Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 13, Issue 45;   November 6, 2013: Twelve Tips for More Masterful Virtual Presentations: II

Twelve Tips for More Masterful Virtual Presentations: II

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Virtual presentations are unlike face-to-face presentations, because in the virtual environment, we're competing for audience attention against unanticipated distractions. Here's Part II of a collection of tips for masterful virtual presentations.
A meeting at the 13th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference

One session of the 13th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference, sponsored by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). If you're looking for photos of business audiences to use as avatars for your virtual presentation, you'll soon discover that audience photos available on the Web have something in common: the audiences rarely look directly into the camera. I'm somewhat restricted by my requirement that the photos I use must be in the public domain, but even without that requirement, direct-to-camera audience photos aren't common. You might have to commission a photo yourself, or perhaps purchase one. Still, it's worth doing. Photo courtesy U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The Web offers much advice about slide design — use bright colors, beautiful visuals, and more slides with less content on each one. And present from a quiet room, turn off your cell phone, and so on. But there's much lass advice about engaging the audience, competing for their attention, and holding it once you've got it. Here's Part II of a little collection of tips for masterful virtual presentations.

Unless legalities are at issue, don't read or over-practice
Reading from scripts might be necessary if legal liability is a risk, as in presentations to press, regulators, or investors. But for other situations, to truly engage your audience, you must sound natural. Reading from a script doesn't work. And over-practicing is just as bad.
Use a remote mouse
If you're using slides and standing, leaning over to click the mouse compresses your diaphragm, draining power from your voice. Because using a remote mouse is more like presenting face-to-face, the face-to-face illusion is stronger, which adds to a sense of engagement with the audience, even if you can't see them.
Some virtual presenters have their assistants operate the mouse, prompting them with pauses, glances, or head nods. In virtual presentations, if the audience can't see the assistant or doesn't know about the assistant's role, these signals can seem awkward.
Use avatars
If you're presenting in an empty room, post images on the wall to represent the audience. If you know them personally, use actual photos. If you don't know them, use photos of an audience of similar size. This ruse actually fools your brain. You'll feel more like you're speaking to a live audience, and that comes across in your voice and manner.
For video, get coached
Few of us have Few of us have natural video
presence. Find a coach who
knows how to dish
tough love.
natural video presence. Most of us can benefit from coaching. Find a coach who knows how to dish tough love.
Be aware of virtual presentation software issues
Good slide design for virtual presentations skirts the limitations of some virtual presentation software, which doesn't always fully support presentation apps. Two examples: animations and fancy slide transitions. If you need animation, test it in your presentation environment first. Wipe and fade transitions are reliable; many others aren't. And unusual, fancy transitions are distractions. In the virtual environment, we already have enough distractions.
Use a high-quality mic
Use a headset or a clip-on microphone for best sound quality. Don't rely on speakerphones or computer microphones. For Q&A, use a headset to avoid the feedback or echoes.

Reading this little piece takes most people 5-15 minutes. How many times were you interrupted? How many times did you interrupt yourself, to make a note about something else, send a message, or make a call? Maybe now you can imagine a little more clearly the distractions your audience members face. First in this series  Go to top Top  Next issue: Overtalking: III  Next Issue

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See also Effective Meetings and Effective Communication at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Artist's depiction of a dust storm on Mars with lightningComing July 5: Tackling Hard Problems: II
In this Part II of our look at solving hard problems, we continue developing properties of the solution, and look at how we get from the beginning to the end. Available here and by RSS on July 5.
Masonry archesAnd on July 12: Performance Issues for Non-Supervisors
If, in part of your job, you're a non-supervisory leader, such as a team lead or a project manager, you face special challenges when dealing with performance issues. Here are some guidelines for non-supervisors. Available here and by RSS on July 12.

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On 14The Race to the Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

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