By Helena Brewer, Toastmasters International.
Forget dreams of the big screen. In the modern world it’s time to concentrate on the small screen and the benefits to your business; whether you’re pitching, hosting an online meeting or creating a business video that will take YouTube by storm.
When you are representing your business you want to have the skills and technique to let your entrepreneurial qualities and the value of your business shine.
Here are my tips for making the most of your small screen appearances.
Position and posture
If you are delivering a webinar, or a significant meeting you may well be sitting in the same chair for an hour. A comfortable chair with good back support will help. Check the position of your laptop or camera in relation to where you are sitting, which parts of you can be seen? Movement is tricky, if you lean forward towards your camera, the audience will receive an unexpected close-up. Think about your habits; do you rub your ear or flick your hair? These may be distracting for your audience. A mic or headset may be required, and if you are waving your hands about, you may knock this. So, endeavour to keep your hands out of shot.
If you’re hosting a meeting with a large number of attendees, it may not be possible to find time for them to be introduced to each other. However, if it is a small meeting or an interview, it is definitely worth knowing who else is there. Allow time for introductions as simple as name, position and company. This will assist you in knowing if all key stakeholders have joined, and if not, have they sent a representative instead.
Are you being heard?
This is the biggest issue when delivering online. You need to check in with your online audience and determine that they can actually hear you. You don’t want to be distracted battling with software when you should be delivering a webinar. Equally, the audience doesn’t want to fight to hear you. When joining virtual meetings, there are sometimes odd background noises which can be surprisingly loud. If you can control muting attendees, do. If not, then encourage them to mute themselves whilst listening.
Focusing on the audience
There are many turns of phrase that are quirky and very local. A British example is, ‘put jam on your shoes and invite your trousers down for tea.’ When you add turns of phases or language which are not in everyday use, consider how your attendees will interpret them. Perhaps time will be better spent delivering useful information, rather than explaining something that wasn’t clear to all in the first place. In other words; think about the language you use and make it appropriate to the audience. You don’t want to lose investors because you confused them!
What in the background?
While you’re worrying about the camera it’s easy to forget to check what people will see behind you. If you are in an office with glass walls and doors, it can be distracting for your audience to have people walking behind you. Whenever possible a clean background is best.
You need to ensure ample lighting for your face, particularly if your background is very bright (as it will darken your face) or the room is dingy. Does any of the lighting cast shadows on the wall behind you? If it does, change it.
Look your best!
Just like meeting people face to face, you have to look the part; your appearance matters. Consider how to take the shine from your forehead, taking out redness from the face or concealing dark circles under the eyes. The camera picks up all those blemishes and to you, they will seem to be magnified and you will focus in on them. Be confident and use makeup if you need to.
If you are pitching or running a webinar/meeting you’ll be expecting questions so make sure you’ve got to grips with your technology. Some systems allow attendees to message you rather than interact vocally. How will you manage this? You may want to consider having support to deal with the online questions as they arise. If you are managing the live stream and the questions by yourself, pause after key points. This is a good time to ask for questions, which you can then be addressed before you move on. As you are the presenter you control this – you may decide to take certain questions offline after the event.
Reading between the lines.
Try to avoid reading from notes. You will look down and your audience will have a great shot of the top of your head. If the notes are on screen, the movement of your eyes will look odd. Know your presentation inside out, so that you appear natural. Having prompt cards with key words on that you can glance at can help if you feel you need some additional reminders. My favourite trick it to have notes stuck at eye level on the side of the screen.
Getting ready to start
It is worth conducting a run through of any presentation you give. Treat online presentations the same way and practice with a test session. If you are handling technical aspects, it’ll give you one less concern when you are delivering. For webinars, definitely consider recording and watching the test session. You can use this to make any necessary changes. Also, if you have technical problems on the day, you can use this version to send to the attendees of your webinar later.
Finally, remember to keep a steady pace of speaking, take pauses at transition points and breathe. Endeavour to engage with your audience by checking in with them and addressing their questions. Be aware of your non-verbal communications, your eye contact, body language and facial gestures. Allow the best of your personality and your business acument to shine through that small screen.
And, by the way, ‘put some jam on your shoes’ is an old English insult about the length of a person’s trousers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Helena Brewer is from Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org