zoom fatigue given that it seems 96% of UK professionals currently working from home are attending 4+ virtual meetings a day. And each of these tends to take an hour or so! Yikes and sheesh!

All of which begs a question, how can you counter these new realities when you need to speak online – so your audiences find what you say to be really engaging and impactful?

3 Surefire tactics that will help you to give winning virtual talks

#1 Think ‘personal conversations’

Unlike a live, in-person event where it’s relatively easy to see if an audience is paying attention to you and showing interest in what you say, it’s much harder to know if and when an online audience is similarly engaged. And FYI, they rarely are!

And that’s because attendance at most online events tends to be a far more passive experience than attending a live event because you have zero direct eye contact. And there’s myriad scientific research that shows your ability and compunction to listen to anyone when you don’t have direct eye contact with them is shockingly low.  

This means you need to compensate for this in some fashion to win more engagement. And the easiest way to do this is to focus on making every talk more of a two-way experience, ie a personal conversation, ahead of merely presenting information.

So, don’t just speak to the camera. Instead, imagine that you’re speaking ‘to and through’ the lens to a real, live person every time you give a virtual talk. Each and every person who hears you should feel that you’re speaking directly to them.

And don’t worry about ‘performing’ your talks. Concentrate on being human and real.

#2 Simplify, simplify, simplify

Here’s another snag when it comes to online events. Unlike live meetings, it’s much easier to switch off or to get distracted without anyone noticing…especially if you think a speaker is rambling or boring.

And if your audience members lose focus when listening to you, you’ll have a heck of a job getting to tune back in.

So, here’s a better plan. Never tax your audience by trying to cram loads of stuff into any talk. Perhaps you’ve heard me speak to why ‘Less is more’ anytime you speak? Well, when online, this is a triple, quadruple, or even higher multiple truism!

As I mentioned in a previous post called ‘Beware of Babbling Speeches’:

Subjecting an audience to oodles of detail that they can’t use soon is a waste of time. Even if vaguely interesting, few will even try to remember what you say. Why should they?

With everything else that’s going on in our far too busy worlds, most of our brains are already quite full ‘thank you very much’ and the last thing anyone needs is more stuff.

Enough said on that topic!

#3 Lead with stories to win hearts and minds, memorably

Fact. Across all languages and cultures, the vast majority of all knowledge you ever will get or give in life will come from stories – the stories you hear, the stories you experience, the stories you tell, and (especially) the stories you tell yourself. Nothing else comes close.

And worse still, if you’re someone who likes to share oodles of facts and details in talks…neither you nor your audiences are hard-wired to lean into or to remember these for any period of time.

And here’s something else you should know – drawn from the scientific research conducted over 30 years by US story consultant Kendall Haven:

‘Your brain is evolutionarily hardwired to think, understand, remember, and recall in specific story terms. We must. We can’t not do it…And you can’t help it…You turn everything into story before you pass it your conscious mind or memory’.

And the upshot is this: If you don’t lead with stories when giving any talk, you are setting your audience up to hear and remember less. And here’s another guarantee, your audience engagement will also be far, far less.

And since you know engagement is king when online, why not do your audience and yourself a favour – share more of the one thing you know will delight, captivate, and transform your audiences’ experiences: Stories!