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The one reason most people fail at virtual presentations and how to fix it

Virtual presentations aren’t going away anytime soon, so it’s best you learn how to do it effectively, explains business storytelling expert, Gabrielle Dolan.

Virtual Presentations

Over the last two years, we have endured more virtual presentations than we ever would have expected. I say ‘endure’ deliberately because in many cases, perhaps most cases, it has required both stamina and patience. Whether it is a team meeting, formal training, conference presentations or any other experience that we would typically conduct in person, the COVID pandemic has required the switch to a virtual world.

In this time, I have seen many people present whom I would consider very good live presenters, yet they have been terrible in a virtual setting.

There are numerous tips and techniques you can adopt to make your virtual presentations better. Many people don’t know these, so I will get to a few in a moment. But the biggest reason people suck at virtual presentations occurs well before they even start… and the cause is mindset.

Some people go into virtual presentations thinking, ‘It’s just virtual’. They know that people’s expectations are lower for virtual presentations, which leads them to believe they don’t need to prepare or practise as much.

For others, experience has also shown that presenting virtually is much harder. “It’s so hard to read the room virtually” is a common cry I hear. And yes, it is. I have been speaking and training people for over 25 years and there is absolutely no doubt that virtual presentations are harder.

There are various reasons why this is the case. It can be extremely difficult to read the room; it is harder to maintain your energy; engagement and interaction can feel like drawing blood from a stone; monitoring the chat can be both distracting and exhausting; breakout rooms can be problematic… the list goes on.

Just because it is harder and everyone else sucks at it, it’s no excuse for incompetence. Virtual presentations are challenging, as demonstrated by the issues mentioned above, so we must therefore work harder.

Here are my top four tips to help improve virtual presentations:

  • Change your mindset. People are giving you their time to hear you speak, so make it worth their while.
  • If your presentation would normally be delivered to a live audience while you are standing, then stand and deliver when you present virtually. You will be amazed what this does for your energy.
  • Always have the camera at eye length, regardless of whether you are standing or sitting. No-one wants to look up your nose for an hour.
  • Look at the camera. This is perhaps one of the hardest adjustments when presenting virtually as our tendency is to look at the faces on the screen. When you do that, you are breaking eye contact with your audience.

Virtual presentations are not going away anytime soon. While they may be harder than face-to-face presentations, there are also several benefits that mean many companies will continue to use them. Consequently, it’s worth our while to get better at presenting in a virtual world.

Gabrielle Dolan is a global expert on business storytelling and real communication. She is also the author of Magnetic Stories: Connect with Customers and Engage Employees with Brand Storytelling.

Read next: Tips for flawless Zoom meetings while working from home

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