Being a presentation agency, one thing has especially caught our attention: how to present online from a home office? Now that so many people work from home they also have to communicate in a totally different way. And presentations are a significant part of this way of communication. The quarterly review of our company was used for a case study at very short notice adapting to the new situation. A taskforce worked on the new topic of online presentations for exactly this reason and tried to find solutions for the biggest challenges.
We found that online presentations are a completely new and special field. They follow their own rules. What this actually means is what we wanted to define first and then adapt for not just ourselves – but also for all other companies.
The result is what you are holding in your hands right now. In here, you will find tips on how you can improve webmeetings with simple methods, suggestions about how you reasonably carry out seminars online and, of course, many ideas on how to effectively stage your presentation.
Explain is an agency for holistic presentation methods. For more than 15 years we have been accompanying customers from start-ups to DAX groups – from the first idea to a unique production on stage.
We conceptualise structures, speaker texts and stories, bring storyboards on slides to life and give the design characteristic aesthetics. We do the impossible with PowerPoint. We support speakers on their way to the stage with everything that comes along with it – stage fright, performance tips and exercise right to perfection. And why? So that our customers successfully present in front of employees, investors, customers, partners or colleagues.
Do you want to know more about our work? Then visit us online on www.explain.de and soon again in person in our office at the Haydnplatz in Karlsruhe.
Conceptualising the content is the beginning of each presentation – this, at least, is our advice. It doesn’t matter if you scrutinise an existing presentation or if you create a new one – the following tips will help to deliver your important messages digitally.
Reducing the relevant content for an online presentation is more important than ever.
Whereas it is unusual that people simply get up and leave during a live event, it, however, happens at webmeetings and webinars on a regular basis. Sometimes on purpose (nobody will notice, when I leave) and often due to technical reasons (internet, cat, deliveries,
children). Therefore, get straight to the point. What does your target group have to know? What is important or of value? How can you raise interest? Concentrate on the essential
element as the attention span is even shorter online. And while you are still right in the
middle of your topic, an email may appear in one of your participant’s mailbox which is
distracting… Excuse me, what were you saying?
There are many different ways to present online and most of them are based on a
dialogue. So, if you don’t give your keynote via livestream to the whole world on the internet, you should definitely plan on including a dialogue with your participants. This especially
effects the structure of the presentation. Vast introductions, complex points and lengthy storytelling don’t work as well in this context. Instead, use structures which are independent from a certain order. Make room between two topics for questions or even ask for them
directly. And use linked slides as they enable you to easily switch to different topics.
Moreover, you can flexibly react to questions without showing your untidy desktop or private mails.
Have you got any presentations which you use but haven’t reviewed in a while? Then, we suggest that you take a closer look right now as the
digital presentation provides new challenges for your slide deck.
How should slides change so that they reliably work in a webmeeting,
Before taking a look at the slide design, it is important to reduce the slide deck to the
necessary minimum. The reason is that the slide competes with the speaker’s video picture. Scrutinise the function of each slide. Which slides do you actually require so that you may be able to follow your main thread? Which content is necessary to be visualised in order to understand it? And which slides do you need to emotionalize the audience? Slides should support the speaker, not replace him. So, reduce the slide text to a minimum. Otherwise, the audience will read it all by themselves, the suspense level will be gone and they get bored (plus, the audience will start reading emails or inconspicuously check their phones). Instead, choose photos, illustrations or other visualisations for your slides.
Each presentation has its own aesthetics – always dependend on the desired effect.
However, online the rules of the game change and there occurs a conflict between aesthetics and bandwidth. Animations don’t run smoothly, the slide transitions take several seconds to finish, videos are jerky. Therefore, try to achieve the desired effect with photo designs
instead of animations or special video effects. The participant’s device plays an important role. What was recognizable on your screen may be viewed on a laptop, a tablet or even a smartphone. Choose a bold design with contrasts and adapt the font size accordingly. Moreover, depending on the meeting software, a part of the slide can be overlapped by the participants’ videos. Ensure that nothing important is shown in this area.
The question arises how to adapt these tips in the company context. We advise, for instance, to avoid white slides. White slides are popular in companies to save ink. However, in a webmeeting, white slides are uncomfortable for the eyes – especially in a dark room. By now your presentation might differ from the company’s PowerPoint template. What now? Renounce individual actions. We recommend instead to talk to the communications or marketing department of your company. Especially during a difficult market situation it is essential to represent the company in a brand-compliant way. Define factors (font size, colours, layout) how each employee may deviate from the master template on his own account. Or, ask for a new template which meets the new requirements.
More than ever, the speaker is required to impress with personality and charisma and to overcome the digital barrier. It is the speaker who brings the technical setting to life. His performance significantly determines the interest and the trust of the audience. How can you achieve this?
The speaker’s voice influences whether we perceive an online presentation as boring, pleasant or stressful. Usually, low pitch voices are more pleasant but when speaking in a monotonous way it may be tiring. Vary the pitch consciously to create an effect. Unexpected squeaking, however, should definitely be avoided in regard to the different volume settings.
The speed of your speech plays also a very important role. If you talk too quickly, the brain won’t follow. If you speak too slowly, it will become boring. Therefore, it makes sense to vary here, too. Plan to pause in between. In this way, the audience gets the opportunity to
consider what has been said and to ask questions. A clear articulation helps a lot to deliver the message even if the connection isn’t perfect. Record yourself while speaking to judge your own voice. You may not be used to it, but it is very helpful in the long run.
No dress code. This has been a positive aspect of working from home (source: YouGov). And yes, usually the outfits are less formal. However, when it comes to an online presentation there are a few things to consider. For example, the contrast to the background. Black in front of black creates a moving head, white in front of white is also hard to distinguish. Bright colours are distracting and unpleasant in the long term. Also, clothes with patterns bear risks. The dress with tiny patterns distracts more from the face than anticipated (the same is valid for a low-cut neckline). The striped shirt reveals the Moiré-effect and starts flickering. The most suitable clothing are therefore single-coloured with muted colours. And please wear trousers – you never know when you must get up unexpectedly.
Despite the fact that your body isn’t totally visible, the body language plays a role. Sit upright or present while standing. The posture is visible and has a large impact on your voice.
Moreover, move in a calm manner. Nervous rocking on your feet or shifting your weight from left to right too often have an even more restless effect in a video compared to a live meeting.
Gestures and mimics as visual support of the message still play a very important role. Look directly into the camera and imagine that your entire audience is sitting directly behind this lens. Enhance your mimics but reduce gestures compared to the usual. Make sure to gesture close to your body so that your hands are visible in the video. The best way to practise is in a webmeeting with your colleagues or with a video recording.
Does the room still play a role if you only see each other virtually? Yes, and even a dual role. On the one hand, the task is to use the real room – the homeoffice – as an effective stage. On the other hand, there are ways and means to stage the virtual room. Which are the different possibilities?
In the classic homeoffice setting there is already a lot of potential for improvement. The light should come from the direction of the camera – whether or not it comes from a window or a artificial light source. When it comes from behind, you are only visible as a silhouette. Transparent curtains enable an even distribution of sunlight. And should you have no light in reach simply open an empty white slide on your screen. This is helpful, as well.
Be at eye-level with your audience and avoid an unfavourable frog’s eye view. In order to achieve this, put your laptop on a stand (a stack of books will do nicely, too) and arrange the chair height so that you look straight into the camera. A good internet connection via LAN is essential as well as a reliable headset. This is part of the homeoffice etiquette manual, so to speak.
As soon as it is about more than the daily internal webmeeting, a home studio is absolutely worth it. There are already many possibilities with two video lights – positioned on the left and right side of your camera – and a green screen. You can substitute the green background with pictures or slides of your choice via “chroma keying”. With the equivalent software you present in your own setting in no time.
The quality of the transmission can be increased with further equipment. A table microphone enables a high sound quality without having to wear a headset or clip-on microphone. Instead of the integrated camera you should use a webcam or smartphone with full HD or 4k recording. In this way, different camera positionings and angles can easily be chosen and between which you may change smoothly back and forth.
Now, we have talked about how to equip your existing room around you. However, how does that happen virtually? View the area of your screen transmission as the room which you want to use as your stage. Here, you have three possibilities which differ from the classic software interface. The speaker video may be next to the slide – side-by-slide so to speak. It may also be integrated into the slide design and positioned anew from slide to slide. Or – and this is the icing on the cake – a virtual setting emerges around the speaker. At least for this setting you need a green screen and a streaming software.
Speaker and slide find back together – nearly just as at a live event. The interaction with the slide is possible once again. And the speaker gets a visible space in the view of the audience. Depending on the complexity of the design you can even stage topic-related visual worlds.
Welcome guests in the foyer with finger food, then, opening of the event room, two keynotes and a small break, afterwards a brainstorming session in small groups and finally a common dinner with music. At a live event this kind of dramaturgy is easily carried out. However, how do you create a digital audience journey?
There are now uncountable providers of meeting software for classic webmeetings. When choosing one, consider the differences. If you want to include group work, then the software should enable “breakout groups”. If you want to give a speech or a webinar, you might need software with a webinar feature. In this way, only your video will be transmitted. the audience stays invisible and muted – but may ask questions still. And last but not least, integrated survey features offer a valuable tool for interaction.
For larger events or special occasions, streaming software, digital workshop tools, social media and event software can be used. Streaming software enables virtual settings and additionally ensures a smooth transmission. Workshop tools are perfect to carry out interactive sparrings, coachings and workshops, as well. Via social media you may get connected with the outside world. And with an event software all these possibilities can be accessed – from keynote to workshops to networking afterwards.
Thanks to the software much more is possible than you would expect at a first glance. Now it is on you to design a reasonable journey through the different digital tools – from countdown to farewell. However, we will take one step further. Because an online presentation becomes approachable when it breaches the digital barrier. When topics become tangable, human and unexpected.
Send your product or the agenda flyer via mail. Have a cocktail, a delivery service meal or ice cream sent to their home. Give a video tour through your home or let the participants introduce themselves by showing different items from their home. Call for a living room challenge and write down the success moments. Or, define a dress code according to the topic of the event. Everything is possible.
The fear of failure is not ungrounded. However, stay brave nevertheless as most of your participants enter – just like you – new territory. And apart from that you can arrange safety measures up front. Work out a contingency plan at an early stage for important events.
Use a messaging service to stay in contact. Create a detailed agenda in which you have noted down all respective links to the meetings or communication channels. And include an alternative URL for emergencies. Name a second host who may take over the meeting at short notice. There is a solution for nearly every issue.
We are happy to inform you about how you can bring your online presentation to a new level and what a project may look like when working with us.