Dry. Dull. Boring. Exhausting. Painful. Waste of time. Forgettable. Those are the words and phrases that came up when I asked people this question: What word would you use to describe the Zoom Presentations/webinars you attend?
And it’s true, most webinars are likely to be uninspiring … and forgotten shortly after you attend them. They aren’t wildly engaging, and their impact on your success is likely minimal. One thing that impedes their ability to wow is that they aren’t very different from other meetings you attend online. Also, those who create and deliver online presentations neglect the importance of understanding the medium. Online presentations have to do a lot more work to captivate you simply because:
- The screen is a poor substitute for a real person standing in front of you
- The temptation to multitask is heightened
- Participating by yourself reduces the energy and emotional connection
- Other things we watch on these very same screens—from Netflix to YouTube videos—have very high production value
To counteract the challenges that this medium imposes, consider these five enhancements:
1. Sizzle from the start
If your opening is similar to the one from the meeting your audience attended an hour before your presentations, you’ve already lost them. You need to make it clear from the moment you kick off that this is going to be different. Fun. Engaging. Valuable. Interesting. First impressions are so important. Now that everything has moved online, your presentation is being lumped into the five other meetings and events that your audience is participating in each day. You need to dazzle your audience from the very first second of your presentation. Make your start surprising, and your viewers will sit up from their slouch and take note.
2. Banish the bullet
If the slides you’re presenting have more than 15 words on them (I challenge you to have 12 or fewer), you’re adding an extra helping of the ingredient called boring to your webinar. Bulleted slides are not effective for inspiring people or engaging them in your content. If you have information you want to share that requires the use of lots of words, make it available as a supplemental resource. Nothing says “it’s time to tune out” like a slide with 10 bullets on it. Think tantalizing tweet, not wordy whitepaper. When you do display words, use 32-point font or greater on every slide. This provides two huge benefits: First, it ensures you can’t get too many words on the slide. And second, it makes it easier for participants to see. Your slides are small on the devices of your audience members—especially if they’re using their phone.
3. Fluctuate the format
When you’re delivering a presentation online, you have to deal with one major challenge that’s much less prevalent in live sessions: the temptation to multitask. When you’re physically in a room of people, they’re less likely to answer an email while you’re presenting. But when you’re delivering online, it’s almost an invitation to multitask; after all, the device they’re watching you on has all these other tools to keep them busy: email, Instagram, instant messaging. That’s a lot of competition. To keep people from checking out other things on their device, you need to keep things dynamic. The best way to do this is to vary the way you convey your content. Move between stories, information, data, models, formulas, lists, etc. In fact, change the content format every two to four minutes to keep things dynamic and magnetic.
4. Heighten the humanity
If you’re delivering a presentation from a stage, it’s automatically more visceral and emotionally compelling. When you’re beamed onto someone’s laptop or phone thanks to the power of the internet, your humanity is diluted. The screen they’re watching you on serves as a scrim to suppress your scintillating style. To counteract that, you need to amp up the energy, double the empathy and exaggerate your expressions. Just don’t overdo it. You don’t want to seem like a parody of yourself like this.
5. Maximize the media
You’ve heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, and according to Gartner Research, one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. When you use rich media, you make your presentation more persuasive and potent. And you make it much more visually interesting too. So as you build your presentation, ask yourself: Where can I replace words with pictures and video? Then go through it again when it’s done and ask the question again. Your audience will thank you for replacing the 26 letters of the alphabet with meaningful, magnetic media.
You need to be more deliberate when you deliver a virtual presentation if you want to have real impact on your audience. When you build and deliver your presentation with these five elements in mind, you’re sure to stand out, make your mark and add a giant deposit to your personal brand bank.
William Arruda is a founder of CareerBlast and co-creator of BrandBoost – a video-based personal branding talent development experience.