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How to Give a Killer Online Presentation

As an early adopter of WebEx (now owned by Cisco) about a decade ago, I grappled with the unique challenges of presenting without being able to visually connect with your audience. Training, virtual, sales, multinational, board of directors, webinars, more and more meetings are done via the Web. So when I received an email (excerpted below) from a reader the other day, it got my attention:

My normal presentation venue is an online meeting without video conferencing - other than PowerPoint and screen sharing. While reading your post, How to Give a Killer Presentation, I kept thinking about the difficult challenges online meetings present such as the inability to read body language, not knowing when participants are having side conversations, and all the associated challenges that arise when you cannot see and visually interact with your audience.

So, do you have advice for giving killer online presentations using service providers such at GoToMeeting and WebEx?

Jerry Anderson

I sure do. Here are 7 Tips for Giving a Killer Online Presentation:
  • Gratuitous analogy. Movies can direct viewer's attention using the camera. Theater doesn't have that luxury, so stage actors use voice and other tactics. Online presenting isn't much different. To direct your audience's attention and get them to engage without the benefit of visual cues, you have to go a little over the top.
  • Keep your energy level up. It may feel a little exaggerated at first, but you'll get used to it. Be animated. Make big verbal gestures, statements, or rhetorical questions from time to time. Being a little funny or dramatic will help people remember what you're telling them. It's surprising what holds people's attention.
  • Tell anecdotes. I know, if it's a technical or training presentation that may seem odd or out of place, but it's not. People passionate about a subject or experts in a field can usually point to an engaging teacher in their youth, and it usually involved funny or dramatic anecdotes or stories.
  • Modulate your voice. If it doesn't come naturally, learn to modulate your voice and practice. Take a voice class if you have to. Ask associates to sit in on your presentation and be critical. Tape it and listen for yourself.
  • Ask engaging questions. Ask unusually engaging questions. I'm not kidding. Come up with a few zingers the night before and use them. Also use out-of-the-blue analogies to different industries or activities (like I did here with acting ... you think it's easy engaging an audience just with words?). If your audience isn't in "speaking" mode, then rhetorical questions work just as well. But stop short of standup comedy, okay?
  • Pause for emphasis. Nothing's worse than a presentation where the speaker drones on and on from point to point, slide to slide, without pause. Pause is the most dramatic way to emphasize a point. Practice getting comfortable with it.
  • Avoid "slide show" speak. Direct the audience's attention conversationally, sort of like this, "there's a cool diagram on slide 8 that attempts to explain --" instead of the usual, "on the next slide --"
Well, the blog experts say I've lost your attention beyond 500 words, so I'm done here. But I'm sure all you online presenting experts can help Jerry and everyone else out with some of your own tips, so fire away.

For more resources, check out:

In Management, Keep it Simple
Conquering Your Fear of Public Speaking
How to Give a Great Powerpoint Presentation

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