Five Tips for Giving the Best Virtual Presentation

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Some people find giving virtual presentations even more intimidating than presenting in person. When the audience is in the same room, you can gauge their reactions to everything you say and respond appropriately. Presenting virtually, however, can feel like speaking into an empty, faceless void. Here are five tips for helping your virtual presentation for AIHce EXP 2020 be as welcoming and interesting an experience as is possible for you and your viewers and listeners.

Look straight at the camera.

How awkward is it when someone doesn’t look at you during a face-to-face conversation? This experience is even more uncomfortable virtually, where the other person isn’t even in the same room with you and you can’t even see what they’re looking so intently at.

Avoid this by looking directly into your camera lens, not at the screen, where you can see either your own face or those of your audience looking back at you. This give your viewers the impression that you are looking them in the eye through the camera. Resist as much as you can the urge to look down at your notes.

Practice and prepare.

You’re giving this presentation because you’re an expert on the topic, so make sure you look and sound like an expert, too. Practice ahead of time, and in addition to knowing everything that you’re going to say, record your practice sessions as well. Listen to the recordings, noting the things that work well and what could be improved. If you’ve never given a virtual presentation before, this is especially important, even if you’ve already given presentations in person. As mentioned above, the relationship between you and a virtual audience is not something with which you’ll be familiar.

Likewise, make sure before you present that all the necessary technology is working as intended, that your Wifi is reliable, that you understand how to use it, and that you know who to contact in case of difficulties. And just as if you were giving a presentation in person, make sure you’re early—log in at least 30 minutes before your presentation is set to begin.

Limit distractions.

You wouldn’t wear your pajamas if you were presenting at a physical conference, so dress professionally. In fact, you may need to choose your clothing more carefully than you would if presenting in person, as certain prints and colors will blend in with your background or won’t translate well to the screen. Wear neutral colors and avoid stripes and plaid to make your appearance less distracting for your audience.

Limit distractions in your background, too. Stand, don’t sit, and make sure you’re well-lit from above. Remove anything in the camera’s field of view that could draw your audience’s attention away from you and likewise ensure there is no background noise.

Speak directly to your audience.

You should almost always give your presentation on video because people greatly prefer looking at a human face to listening to a disembodied voice. Use body language and vary the pitch and tone of your voice, as if you were speaking to someone in front of you. In fact, it might help make the presentation feel less awkward if you pretend as if you’re giving it to a good friend, and act like you’re speaking to them. Address your audience on the other side of the camera as if you were speaking to an individual, not a crowd, using “you” as if you were speaking to a single person and “we” when referring to the group: for example, “Can you hear me,” not “Can everybody hear me.” Your viewers are probably at home, physically separate from each other: the singular “you” makes the presentation feel individualized, but “we” makes them feel connected to the group.

Engage your audience.

Keeping your audience engaged is both more difficult and more important when giving a virtual presentation, as your audience will have to resist the temptations of social media and other home distractions.

You might be interested in occasionally changing your visuals: engage your audience with slides to summarize your talking points, links, videos, images, and polls. Ask your audience questions, telling them to answer them in the chat feature. Whatever visuals you do decide to use, keep them simple and appealing. If you use slides, make them available to presentation attendees in advance, so that they can follow along if they wish. Consider holding a Q&A session at the end; while this year’s AIHce EXP sessions are pre-recorded, you should be in the chat room of your session to field questions.

Although you should stay on topic, variety keeps attendees engaged: you don’t want to vary what you say as much as the way in which you say it. Constantly try to pull the audience’s attention back to what you’re saying, whether that is through your delivery, or with your visuals or other interactive features.

We are going through an unusual, stressful moment in world history; that’s why we’re holding AIHce EXP 2020 virtually in the first place. While you can’t be expected to compete with current events for your audience’s attention, many people are looking for ways to keep busy and work on professional development. You can help both them and your own professional career by giving them the most interesting virtual presentation you can.

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