One day this Corona-crisis will end. But it has changed the way we work, forever. Conference rooms and lecture theatres are empty. But businesses and educational settings are realising that, actually, online communication is effective. Systems have coped. The world can keep turning and things can still happen. Going forwards, video conferencing, teaching and interviewing is going to be a big part of the business world.

But if we’re going to do it, please let’s do it well! Here are some things you can do to adapt your normal presenting style so that you don’t fall flat when you next present online.

Equipment-wise, a smart phone does as good a job as a fancy-pants camera, so don’t blow the budget on the latest tech. Get yourself a tripod and set up your shot so you can show as much as yourself as you want to. For example, it’s important to me that my clients can see me full-length as much of what I do is demonstrative (body language, posture etc), so I’ll check my frame and put markers down to show where best to stand/how far to move. If you’re using a laptop, practise the best angle for your screen, where to position yourself and so on.

It’s worth making sure you have a decent microphone as sound quality is important – think about it: you might watch a video with grainy imagery but good sound, but you wouldn’t watch a video with clear visual with terrible sound. Lapel mics are good as they are nice and close to your mouth. All mics pick up more ambient sound than you’d realise – shut the windows, plead with your neighbours to delay the lawn mowing and tell the kids to turn the telly down.

Lighting needs to be soft, ambient and coming from behind the camera (not behind you). Don’t stand in front of a window or directly under a spotlight. Play around until you feel like you look good!

Don’t be afraid to show your background. As long as it isn’t distracting, inspiring art work, a neatly-organised bookcase or even a tidy kitchen are much more interesting backdrops than a blank wall. Remember, we’re trying to get people to feel like they know us and can relate to us, so don’t try and wipe any evidence of family or home life away!

Try to keep your clothing simple: now isn’t the time to experiment with fashion. Not only will it be distracting, you’ll also find that bold prints/colours/stripes will distort on screen. Avoid bright white as it will glare.

So that’s the technical side dealt with. My biggest frustration with video presenting is that it can get a bit “casual”. People think the normal rules for presenting don’t apply, just because they’re presenting to a phone or computer screen. Let me just remind you of a few things that you really have to remember so that your presentation actually does what you want it to do.

  • Be prepared! You still need to know what you’re going to say, and keep it short and to the point. Work out your core message: which is, what do you want people to DO as a result of listening to you speak? Get your slides sorted: don’t be fumbling around with your tech and looking incompetent. Make sure you have a run through: don’t let the “real thing” be the first time you have ever run the presentation. And remember, you might feel nervous, just like you might if you were “in the room”. So, use your breath to calm you down (drop me an email for more info on how to do this).
  • Use your voice. Just because you’re using a microphone, or you’re in a small space, you still need to project, and you still need to remember the rules for using your voice to interest. Pace, volume, pitch, pause…use it all, as you would if you were telling a story to friends or your children, to break things up and cut through the acoustic challenges of video presenting.
  • Body language is critical. If you don’t have the advantage of being in the room with the people you’re talking to, it is harder to make that physical connection. Whether you’re sitting or standing, your non-verbal communication is telling them something. You want them to know you’re confident and relaxed, and you need to come across as natural, but not slouchy. Take time before your call to warm up your body and practise your deep breathing so that no tension is evident. If your audience can only see the top half of your body, you don’t want your shoulders up around your ears.
  • The camera amplifies everything, so watch your gesture. If you’re doing full-length videos, you can get away with a bit more, but if you’re just in a headshot then you don’t want to be waving your hands around – they’ll be very distracting. Equally, don’t keep touching your face or pushing your hair back off your forehead.
  • Video yourself and watch it back. Even better, asked a trusted friend to watch it and ask for feedback. We all hate watching ourselves on screen, and although it is a good way to learn, I don’t always recommend it to my clients because I think it can make people too self-conscious. But in this instance, it is a good way of becoming aware of those distracting little habits you have.
  • Eye contact. Some people really struggle, in day to day conversation, to hold eye contact. But if you keep looking away, you look shifty, unsure, bored, disengaged…..When you’re presenting, talk to the camera as though it’s your best friend. Look directly into it, and speak conversationally. If you’re part of a conference call, you may have lots of faces on your screen, so you have real people to focus on. Put your phone away, turn off Messenger – if your eyes flick away to look at something else, even briefly, you’ll look like you have somewhere better to be.
  • The same rules apply for content as would in a face-to-face presentation: make it human, find the story, show your empathy, make them trust you (read more).
  • Same rules apply to slides, too. We are not as good at multitasking as we all like to think we are, so don’t fill your slides with words and stats and then try and talk over them, expecting your audience to listen and read at the same time. SLIDES ILLUSTRATE YOUR WORDS, THEY DON’T REPLACE THEM.
  • Keep it short. You are not just competing with our naturally short attention span, but you’re now also competing with your audience’s children fighting in the room next door, the dog needing to go out, the four year old needing an urgent Babybel NOW…trim down your content to the key message.
  • PASSION.  This is how you’ll keep your audience engaged. If you excite them with your passion for your story, they won’t be able to tear themselves away.

Lots more advice on my website here.