Bring the Sizzle to Virtual Presentations

For Brownstein Group, as for many other companies around the world, the past two weeks have been a time of experimentation. In a matter of days, technologies and modes of work that many had envisioned as things of the future have suddenly become a reality, and among these, video conferencing has taken center stage.

Presentation skills are more important than ever, but carrying them across virtual environments can be tricky. A good online presentation today has to preserve a sense of normalcy and keep things moving, but it also has to inspire teams and encourage them to be creative and focused.

We can find a lot of inspiration for carrying out these virtual presentations in an unlikely place. Due to its visual, creative, and storytelling aspects, theater has a lot to teach us about how to successfully carry out presentations in digital environments.

As a creative agency, we are storytellers first, and despite the uncertainty of the future, the show must go on! Here are some tips on “producing” a great presentation with your team.

Assign a Chief Storyteller

Great stories are woven together by great narrators. Just as in a play, a good narrator can use their voice in a meeting to keep the discussion on-topic while not overshadowing other performers. They can also make smooth transitions between agenda items and ensure that everyone has a fair chance to speak their minds.

Assign the role of MC, or narrator, to a specific individual to facilitate the presentation. This person should be seen on screen periodically to insert structure and human moments into the presentation, while also grounding the delivery to a scripted storyline to keep the audience engaged.

Dress the Room

On the stage, backdrops, props, and cues all work together to set the mood, guide the story, and deliver an experience to the audience.

In virtual meetings, you have similar tools at your disposal to create better environments for digital communications. Try using branded virtual backgrounds to give your presentations an air of thoughtful production, one that can set your company apart from others while serving to take away background distractions.

Because of social media and modern entertainment, we have become accustomed to quickly skipping through content and information. Draw attention to “the stage” of your presentation, and encourage focus, by using a multimedia approach to carry the message across. Incorporate still and motion graphics, video, sound effects, and captions to pull your audience in and promote clarity of ideas.

Dress the Part

While props and backgrounds set the stage for a performance, the protagonists of your meeting still have to look the part they are playing.

Dress as your colleagues typically know you: with a focus on keeping a professional appearance from the waist up. Not only does this communicate respect, but “dressing for success” has been proven to improve cognitive performance and productivity — something that could prove quite useful while working from home.

Pro tip: if you’re using Zoom, try activating the “Touch Up My Appearance” feature (Settings→Meeting→Touch Up My Appearance) which brings a soft focus to your face and softens visual details and blemishes.

Break the Fourth Wall

A big part of natural, in-person meetings are the important social cues that we use to express agreement, admiration, and understanding of each other. Because of the limits of digital conferences, these cues—such as applause, laughter, and small expressions of confusion or acknowledgement—can go unheeded.

Don’t take it so seriously. Laugh off awkward moments and “break the fourth wall.” Recognize that virtual meetings have many shortcomings that can often be breezed over with a smile. Try to be humorous and lighthearted — especially when taking yourself less seriously can keep your team and audience engaged, less self-conscious, and more motivated.

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