Virtually Speaking

Whether its Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, or whatever platform your organization prefers, we have all settled into virtual meetings as part of our work world. Public speaking can now be done from the privacy of your own home, with pants optional even, and after we get control of the virus spread and Covid restrictions are lessened, the tele-meet option is likely here to stay.  I think often about what this is doing to our interpersonal communication. Are we losing the ability to make eye contact when we meet in person? 

Let’s go glass-half-full instead and look at the positives.  We can meet with someone on the other side of the globe, pitch them an idea or a proposal, and see and hear their reactions in real time without ever leaving town.  Our commutes are now no longer than the thirty seconds it takes to get down the hall, saving time and money. Finally, the unavoidable comedic moments (think Cat Lawyer) that arise from all these technological variables provide some welcome levity during these high intensity times.

Now that we’ve accepted the virtual reality, we need to maximize the medium and make sure we are presenting ourselves effectively to our clients and colleagues.  Online or not, it is still a form of public speaking which requires some attention to the details to be effective. Here are some ways to tip the scale in your favor:

  • Get the lighting right. As a cameraman, this tops my list. If they can’t see you, they won’t listen to you. Ring lights are cheap and work great, but a desk lamp can do the same. Just get some light on your face and avoid putting the bright window behind you.
  • Create a professional work environment from home by limiting distractions and ensuring that technology is tested and working properly prior to the start of meetings and events.
  • Check your background for distractions as well. Avoid clutter or anything that detracts from your professional image.
  • Raise your laptop to eye level and avoid pointing the camera at your ceiling.Fill the frame with your head and shoulders.
  • Give yourself a last-minute check before clicking “Join”. First impressions still matter.• Manage your nerves through preparation and practice; prepare your thoughts before speaking at meetings and definitely practice if it’s a formal presentation.
  • Rehearse the technical too. Make sure if you will be sharing your screen, you have the right info available and have checked the sound as well. Have a redundancy plan too. Make sure someone else on your team has the info ready in case you have technical difficulties.
  • Engage Your Participants. Just as if you were doing an in-person presentation, craft your presentation to engage the audience. Incorporate chats, polls, raised hand features, etc. Try not to speak for more than ten minutes without some sort of audience engagement.
  • Be Animated: Just like in a live presentation, you want to present with a little energy and animation. Too slow or too monotone in your voice makes it easy for folks to disengage and tune out. Keeping people engaged virtually requires you to actually be engaging.
  • Control the urge to interrupt others, especially those outside your organization such as a client or another conference panelist, who may perceive it as rude and dismissive. Write down your comments and wait for the right time to share them.
  • Avoid multi-tasking. People will notice if you check your email or text on your phone. You wouldn’t do that in person, so don’t do it here.
  • Be Yourself and Have Fun: Again, just like in face-to-face presentations, audiences connect to authenticity, so be yourself! Let your personality show through. Have fun. If you look like you’re enjoying the presentation so will others. Trust yourself and your prep. You got this!