Online Presenting: Through Their Computers and into Their Heads

Today’s guest post is from Gihan Perera, a consultant, speaker and author who helps business professionals leverage their products, services and business practices – particularly with regard to their online strategy. He is also the author of the books Secrets of Internet Business Success and Webinar Smarts, among many others. Find out more at www.WebinarSmarts.com.

I came across this comment recently on a blog post about online presentations:

“While I’ve seen dozens of inspirational or motivational speeches, I can honestly say I’ve never attended a webinar that was anything better than ho-hum. Heck, I’d even settle for one that made me feel like it was time well spent.”

I wouldn’t go as far as saying I’ve never attended a good webinar, but I do agree with the commenter that – sadly – they are the exception, not the rule.
But why should this be so? An online presentation – whether it’s a webinar or other form of online training – is just another presentation, and there are plenty of articles, books, videos and coaches that teach presentation skills. Yet most presenters – even experienced ones – do a poor job with their online presentations.

Of course, some may argue this is because we are using new technology. However, online presentation technology has matured to the point that it’s reliable, accessible, and easy to use. So the technology itself is no longer the biggest obstacle – the real problem is that the physical environment of online presentations is different, and some presenters haven’t yet learned the necessary skills to adjust.

The environment gets in the way.

In a typical in-person presentation, a room is set aside and arranged for the presentation. Your audience is with you in the room and they have set aside time specifically to attend. They are sitting next to others sharing the same experience. All of these factors greatly contribute to your overall presentation.

Online, things are different. The physical environment works against you, rather than for you. In particular:

  1. You are a much smaller part of their environment – literally just a slide show on their computer screen.
  2. Your audience is impatient and easily distracted – and if you lose their attention and interest, it’s much more difficult to regain it.

This means you have to put more work into preparing and planning your presentation so you can overcome the obstacles of the environment.

Put more work into your slides.

In an in-person presentation, you are the main visual for your audience, and your slides are merely visual aids. But when it comes to an online presentation, your slides aren’t visual aids; they are the visuals.
Because your slides play such a prominent role in an online presentation, put more work into them than you would with an in-person presentation.

Broadly, you should focus on two areas:

  1. Sequence: Plan the flow of your material in a logical way.
  2. Design: Make the slides look attractive while optimizing them for online viewing.

Think of this as serving both the left brain and right brain of your audience. The left brain wants to see a clear structure, logical flow and clear progress, while the right brain wants visual appeal, engaging slides and emotional tangibility.

Create a clear sequence.

The most basic presentation advice – which you’ve probably heard before – is:

“Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Then tell them. Then tell them what you told them.”

In other words: Give them an overview, then the body, then a summary. This helps your audience follow along and keeps them engaged. In your slide deck, create an overview slide, a slide to introduce each main point and a summary.

An online presentation is not the time for random thoughts, off-the-cuff speaking or a stream-of-consciousness presentation! Think “paint by numbers” rather than “Picasso masterpiece.”

Design better slides.

Here are five tips for improving your slides for online presentations:

  1. Use more slides: Your screen should be changing at least once every minute, but even more frequently is better.
  2. Make them more visual: It’s time to ditch the slides full of bullet points and text. Replace them with pictures, icons, models and diagrams.
  3. “Build” complex slides: If you really must show a complex slide, don’t show it in full; build it up step by step as you talk about it.
  4. Create faster slides: Everything has to be transmitted across the Internet, so use smaller pictures, remove animation and transitions and eliminate anything that’s purely decorative.
  5. Create slides faster: Learn how to use PowerPoint’s “Smart Art” feature to create visually attractive slides quickly and easily.

Find out more about creating effective online presentations:

Download the ebooks.

The Secret Formula for Online Presentations that Engage

The Secret Formula for Webinar Presentations that Work Every Time

 

Photo credit: kk+