Whether you love or loathe delivering presentations and speaking publicly, it’s an activity that will crop up in most jobs in some shape or form.
Working from home will likely not erase the need for team meetings, and you may still need to deliver great presentations remotely to your team or other businesses.
Navigating the move to working from home was the first challenge. Becoming acquainted with conference call tools may have been the second. It’s easy to become distracted by a number of faces and different backgrounds on your screen. It may also be easy to veer off the topic at hand as we may feel more relaxed and at ease in our home environments.
Whether you are presenting ideas to your colleagues, to clients or to potential investors, you want your end of the presentation to go smoothly to ensure the hard work you have put in doesn’t get lost in translation by technical glitches, confusing slides or outside distractions.
So how do you keep it focused and professional? How do you continue to deliver great presentations remotely?
Here are 11 tips to deliver great presentations remotely:
- Make sure there are no distractions in your workspace
- Set the scene
- Make sure you understand the remote tools your company is using
- Prepare a deck
- Practice, practice, practice
- Set out an agenda
- Use visually engaging images to explain your points
- Keep it concise
- If necessary, request meeting participants go on mute during the presentation
- Request for questions at the end
- Make it interactive.
Make sure there are no distractions in your workplace
Meeting rooms rarely have personal framed pictures, pets, kids, or sporting equipment insight. While it is nice we are getting to know the people we work with on a more personal level, it can also be distracting.
Remove framed pictures, pets, kids and/or sporting equipment from your workspace. In fact, for best results in keeping it professional, take anything that isn’t strictly work-related out of your camera’s focus. It will help keep people you’re on the phone with engaged and focused on what you’re saying.
Set the scene
For best results when delivering good quality, professional presentations, make sure that you are sitting somewhere with good lighting and little to no noise in the background.
If you are sitting in a dark room, your audience may spend more time trying to make you out, as opposed to listening to your ideas. If there are noise distractions in the background, this may also make it harder for those listening to you to stay engaged. Make sure you are sitting somewhere that is well lit with natural light and is quiet so you have the best chance of getting your ideas across effectively.
Make sure you understand the remote tools your company is using
It’s a universal experience: we join a call and collectively spend the first 20 minutes trying to make sure we can all see and hear each other.
No one is at fault here. Sometimes it’s the Wi-Fi, sometimes your mic isn’t working, and sometimes it might just be the tools you are using are buggy. If you are the person who has set the meeting, make sure you have ruled out any potential technical difficulties. Your colleagues will be understanding if there are issues but if you are speaking with clients or other businesses, they may be more impatient.
You don’t want to start your meeting flustered and frustrated, and you also don’t want to waste valuable time. Ten minutes of testing could make for a much better experience.
Prepare a deck
If your ideas will take more than 10 minutes to explain, prepare a deck. When you’re face to face, it’s easier to engage your audience with your physical presence. While meetings are remote, and many businesses spend a large portion of their phone on conference lines, it may more difficult to make your pitch memorable. A well-presented deck that can be sent to meeting participants after the fact will make it easier to revert back to it as a reference point later.
Practice, practice, practice
This is a step a lot of us will ignore. You may be thinking to yourself, ‘I have been in business for X number of years, why would I need to practice having a conversation?’
No matter how long you have been working professionally, carrying out all of your meetings remotely will likely be a new concept, and presenting your ideas in a non-face-to-face setting may be a totally new experience.
Practising your presentation doesn’t need to be arduous or time-consuming. Simply reading your deck to yourself aloud and taking notes ahead of your meeting can be the difference between seamlessly expressing yourself and losing your train of thought. Remember, it is a lot easier to tune out when you are listening to someone over a conference call. You want to keep everything focused and purposeful.
Set out an agenda
Setting out an agenda helps to keep everything on track. It helps you to plan out your points. Without an agenda, you could start at point X, go to Y, come back to X and then bounce forward to Z.
If you are presenting new ideas, your audience might have a limited understanding of what you are talking about. Pretend you are explaining something that no one has ever heard of before as a guiding point.
Set out an agenda to keep the meeting moving forward in a linear format. There should be a beginning, middle and an end, with space for questions once you have illustrated all of your points.
Use visually engaging images to explain your points
Text-heavy slides that are read out to meeting participants do not make for an engaging presentation. It invites your audience to start thinking about what they are going to have for lunch.
Include professional standard, engaging imagery to keep people focused. Do not put more than 300 words on a slide. If you are presenting ideas for growth, illustrate your predicted trajectory. If you are talking about people or places, include images of people or places.
Images help break up the volume of information that people need to take in and act as a memory aid so people can associate certain ideas with your great presentation.
Keep it concise
Ideally, you don’t want a presentation to go over half an hour — 40 minutes should be the maximum. If your presentation will take longer than this, break it into parts.
During the working day, imagine we are all taking things in like sponges; there is a saturation point.
It will be hard to keep anyone engaged in a 90-minute presentation on anything. Remember the average adult concentration span is 10-20 minutes, and the average attention span is just eight seconds.
Break your content down to bite-size chunks to keep people wanting more.
If necessary, request meeting participants go on mute during the presentation
We talked about setting your own scene for a presentation but it is equally important to ensure external distractions do not derail your meeting.
If you are hearing a lot of background noise, don’t be afraid to ask meeting participants to go on mute during the presentation. This action will also likely prevent feedback (i.e. sounding like you are down a well when you are trying to get your point across).
Request for questions at the end
While active discussion is a positive thing, especially if your ideas are generating a conversation, try to keep questions and discussion until the end.
It can be easy to get distracted if a discussion begins when you are mid-way through explaining your points. Allowing for questions and discussion mid-meeting could suck up the time slot for the meeting without you finishing the presentation.
Keep questions and open-ended discussion until the end to fill up the last few minutes of the meeting.
Make it interactive
At the end of your meeting, make sure to ask people what they thought and whether they have any questions or suggestions. If you have invited certain people to hear your presentation, there is a reason for it — maybe you would find their insights valuable? Make sure you carve out time to get this feedback as it will help you improve in the future.
If you are short on time, send out a survey or form with specific questions to meeting participants so you have a record of their thoughts and ideas related to your presentation.