You’ve probably learned how to engage a live audience using body language cues such as eye contact, walking across the room and hand gestures. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has forced leaders to learn how to present virtually in a matter of weeks.
While your material may still be the same, you may find that your discussions aren’t as effective. In fact, research shows that an estimated 55% of an effective and persuasive presentation is actually in non-verbal communication. To help you continue to present effectively, here are some proven tips to help you connect better with your audience.
Understand Your Audience
You already know that if the message you’re pitching to your audience is unrelated to their pains, or if you’re speaking on a level too far above or below them, they’ll be difficult to engage. However, in a live presentation, you can usually gauge how the audience is reacting to your message by seeing how many are distracted with wandering eyes or fidgeting feet. A virtual presentation doesn’t give you that luxury. In some situations, you can’t even see your audience, which can make it more difficult to understand how they are reacting to your presentation.
Instead, think of how you can gather as much information about your audience ahead of time. Send surveys to ask them what they want to hear about, and have them submit any questions they might have ahead of time. Before the presentation starts, ask people to introduce themselves and say what they are most interested in learning about.
If you pinpoint ahead of time exactly whom you’re going to talk to, it will help you feel more comfortable talking to a crowd you can’t see and make your message much more persuasive.
Think about retail: It’s easier to turn down a product when it’s sold online by a faceless company. However, when you’re in a store and you’ve been engaging with a sales rep, you’re probably much more open to trying on a shirt that he or she recommends.
The same concept applies to persuading people to “buy” your message. Ask your participants to be active in the comments. If it’s a little quiet, ask them a question, and then stop for about 30 seconds to give people time to type. This pause often dramatically increases engagement.
Keep Your Message Short
When you’re presenting virtually, it’s more important than ever to keep your messaging short and to the point. Many people are unpersuaded by presentations simply because they don’t understand them.
Experts recommend that you have no more than one idea per slide, and even that single idea should be limited to no more than five bullet points. Your slide deck should also be fairly design-heavy (not text-heavy), as this approach will help keep the audience’s attention from wandering. Consider using infographics and custom images on each of your slides; Prezi research has found that presentations with visual aids are 43% more persuasive than those without them.
In in-person presentations, it’s important to address objections; in virtual presentations, it’s even more important. Addressing objections is the key to clearing any last-minute doubts with your audience, and it will dramatically increase buy-in. Address those concerns at the end of your presentation, after you’ve explained your main message, and offer solutions to them.
Even if you’ve been presenting for decades, the shift to virtual presentations can create challenges. Focus on these tips to ensure that your audience is still reacting positively to your message, whether you deliver it in real time or in a recording.