Giving a virtual presentation to a tech audience has special challenges, but an expert provides tips to overcome any obstacles and give an engaging and informative talk.
It’s fairly easy to tell if people aren’t paying attention during your presentation or meeting. Eyes glaze over, bodies slump in chairs and someone appears to be engrossed in a Sudoku puzzle. That’s the signal that you need to make more of an effort to engage the audience by soliciting feedback or doing anything short of juggling to get their interest.
But when you’re giving a virtual presentation, how do you know when things aren’t going well until it’s too late? How do you salvage your presentation and all your hard work when your virtual audience tuned you out 20 minutes ago?
Matt Forrest Abrahams, a lecturer on organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, teaches how to make virtual communications more effective, and he says that speaking in front of a virtual audience that is tech-savvy does have unique challenges.
“I’d say the biggest problem is that people don’t practice their (presentation) content,” he says. “By that I don’t mean checking their slides. I mean actually recording themselves to ensure the technology will work correctly, and they’re being engaging.”
Abrahams explains that when there is a virtual audience, the speaker must plan ahead and consider not just his or her role – but what he or she wants from the participants, such as support of a new app or cross-functional collaboration.
In a virtual presentation, for example, the presenter may need to prepare the audience beforehand to be engaged. This can be done by sending out a poll or contacting participants beforehand to get a handle on their concerns or interest that can be addressed during a virtual get-together.
“Remember that people in a virtual presentation are going to be sitting in front of the biggest distraction there is: the computer,” he says.
Plant ways throughout your discussion to grab their attention, such as revealing the poll results, or asking them to imagine something (“Imagine getting to collaborate with whomever you want….”), he suggests.
Abrahams says virtual presenters may not realize that it can be more difficult to solicit questions or input from virtual audience members, which is why it’s important they contact some beforehand.
“You don’t want to ambush these people, but you can contact them and say, ‘I might ask you to share your experience about….,’” he says. “By asking them to share beforehand, then this also makes them pay more attention during your presentation. You don’t have to do this with everyone who is going to attend, but it’s sort of like a jigsaw puzzle – you’re asking others to contribute a piece.”
In addition, virtual presentations mean that you’ve got to pay more attention to details like your voice and gestures since your audience will find it more difficult to pick up body language and other subtle clues that underscore your message.
The next time you need to give a virtual presentation or lead a remote meeting, here are key things Abrahams says you need to think about to ensure your message has the most impact: