I wonder if there’s a tendency to believe that different rules apply for online presentations. Maybe it’s tempting to think that unfamiliarity with the technology or the environment gives you a little leeway if things aren’t quite as professional as normal.
If that was ever true, it was only for a very short period of time. And why take the chance of looking poorly prepared or, worse still, not that bothered? The world has got tired of telling each other that we’re ‘still on mute.’ And ‘I hope my screen sharing works,’ is wearing a bit thin.
Online presentations are a fact of life for many of us. And they are likely to stay that way. I don’t see many clients clambering to give up the convenience and efficiency even when we no longer have to socially distance.
Opportunities to Connect With More People
Looked at more positively, you have even more opportunities to make an impression and build relationships through virtual face-to-face meetings, without having to waste days of your working year driving or flying to client premises. So maybe it’s a good idea to brush up on how you present a professional and calm image on screen.
When working from home we are (quite literally) letting people see a part of our lives that they have probably never seen before. It’s a window into our private lives.
So what will they learn? First rule: make sure there's nothing you don’t want them to see. Study your picture on the screen. Look past yourself to the background of walls, ceiling and floor because what you see is exactly what they see!
Consider the height and angle of the camera on your pc. This should be set at approximately eye level. You are then looking at people ‘on the level.’ You’re not straining your back and they’re not looking up your nose or at your ceiling!
When I started doing a lot of video calls I propped my pc up on books to get the camera to the correct height. This was OK for a few weeks but it was hardly doing it properly. I now have a stand and I’ve acquired another keyboard so that the setup is more stable. Little details that the audience doesn’t see but which make the whole thing look more professional and natural.
Control the Lighting
Next question: where is the light coming from? Try to get as much natural light shining on your face as you can. Having a window or outside light source to one side or behind you is likely to mean your face is at least in partial shadow. People won’t be able to distinguish your facial features very well. Even remote cameras aren’t very good at allowing for such light contrasts.
Placing yourself close to windows comes with potential challenges. For example, is it a window that people walk past regularly? What if they walk past and try to get your attention by waving or the like when you’re in the middle of a serious conversation? If they are behind you might they become a distraction to your audience?
Kids photobombing online conversations make great viral social media clips but is it really what your clients want to see? It’s an unwanted distraction at the very least.
Dress the Part
For any video call I always wear a work or formal shirt. It puts me in the right frame of mind for the call. Wearing formal work clothes is my norm – it isn’t for everyone I know, but it makes me feel right and I hope it also creates the right impression with the work colleagues, customers, stakeholders that I’m communicating with.
Just like a face-to-face meeting I always prepare my notes for the key messages I want to get across and I also set my own objectives for what I want to achieve from the call. The next thing I do is close any programmes that I don’t need during the call and open any that I do. I’m then not using unnecessary memory from my pc - as using the video does - as well as eating into the internet band-width. Having the programmes open that I do want means I can find them quickly and easily, making me look prepared and professional.
Working over the internet has one risk that’s harder to control: whether the technology will remain robust throughout the call. No matter how good the internet connection is normally, when you most need it it lets you down. This could be either a complete failure and loss of connection or buffering – so that the audience loses your picture or part of the words you are speaking.
Unless they tell you, you will not be aware. So I try to have a co-host work with me so that if I lose connection they can tell me and, if necessary, they can take over while I reconnect.
Like any presentation or meeting, the secret of success often lies in the preparation. Online meetings and presentations are now a standard part of working life for many of us. So let’s keep our standards high!
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
I have many years of senior sales and account management positions.
This experience taught me how to interpret exactly what clients are seeking, and what they need and expect to see and hear from the successful bidder. We draw on this experience to give your team an additional competitive advantage by building on their existing strengths while improving their team-working and self-awareness.