Acing your next live online presentation or webinar
By Lyn Roseaman, Toastmasters International
The pandemic has completely shifted online from a communication choice to an essential for our personal and business lives. We’re all learning to be more effective online, but acing your webinar requires specific skills which are different from what is need when communicating in the room with your audience.
Standout speaking online brings its own challenges that even experienced speakers are grappling with. How do you set up your tech for great eye contact? How do you grab and keep your audience’s attention, especially if you can’t see them? How should you structure what you want to say to maintain interest and land your message? And what about words and gestures? Speaking to a group can often be daunting, but the challenges intensify when you are adapting to the online environment.
Let’s look at what you need to ace your online webinars, presentations etc with Confidence, Connection and a message that drives Change.
Feeling nervous is our brain’s way of keeping us safe, but it makes our audience feel uncomfortable and concerned for our wellbeing. Online, they may choose to abandon us and stop listening.
“There are two types of speakers. Those who get nervous and those who are liars” (Mark Twain)
To ensure our listeners engage with our message we need to bring confident energy to the screen. This will mean that our audience can relax and connect with us and what we’re saying. How is this achieved?
Get ready for your close up
When you go online from home, it’s easy to overlook your familiar surroundings. What’s on the walls and behind you that the camera will pick up? Are there people or sounds that may interrupt? Is the space you’ve chosen sending out the message you intend? A junk room is probably not the ideal spot to position your camera for a business webinar.
Think about being online as having a close up. You’re on the small screen and the camera will pick up every detail, expression and gesture. Is your lighting setting you off to best advantage? Is the light behind the camera so that you’re not plunged into shadow? Is dazzling sunshine making you squint or bouncing flare onto your face, especially if you wear glasses? Capture a photo/screenshot before you go live to make sure you’re looking the part – you’re ready for your close up.
Keep yourself calm
Online, we need to convey a feeling of calm and control when we host a meeting or event, handle technology and ensure everything runs smoothly.
In spite of doing all the appropriate tech checks, things can still go wrong. And people accept that this can happen. What’s important is that you handle it calmly and efficiently, explaining what’s happening. If you can find someone else to take care of the tech for you, great.
Manage your body language
Think of all the non-verbal ways you can convey confident energy online:
If you’ve been to conference you may well have notice that some speakers have a queue of people waiting to talk to them. These speakers had connected, both in terms of the value they gave to the audience – their relevant message – and the way the speaker made them feel.
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel” (Carl W Buehner)
Answer the question ‘What’s in it for me?
As a webinar host it’s your responsibility to know what your listeners are expecting from you, i.e. answering their all-important ‘What’s in it for me’ question – as quickly as possible – so that they have a reason to carry on listening. To achieve this, you need to know your participants. Find out who they are, what makes them tick and why they’re attending.
Use the magic word
‘You’ is the magic word when it comes to being relevant and engaging online. In English, ‘you’ power comes from being both singular – a one-to-one conversation – and plural, including everyone. You-focused language simultaneously creates a feeling of inclusivity and a personal connection with every listener.
If you can create a feeling of ‘we’re in this together’, encouraging interaction between presenter and participants, then you hit that ‘sweet spot’ of co-creation. To ensure this run smoothly online, you’ll need to help people to listen to each other and avoid all talking at once.
Share your stories and dial down PowerPoint
Storytelling comes into its own online. When we tell a relevant personal story, openly and honestly, our listeners can relate to us. Stories create connections and are both engaging and memorable. In her book ‘Now You’re Talking!’ Lyn Roseaman observes:
“Engaging speakers share their message through stories. They can move an audience, even in business settings, to feel, laugh or cry, and are memorable for all the right reasons.”
In stark contrast, sharing your screen and wading through bullet points is neither engaging nor memorable and fast-track to losing your listeners.
In the words of John F Kennedy (US President, 1961-63), “The only reason to give a speech is to change the world.”
With our world currently turned on its head, online meetings, events and conversations are our opportunity to remain visible, explore and share change and start building our future together.
Your new and relevant message
In a few key strokes, search engines can tell us what’s new and different online. If we want to stand out and keep our listeners interested we need to ensure what we have to say is relevant and on-point.
Start at the end of your presentation or meeting with how you want your listeners to think, feel or act after they’ve experienced what you have to say. Identify your message – one that is refreshed and relevant to now – and then incorporate only content that supports it.
Make it memorable with a rhythmic and rhyming anchor phrase that captures the essence of your talk in ten words or fewer, e.g. ‘Home is where we start from’ (Aileen Evans) or ‘It’s the world’s thinnest notebook (Steve Jobs).
Make life easy for your audience
Our attention spans are short at the best of times. Online, there is even less appetite for asides and digressions than when you’re in the same room as your listeners, so it’s crucial to get to the point and stay relevant. Less is most definitely more online.
Structure and signpost your talk so that it is easy to understand and follow. Consider a clear structure, such as a timeline, pros & cons, hero’s journey, etc. Break up your presentation into small ‘chunks’ of around five minutes each and top and tail each chunk with what you plan to cover and a keyword to sum it up as you move on to the next chunk. Signpost what you have to say to let your audience know the ‘road map’ or agenda for your talk to make it clear and easy to follow.
You need specific skills to communicate your message online. Use the information above to hone your online speaking, and you’ll shine online and ace your future webinars.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lyn Roseaman is a Distinguished Toastmaster at Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org