Even if you are a naturally confident public speaker, it’s obvious that your go-tos for engaging an audience in person aren’t as effective virtually.

Take body language for instance.

In face-to-face presentations, body language (aka non-verbal communication) is a critical factor to get right.

A little while back I made a short video about how to master the art of body language:

What about virtual presentations?

Virtual presentations are another story.

As only part of you is seen, the focus is more on your face than on your body. Basically, your body doesn’t have much room to talk!

half naked conference call zoom

The communication percentages are therefore flipped. With virtual presentations voice and words take on far more importance than body language.

Let’s break it down and see what that might look like in a successful virtual presentation.

The Voice in Virtual Presentation

How you use your voice in a presentation depends on what image you want to project. Do you want to be a stately and credible speaker? Or an approachable human-being? Or a bit of both?

credible connector voice speaking

I like to use the analogy of a plane to differentiate between two major modes of speaking.

Voice type 1: Connector

If you want to connect with your audience on a human-level then you need to speak like a flight attendant:

Speak like this:

  • Faster
  • No pauses
  • Lots of musicality
  • Up at the end of the phrase

Voice type 2: Credible

On the other hand, if you want to impart some serious knowledge on your audience, and give yourself some gravitas, you need to speak like a pilot:

Speak like this:

  • Slow
  • With pauses
  • Quite monotone
  • And go down at the end of the phrase

What journey is your voice taking your audience on?

Variety is so critical if you want to have strong vocal impact!

Think of your presentation as a journey, or a story – how are you going to add light and shade to it with your voice? How are you going to emphasise the most important moments?

Body Language in virtual presentations

While voice is king in virtual presentations, is there still a place for body language?

Absolutely, but it won’t look quite the same as online presentations.

Body language, in essence, is non-verbal communication: eye contact, gestures, and facial expressions. In a virtual landscape, only part of your body is seen, and the cues you send might not necessarily get picked up by your audience. Still use gesture if that is what you naturally do. Get well-grounded with hands by your side initially, if you are presenting standing up.

However, there are two key things you can do:

  • Look directly into the camera
  • Replace body language with great slides

Let’s break these down one by one…

The lens is the window to the soul

In real-life you can look into your audience’s eyes, so what’s the virtual equivalent? Looking into the lens.

Looking directly into the camera is something that far too many speakers forget to do. This is quite possibly because they’re not sure where it is (especially if you have multiple screens!)

If you are using a computer for your presentation then your lens will be at the top of your screen – that’s where you should be looking, not at the other speakers or your own face.

webcam lens virtual presentation

Get visual

Another way to replace body language is through the visuals you use in your presentation. These could be PowerPoint slides, videos, interactive polls, or more…

As anyone who has suffered from the infamous “Death by PowerPoint” knows, not all slides are going to be engaging.

As a point of fact, I’ve written a guide to creating exceptional online slides here.

Choosing the right background

Backgrounds take on a greater importance in virtual presentations than they do in real life. They set the scene and give the audience non-verbal cues about you.

If you have a choice, try to have a background that is:

  • Uncluttered
  • Plain
  • Or with features that reinforce the image you want to project (for example, for my Design & Deliver course, I present with my bookshelves in the background).

If there’s nowhere suitable in your home, don’t panic! This is where virtual background can come in useful. Instead of chaos, you could have a serene office background, or an image with useful information about your business.

virtual background ZoomZoom and Microsoft Teams have virtual background functions already integrated, making it easy to swap your clutter for a professional background.

If you are using Skype or Google Hangout for your presentation, then you can try out Snap Camera.

Need inspiration for your backgrounds?

  • Here is a useful list of downloadable professional backgrounds to choose from
  • Or you could design your own using Canva.

Did you know? Zoom has added a new feature that means you can replace your virtual background with PowerPoint slides. That’s a great way to not just hide your home, but also make your slides more engaging and human.

Want to become an exceptional virtual speaker?

I’m launching a brand-new course in September 2020 designed to turn novice and seasoned speakers into exceptional virtual speakers.

It’s called Design & Deliver and will take the form of bitesize videos accompanied by supplementary educational material. The course covers everything you need to know, from developing your voice, to mastering tech, and I will also be offering tailored presentation feedback.

Want to know more? Join our VIP mailing list here to be the first to know when the course launches (and get a 20% discount as a bonus too).