Virtual meetings are now a big part of working life and even with a return to the workplace in sight, they are likely to continue. Doing things 'virtually' drives efficiencies - you can attend from any location - but sometimes the personal connection can be lost. It is a challenge to read the room from laptop screens. So how do you ensure folk are staying engaged (and not checking their emails on a separate screen) during your presentation?
Orlaith Carmody, executive coach, communications specialist, and former broadcaster with RTÉ, delivered a fantastic session for the PM Forum where she talked through a simple process for successful presentations.
1. Put the audience first - To engage your audience you need to put them above everything else. Have a clear understanding of the audience, who they are, and importantly understand what they are expecting of you.
2. Have a desired goal - Have a clear understanding of where you want to get to from the audience listening to your presentation.
3. Clear messaging - The message needs to be both relevant to the audience and inline with your desired goal, and so you can only do this stage having complete steps 1 & 2.
Orlaith also shared her simple structure that is useful for preparing your presentation.
Always start with a bang. Using punchy questions and statements creates an impact to hook the audience.
Deliver your message and then bring these points to life with story. Your audience will hear the statistics but will connect with the anecdotes.
Jump on and off of screen share. People are more likely to zone out when you are sharing a presentation so try to do a mix of on camera talking and screen sharing. Its also worth noting that when you share your screen on Zoom it automatically brings the viewers to that window, so if they were looking at something else it would pop you back onto their screen.
Pull people in with questions and name checks. Ask questions, but try not to put people on the spot (unless that's your intention...). If you need to be a bit more subtle, a name check is a good option for re-engaging a distracted audience member e.g "At this point Sarah, you are probably wondering why this is relevant to you and the Client Support team, and I'll show you now.."
Finish as you started - punchy and concise. Come to a solid end and avoid the fade-out ramble. End with an ask or a question.
To wrap things up Orlaith pointed out being a great presenter was learned and earned, you presenting is like a muscle, you've got practise and train for it to become strong.