It’s October 2020. In the spring, we were thrust into this new virtual medium. Even those professionals with 20 years of speaking experience were new to the frequency and intensity of virtual communication. We were patient with one another as we quickly learned new tools and platforms.
8 months later, expectations have changed and we now need to be fluent in these virtual tools. We’ll be in this new reality until at least the middle of 2021 and a hybrid environment for the long-term. We can no longer wait it out, as evidenced by the flood of inquiries Global Public Speaking is receiving for virtual training and coaching in communication skills. To lack these skills is to be left behind in the marketplace.
My team and I have been teaching virtual workshops nearly every day since mid-March, and here are the three biggest mistakes we still see people make (though not after our workshops!).
Mistake #1: Keeping your computer too low.
Your normal set-up of placing your laptop on a table or desk does not work when presenting virtually, because it pulls your posture and energy down and creates an awkward visual. Find a laptop stand like these so you can raise the camera lens to eye level. This makes your audience feel like they are sitting directly across from you, having a regular conversation. As a result, you will appear more confident and more professional during your presentation.
See my example below which also demonstrates the second mistake…
Mistake #2: Not looking at the camera.
When speaking on camera, we are tempted to look down at the gallery of faces or at our own image (you can see the effect in the “before” picture above). Take the time to find the camera lens on your laptop, especially if you are using multiple monitors, and practice speaking while looking directly into the camera lens. I know it feels uncomfortable, but the impact is that each person feels like you are speaking directly to them (see the “after” picture above). Want to read your audience’s reaction? Use “Gallery View”, speak into the camera lens, then pause at the end of an important point to glance down at people’s faces and observe their reactions.
Mistake #3: Reading directly from notes.
In virtual presentations, we are already battling the feeling of distance that comes from not being in the same room together. When you read from a script, you make it impossible to connect on a human level because you sound inauthentic and your eyes stay glued to your notes instead of looking into the camera lens. Use bullet points instead of a script and keep them as close to the camera lens as possible. See the below picture for an example of how I keep my digital notes in vertical view on my laptop so I can unobtrusively glance at them throughout my programs (in an actual presentation, the left-hand side would show the audience tiles in “Gallery View” so I wasn’t looking at my own image). Practice that setup in advance so it feels seamless.
An important caveat: I’m not advocating for perfection in virtual meetings. Perfection is impossible, which is why “you’re on mute” will still happen and we should continue to be patient with ourselves and with others. However, we do need to be intentional about how we communicate and learn to maximize the tools available so that we can create connection and trust through a virtual medium.
How ready are you for your virtual meetings and pitches?
Click here for our checklist.