By far, this has been my most frequently asked question in the past 10 days. In my pre-COVID-19 professional life, I traveled and taught No-Panic Presentation Skills to live audiences for 25 years. Below I’ve adapted some practical advice for being the best virtual version of yourself when presenting remotely:
Introduce yourself when speaking.
We now see our colleagues in tiny boxes at the top of our computer screens during meetings. And we still have some holdouts who refuse to use video. Regardless, when it is your time to contribute to the conversation, say something such as, “This is Mandi Stanley with Stanley Seminars” as a lead-in to your remarks.
I never thought I would have to type those words.
Additionally, don’t just dress nicely from the waist up. If you have to get up to grab a pen or a book or even a glass of water, people can see you are in pajama pants. And I speak from experience. I had been conducting meetings in a professional blouse—and Adidas sweat pants. That only has to happen once (I hope).
Turn off your email notifications.
I’ll tell you what I do: I place a sticky note on my laptop as a reminder to exit my email application during a virtual presentation. I have started counting the number of times I hear the “ding” of an arriving email from everyone’s offices during a meeting. Forget the “ums and uhs”: this has become our new virtual vocal garbage.
Silence your phone as well.
You can do this from your end, or the meeting facilitator can serve as the Master Muter. What a title! But it is an important role.
When it is your turn to present, and you are unmuted, try not to move around too much. These days you can hold a meeting with 20 people, and some of them may even be outside. On more than one occasion I’ve had meetings with people who were outside walking while on the call. You can hear the wind whistling and even fabric rubbing together. There was one virtual meeting when one of the participants didn’t want to use the video option, so we couldn’t see her. But we kept hearing the strangest rustling noise that almost overpowered her voice when she was talking. Turns out—she was sitting on a beanbag! Who knew beanbags were that noisy?
We’ll talk about lighting and bookshelves next week. Because yes, we are checking out your books in the background.
To customize a keynote or professional development session that will have your audience laughing and learning, contact Mandi Stanley.
Certified Speaking Professional Mandi Stanley works with business leaders who want to boost their professional image by becoming better speakers and writers through interactive high-content keynotes, breakout sessions, workshops, technical writing seminars, and fun proofreading classes.
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