It’s a given that the ability to deliver an effective presentation is a critical skill in business. But today, some presentations may have to be delivered via teleconference or videoconference. Cost is one reason. When your audience is in different locations, travel costs may make face-to-face meetings prohibitive. Time constraints of busy professionals are another reason. What’s more, a wide variety of both free and fee-based technology tools out there are making distance presenting easier and more common.
Teleconferences, videoconferences and webinars are effective ways to reach audiences. However, there are some trade-offs from conventional presenting you need to be aware of. In this article, we’ll focus on teleconferences or webinars involving this format:
- The presenter can be heard but not seen by the audience.
- The presenter can hear but not see the audience.
- The presenter is using PowerPoint or other audiovisuals, such as video.
Also, our focus will be on the presenter’s delivery skills, not on the various technology platforms that can be used to broadcast the presentation.
If you’ve ever participated in a teleconference as a presenter or as an audience member, you know that there are some challenges to overcome. Presenters often seem to lack energy and sound flat – especially if they are reading a script. This bores the audience and they quickly begin to multi-task – checking and sending emails and texts, surfing the internet, etc.
To minimize or eliminate these and other problems, consider the following:
Increase your energy
One of the biggest disadvantages of presenting via teleconference is the inability to see the audience and therefore, feed off their energy. So you must take other measures to generate energy, which the audience needs in order to remain engaged. Aim for about a 50 percent increase over your normal energy level. Here are some ways to do that:
- Speak louder. Increasing volume is one of the easiest ways to raise vocal energy.
- Deliver your presentation while standing. Doing so will allow you to breathe more deeply, become more animated and add more inflection to your voice.
- Use a good-quality lavaliere or headset microphone. These mics deliver consistent sound and allow you to move around, something that also increases energy.
Remember, in a teleconference, of the three communication components that connect you with the audience (visual, vocal and verbal), one of them is missing – the visual. So, the vocal element takes on added importance – contributing some 86 percent to making that connection.
Keep the audience engaged
In a face-to-face presentation, a solid presenter can usually hold an audience’s interest for about 20 minutes. Audience attention wanes more quickly in a teleconference – so use these strategies:
- Stick to the most important information. Don’t wander or get sidetracked. Be disciplined with your content.
- Consider incorporating short video or audio clips, if appropriate.
- Involve the audience – “pop quiz” questions, etc.
- Use analogies, stories or examples to bolster your messages.
- Ask rhetorical questions (which turn passive listeners into active thinkers).
- Provide occasional brief reminders of what was covered or statements such as, “Does that make sense?” or “Is that clear?”
- Consider allowing audience members to ask questions during the presentation rather than after it. This can be tricky and you need to control it carefully to keep the presentation moving, but a few “interruptions” can help break up non-stop talking. Regardless of how you structure the Q&A portion, have questioners introduce themselves (i.e., name) so the audience knows who’s speaking (and so you can use names when responding).
- Allow time for breaks if your presentation is long.
Avoid reading from a script
You’re at a concert. The performer plays or sings every song without once using sheet music . . . for the entire two-hour show! You’re impressed . . . even if you weren’t consciously aware of it. Do likewise when presenting via teleconference. Don’t read a script because you know the audience can’t see it. They can hear it. Research shows that script readers are perceived as less knowledgeable. They also sound less interesting. Instead, use notes but speak conversationally.
Share your visuals properly
In most teleconferences involving visuals (usually PowerPoint), the audience is listening by phone or streaming audio while the visuals are being projected online. There are several approaches you can take. Here’s the best approach:
- Avoid sharing your slides beforehand. Audiences can read faster than you can talk, so they are likely to read ahead – causing you to lose control of the flow of information.
- Use technology that lets you rather than the audience control the progression of your slides. That way all viewers are synchronized. Plus, you won’t need to constantly tell your audience what slide you’re on (e.g., “Now, turning to slide number 7. . .”).
- Allow the audience to download the slides after the presentation.
Being an audience member in a teleconference requires little effort. Not so if you’re the presenter. Presenting effectively via teleconference requires you to shift gears a bit, and use some techniques that differ from conventional presenting.