The New Executive Communication Skill: Top Tips for Nailing Your Remote Presentations

Surveys show the vast majority of business presentations are now done remotely. If your company is among the 83% of businesses who deliver remote presentations, are you keeping up with the presentation skills necessary to deliver them effectively?

The remote presentation has some unique challenges, whether it is a webinar that includes video of the presenter or one that relies on slides. The presenter may not have the full attention of the audience, who may be distracted or engaged in other tasks while watching. It’s also harder for the presenter to know whether he or she is connecting with the audience, without being able to see reactions.

Still, the new technologies in remote presentations have made them increasingly popular. Webinars do allow for ideas to be shared between distances, and between greater numbers of people. They can be a useful tool when presenters take full advantage of the medium and avoid the pitfalls. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your opportunity:

BE PRESENT—EVEN WHEN YOU’RE NOT: Your audience has their distractions, but as the presenter, you need to take care you do not give them any additional ones. Silence everything around you that might distract you or your audience; phones, cell phones and emails. Make sure you’re fully engaged in your presentation. Your audience will hear that engagement in your voice and pacing, even if they can’t see you.

PREPARE AS YOU WOULD IF THEY WERE IN FRONT OF YOU: Remote presentations are more difficult, precisely because you’re not in front of the audience commanding their attention. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that means they’re expecting less of you. Take your preparations for your presentation seriously. That means not only building the right content for the specific audience, but rehearsing out loud and in real time so you’re purposeful about your presentation.

KEEP IT MOVING: Slides that stay up too long or presenters who don’t vary their delivery, pitch, and content, quickly bore an audience. You don’t want to rush through the information in your presentation, but neither do you want to move so slowly, you invite people’s attention to wander. Keep your pace conversational and comfortable, but make sure the visuals you use do their part in creating interest. Make sure what you’re saying matches what we’re seeing when we’re seeing it. Rehearse until you can get this timing down.

DON’T READ YOUR MATERIALS VERBATIM: Your virtual audience no more wants to be read to than any audience does. Virtual presentations are not an excuse to load your audience down with detail and long explanations. Treat this format as you would any presentation: Limit the number of key ideas you’re presenting, and then talk your audience through the presentation as you guide them toward some action.

BE PREPARED FOR TECHNOLOGY FAILURES: Always have a full printed copy of your presentation with you in case the audience can’t see your slides or there are other mishaps. Make sure you’ve you’re your materials ahead of time so your audience can follow along in another way if they have to. Know your key messages well, so that at any point you can return to them if need be. Have a backup plan (i.e. second head-set) at the ready; just in case it’s needed. It always helps to have a facilitator so that someone else can worry about recovering in the case of a technology failure, while you concentrate on the presentation itself.

YOUR VOICE IS VITAL: If your audience can’t see you, your main tool is your voice. Yes, you’ll want to build a presentation that has great visuals to keep your audience tuned in, but it’s your voice that serves as the real guide as to whether your audience will pay attention. You’ll need to vary your voice and use it appropriately. That means letting your audience hear your enthusiasm, your passion and your belief in what you’re saying. Think about how to ADD voices of others in your presentation to keep interest up. You can use a co-presenter or you can build in video to change things up for your audience.

ON CAMERA? OWN IT!: If your audience can see you, make sure you give them something to look at. Don’t look away from the computer or camera lens while delivering. You want to give your audience as much “eye contact” as possible and that means directly looking in their direction. Try and visualize speaking to real people (because you are), even though you can’t see them. Remember they are watching you, so don’t fidget, slouch or look distracted.

GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO LOOK AT: Give your audience a real “show”. Think about your content like a story with a beginning, middle and end. If they can see you, think about the use of ‘props’ you can display as you speak. If they can’t see you and you’re dependent on slides, than think about how you can grab and keep their attention. (Hint: it’s not going to be with more text). What visuals can you add to maintain interest? Are they unique enough, compelling enough, to keep your audience tuned in?

BE WORTH IT: Make sure you give your audience something they couldn’t have otherwise gotten from you. That means your materials are not your “presentation”, you are. Figure out what you can give your audience that makes their attention worthwhile.

Virtual presentations can and do serve a purpose. If done correctly, the virtual presentation can serve as yet another important communication tool in the toolkit of today’s executives.

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Presenting with Confidence: What Strong Executive Presence Sounds Like

When we say someone “sounds believable” or “sounds like they know what they’re talking about,” what do we mean? What are we really saying about what we’re hearing and how it’s convinced us?

There are things successful executives do to display the kind of strong “executive presence” that’s helped them get ahead. Beyond the words they choose and even the ideas expressed, successful executives have another tool to demonstrate executive presence: their voice.

Borrow their tips to “power up” your presentations:

YOU’RE ON STAGE – SOUND LIKE IT: There is such a thing as “quiet confidence” but a public presentation is a better venue for displaying enthusiasm and certainty. Your voice is one of your main tools for commanding a room. Make sure you use its full range of power. Nothing can sink a presentation’s effectiveness more quickly than delivering a presentation in a monotonous or soft voice. Think about “presenting” in its full, theatrical sense. Let your voice really show your commitment to what you’re saying.

PROJECTING ISN’T SHOUTING: Project your voice to the back of the room and the people farthest away. That doesn’t mean shouting at them. Breathe from your diaphragm (like a baby: if your hand moves while resting on your diaphragm, you’re doing it right). Your goal is to use your voice naturally, but at a powerful level. Make sure no one is straining to hear you above the noise of those attending or conversely, wondering why you’re so shouting at them.

LET YOUR PRESENTATION BREATHE: Don’t pack so much into your presentation that you rush through in order to fit everything in. You want to make sure there are brief pauses built in, particularly when you’re delivering key points or changing to a new section. That will give you time for change-ups and help the audience as well. Remember we hear much faster than we process information. Especially with ideas we haven’t heard before, it’s important we have time for processing these ideas. Pauses (along with a bit of rephrasing and repetition) help your audience focus on your most important points and remember them.

SOUND LIKE YOU MEAN IT: Short, declarative sentences delivered with a voice that drops at the end, have power. If you leave your voice up or leave it in a neutral tone, it will have less power and thus less authority. Try not to string a series of phrases together in a sort of stream of consciousness delivery, connected with “and” or “so.” Instead, consider what you want to say and rehearse saying it out loud in shorter “bites.” The idea isn’t to memorize your notes or script in rehearsal, but to familiarize yourself with its broader themes and rhythms so that you know exactly what you want to emphasize. Listen to yourself as you deliver your material. If you’re stopping for breath mid-sentence, that’s a clue to shorten up your points. Successful presentations don’t happen by accident. Work for them, and sound as confident as you are in your ideas.

PowerPoint or No PowerPoint: That is the question

During every coaching session, the question is sure to come up. “Do I have to to use PowerPoint in my presentation?” PowerPoint has become almost synonymous in some circles with the modifier “boring”, but that’s not the fault of the tool. It reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of that tool’s purpose.

Before you toss the tool, ask yourself whether you’ve been using it effectively. Are your slides packed with text? Is the point of each slide difficult to follow? Are the slides chiefly there to help you communicate your points? Are you using your slides both as presentation tools and as handouts for the audience to read and refer to later?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may not be using PowerPoint very effectively.  Remember, if your audience can see and hear you, you need to be communicating differently than if you sent your information in an email, or mailed out printed material. Oral communication demands something different from both the presenter and the presentation. [Read more…]