Leaders are realising there are considerable upsides to virtual presenting:

  • Saving time and money
  • Wider reach
  • Audience and presenter typically more relaxed
  • Easy and straightforward to record and share presentations
  • Reduces the amount of carbon in the environment.

But, it’s very possible to be quite dull when presenting online. You, like me, will have yawned your way through dozens of virtual presentations in the last 2 months. Many worked though.

What is the difference that makes the difference?

Here are the 3 key distinctions in virtual presenting.

1. There are more potential distractions virtually

Have you focused 100% on every presentation you have attended online? Come on…

A survey from Intercall, the largest international conference call company, finds that when I occasionally zone out during presentations, I am participating in a national pastime. The survey concluded many of us do other work, message, use social media, play games and shop!

We know that multi-tasking audiences’ attention span is short. When Lloyds Bank studied what causes careless, costly household accidents, the researchers made an interesting discovery; the average adult attention span has plummeted from 12 minutes a decade ago to just 5 minutes in 2020.

So, what happens if you are pitching for work, or getting a key message across to worried and anxious employees and it is 20 minutes long? With an attention span of 5 minutes, the average audience is going to tune out 75% of the time.distractions virtual presentationsFirst – reduce your content. Less is more and get really clear on your key messages.

Remember the Power of 3 – if you want to be memorable. We are surrounded by 3’s in branding and it is embedded in all cultures:

  • Nike: ‘Just do it’
  • McDonalds: ‘I’m loving it’
  • The Holy Trinity
  • Location location location
  • ‘Stay home, Protect the NHS, Save lives’.

2. Body language has less impact – focus on your voice

Voice is more important than body language in virtual presenting.

Focus on developing variety in your voice and choosing the right words that will help you achieve your outcome to persuade, motivate, or win business.

The audience sees a smaller version of you online. Most presentations are delivered sitting down, the shot is usually of your top half and the focus is mainly on the face and your eyes. You do not have the eye contact, and therefore it’s tougher to pick up on visual clues and judge the energy in the room.

The key to vocal impact is variety.

What do I want to project? Do I want to connect with the audience or is it important to be credible? Or both?

You can adapt your voice to fit your desired outcome.

If you want to be a credible (the experienced, knowledgeable expert) then speak like this:

  • Slow
  • With pauses
  • Quite monotone
  • Go down at the end of the phrase.

If you want to connect, then speak like this:

  • Faster
  • No pauses
  • Lots of musicality
  • Up at the end of the phrase.
airplane taking off voice in speech

Let your voice take off like a plane

3. You have to engage more

If you don’t sustain involvement, your audience will retreat into that alluring observer role, or you will just lose them permanently.

Want to fail?

  • Broadcast
  • Use hundreds of bulleted slides
  • Speak for longer than required
  • Make it all about your expertise

Want to succeed?

You the presenter

You need to be present when you present. You cannot just hide behind the technology.

Here are 3 controllables:

  • Get yourself into a resourceful state. Your audience will pick up on your nerves.
  • Look directly into the camera – your virtual eye contact. Avoid looking at your audience or looking down at your notes. These behaviours can make you look shifty, or nervous.
  • Use a spike. You have 8 seconds to grab the audience’s attention at the start of any presentation. A spike is a sentence that gets to the heart of your presentation. For example, a mobile communications director said to an investment group: ‘50% of the world’s population have neither made nor received a phone call’. I often start my keynotes by saying ‘presenters are made, not born’.


Get the basics right first:

  • Buy a decent webcam
  • Make sure you are well light
  • Ensure your camera is at eye level
  • Reduce clutter behind you
  • Silence your pop ups

filming from home presentation technologyActivities

Engage in the first 2 minutes and have an activity every 5 minutes.

You can:

  • Run polls and create immediate word clouds showing audience ideas
  • Ask questions and get responses in the chat area
  • Break out into groups and brainstorm options or solve problems
  • Run a quiz
  • Create a virtual hot seat

So, in summary, 3 key distinctions:

  1. There are more potential distractions virtually
  2. Body language has less impact – focus on your voice
  3. You have to engage more.

Which of these will make the biggest positive difference to your impact as a virtual presenter?

Leave a Reply