Presenting online is not just about giving information – it’s about giving your audience an experience. The better the experience is, the more the audience will believe and remember your message, and the more they will look forward to future meetings, pitches, and presentations with you.
It’s worth considering the question ‘What experience is the audience getting?’ when planning and preparing your next pitch or presentation. If the answer is ’45 minutes of looking at complex slides accompanied by a monotone drone’ then you’ve got some work to do!
Focus on this list to help create a better audience experience:
CLARITY: Give clear instructions in advance on how to join and what to prepare (if necessary) along with an agenda and timings. Be wary of vague words such as ‘catchup’ and ‘update’.
TITLES: Following on from that, think caerefully about the titles you give to your presentations and pitches. When someone looks in their diary, does your meeting leap out as something interesting and engaging or does it just say ‘Updateon Project X’? Wouldn’t it be a better experience if they saw something like ‘Project X – 4 problems to overcome in 14 days’?
TIMING: Punctuality really matters online. You must give yourself time for technical problems, signing-in issues and so on. My rule-of-thumb is to be ready to go, with all checks completed, at least 15 minutes in advance of the meeting.
At the other end of the meeting, you must finish on time, ideally a little earlier to allow time for the unexpected. Keeping to time, and being on time, is one of the best ways to improve the audience experience.
VARIETY: Humans like variety. Avoid sticking to one thing for two long. For example, instead of just presenting with slides, switch between slides and just you the presenter. When you’re using slides, switch between images and text. Where you’re presenting in a team, think about switching between people several times, rather than letting one person do their ‘bit’ and then the next. If you’re presenting alone, try to vary the pace and tone of your voice occasionally.
If you’re presenting to the same audience often – for example your team, or a regular client, then change the formula occasionally. Instead of always starting with a ‘catchup’ (can you tell I hate that word?) start with a problem to solve, or something more focused.
VISUALS: Remember the suggestion above to think of your online presentation as more like a TV show than a PowerPoint show.
Make sure that you are well-framed in the camera (roughly in the centre) and that your webcam is on a stable, level base. Learn to sit fairly still while presenting – watching someone wobble around, while their camera is on a slant is not a great experience for an audience!
I’ve already given advice on using slides, but remember that the best experience for an audience is usually made of of movement and interest – if you’re using slides, keep them moving, and keep them interesting and relevant.
LEAD THE SLIDES: If you are using slides, try to lead the slides, rather than let the slides lead you. Don’t be the kind of presenter who needs to click through to a slide to know what it is. This will lessen your impact and credibility. Instead, fill your pitch with phrases like – ‘So this leads us to an important question, which you’ll see the answer to on the next slide …’
INTRIGUE: I’m a huge fan of ‘intrigue’ as part of a pitch or presentation. Fill your pitch with little moments of intrigue. Phrase like ‘As you see on the next slide …’ and ‘This takes us to an important point, but first, let’s consider …’ can be great ways to keep your audience interested and engaged, and make a better experience for them.