Speaking at a live event is much different from speaking on camera. Someone who thrives on audience reaction while speaking live, may not feel at ease in front of the small screen. Since the pandemic, in-person events have come roaring back. However, virtual events, webinars and on-demand sessions still have a place in your marketing strategy due to their ability to expand brand reach and provide ongoing educational opportunities for customers and company employees. In fact, 75% of virtual event participants found access to on-demand sessions extremely valuable, even with the return of live events. Therefore, if you are a presenter or speaker for a virtual event or webinar, understanding the medium and putting in the work to be compelling and interesting on camera is paramount in order to connect with audiences and make your message memorable. Let’s talk about how speakers can make an impact and be ready for their close-ups, Mr. DeMille.
Begin with Basics
We’re all used to the casualness of Zoom meetings, but business casual is the appropriate dress when speaking at a virtual event or webinar. Remember that people are viewing through a small screen, so don’t fidget or move around. Sit up straight. Slouching may be comfortable, but it conveys disinterest. Consider a neutral background – not too busy or distracting. Make sure you’re in a quiet room, void of interruptions. Today’s virtual event production requires that the home workplace becomes a video production studio. That means PC camera positions, flattering face-level lighting, quality microphones, stronger internet connections (using Ethernet cable instead of Wi-Fi) all become paramount.
Pro-tip: Avoid sitting in front of an open window because your face will be cast in shadow!
This one expression can change the emotion and tenor of any speech, even one where serious issues are being discussed. Smiling can seem unnatural when presenting, however, a smile is a breath of fresh air. It conveys warmth, friendliness, and compassion. Your audience will be immediately drawn in.
Maintain High Energy Levels
Virtual events present enough problems keeping people interested and engaged. Maintain high energy levels throughout your presentation. High energy and animated presenters appear interested and passionate about their subject matter and your audience will sit up and pay attention.
Pro-Tip: Consider standing. Use a standing desk or position your computer at eye level. Standing puts us in presentation mode and helps keep energy levels high.
Tell a Compelling Story
Now we’re getting to the meat of the matter. When you’re speaking to a live audience you can see whether you’re connecting and effective. Speaking to a screen – who knows? One way to connect on an emotional level with your audience and not lose them to checking the news is to improve your storytelling ability. Discussing your products and services may be the ultimate goal but start off by setting the scene. Talk about what’s happening in the industry and the challenges and concerns people have. Make the intro to your subject matter personal and relevant. Offer solutions and give people hope. The star of the show is always, ALWAYS, your customers and prospects.
Pro-tip: Keep your presentations short and go beyond PowerPoint by incorporating video. Video will help you engage visually with your audience and inspire them to action.
Connect One-On-One with the Camera
The camera is your friend. The loss of physical connection with a live audience requires that speakers develop new skills for engagement. Do you remember the news anchor Diane Sawyer? She had a conversational, personal, relaxed style and a way of leaning into the camera that was captivating and felt as if she was talking directly to you. Look straight at the camera. This takes practice, but to your customers it will appear as though you are making direct eye contact with them. The skill of talking as if to one person is worth developing, and one that will set you apart from other speakers.
Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse
And then rehearse some more! Your production team will hopefully schedule a dress rehearsal, just like in a professional studio, to assure uniform production quality and that you’re comfortable with your delivery and content. But you can rehearse with a trusted colleague or family member, as well. Consider recording your rehearsal. The old saying, the camera doesn’t lie is spot on. In short, there is no substitute for being prepared. None. Allow plenty of time for this important step. Make sure you know your script inside and out and that you are comfortable with the technology. Being comfortable with your material will give you the freedom to go off script if spontaneity or humor is called for. Then, you can go right back on point and carry on.
Be Yourself and Have Fun
Never try to be someone you’re not. People ask, “What if I’m not energetic or charismatic?” Ok, valid point. But the characteristic everyone should have when representing a brand and a company is ENTHUSIASM. Enthusiasm goes beyond mere interest and is contagious to your target audience. Strive for authenticity, not a robotic and perfect delivery. If you screw up, use the occasion for some self-deprecating humor and move on.
We’ve all had enough seriousness in our lives recently. A little levity and humor go a long way and will create memorable moments.
You only get one chance at a first impression. Although you don’t have the luxury of immediate audience feedback, the goals for speaking in a virtual world are no different than speaking in a face-to-face setting. You want to persuade by making the complex simple and by thinking of your audience first. Focus your message, understand the virtual world and the technology, keep it short, strive to connect, tell a great story, dress the part, be yourself, rehearse the heck out it and then HAVE FUN. Virtually speaking, of course.
Whether on-screen or on-site, we have experienced trainers in the field of executive presentation skills for the camera, as well as for live events. We also offer speech writing, visual support, and video production. Let’s create a great first impression!
Related: Strategies for Producing Engaging Virtual Events