How to Give a Virtual Presentation: Tips, Challenges, and More

by in Best Practices, Technology

For many, virtual presentations are an acquired taste. But, with remote teams becoming increasingly popular—especially now due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic—virtual presentations are not only to be expected, but they are also rapidly becoming the norm in our day-to-day professional lives. In addition to helping colleagues stay aligned on major projects, virtual presentations are a useful sales tool that helps you improve your profit margins and are also a staple of customer or client engagements, whether in the form of quarterly business reviews, new feature introductions or providing regular reporting.

Man using various presentation tools

How Do Virtual Presentations Differ From Regular Presentations?

It's tempting to think that the same rules that apply to in-person presentations would apply to virtual presentations as well. In reality, however, the two require different approaches to keep viewers engaged in the presentation. Here are two major differences between virtual and regular presentations:

Virtual presentations are competing with more distractions 

Participants viewing a virtual presentation are far more easily distracted than a typical meeting participant would be when viewing the content in the same room as the presenter. With in-office presentations, participants are typically in the conference room, which is a controlled environment with fewer distractions competing for attention, making it easier to tune into body language and what the speaker is saying. With virtual presentations, the context is very different.

Often, viewers are on mute (video or audio), making it much more difficult for presenters to understand who is engaging with the content. At any moment attendees may be answering a phone call, checking email, browsing social media or simply multitasking due to lack of interest, to all of which the presenter would be none the wiser.

Virtual presentations offer greater scalability

Virtual presentations allow you to present to more people at the same time, aided by group video conferencing services such as Lifesize, which allow for hundreds of participants per meeting. To participate, all that meeting attendees need is a device with an internet connection, greatly simplifying logistics when compared to a traditional in-office presentation, which often requires making travel plans, blocking a few days to travel and booking a conference room. Even then, you can’t be sure that everyone will show up on the agreed date and time until the meeting begins.

While virtual presentations are convenient, that doesn't necessarily make them easier for you or your audience members. We’ve all experienced the pains of failed virtual presentations plagued by poor audio or video quality or presenters who don’t feel fully comfortable navigating controls to share content. Additionally, when you’re not physically presenting to an audience face to face, you have to work that much harder to establish a connection and sustain their attention. Here's how to do it.

4 Virtual Presentation Tips for Your Next Meeting

Great content, preparation and practice speaking in public are key factors for every presentation, but if you can't keep your audience engaged by getting rid of all distractions, your presentation is likely to flop. Here are four presentation tips that will help you minimize distractions next time you’re in the meeting spotlight.

1. Keep it short 

When presenting virtually, your audience has a near-infinite supply of distractions at their fingertips, from email to instant messaging to social media feeds. So if you're doing a virtual presentation, keep it concise and straightforward. Even if you're committed to a longer presentation like a webinar, staying focused and not meandering is critical. 

The average attention span when listening to a presenter is between 5 and 10 minutes. Even elite, experienced speakers struggle to hold an audience’s attention for longer than 20 minutes. In order to avoid listener fatigue and hold the attention of the (virtual) room, you want to pack a punch in your presentation, condensing content to no more than five key points along with a succinct summary of the action you want the audience to take after the presentation.

One way to do this is by starting with the end in mind. For example, if you're giving a presentation on how to be productive working from home, your goal may be to have the audience put the advice into practice and provide feedback on their experience. Having identified this, you will know the amount of information you need to provide that will lead them to take that specific action you want them to take.

2. Close out windows you don't need

Before you share your screen, make sure you have the content you want to present already prepared. The first few moments of your presentation are critical to establishing a connection with the audience, and no one enjoys watching a speaker scramble nervously to find their presentation on a cluttered desktop or, worse, inadvertently sharing sensitive or personal information that may be displayed from another application.

Additionally, if you’re using the same presentation for different audiences, make sure you evaluate every slide to ensure it’s relevant and tailored to the room. Distracting your viewer by having to go through a bunch of generic slides that haven’t been tailored to their organization, job function or priorities makes you seem unprepared, giving the audience the perfect excuse to tune out what you have to say. Whenever you do this, you break the flow of your presentation and their willingness to stick around till you're done. 

3. Ask the audience to commit to a distraction-free meeting

Many remote companies have an unspoken rule: mute your mic if you're not presenting. It's easy for an ambulance passing by to throw a presentation off track, so before you start, ask participants to mute their mics until you’re ready for Q&A. Luckily, many video conferencing platforms allow meeting hosts to mute participants’ mics to better control the meeting experience. As an additional benefit, muting helps presenters hold the attention of meeting participants by establishing when it will be their turn to speak.

For fully remote and distributed teams, it’s also common to ask meeting participants to avoid multitasking and mute phones for the duration of the meeting. This creates a meeting environment that more closely resembles an in-office meeting with minimal distractions competing with the speaker for attention. 

4. Test your equipment beforehand

If you’re reading this, you’ve likely participated in an online meeting where someone presented for several minutes without knowing that their microphone was muted or that their content wasn’t showing on the screen. It’s an uncomfortable experience for both the presenter and the audience and, luckily, very easy to avoid. 

Before your next virtual presentation, make sure to test your mic, screen sharing and camera 5-10 minutes before you go live. This helps you identify what's working and what isn't and rectify it. This is also a great opportunity to check your lighting to ensure your video feed is clear and ready for prime time.

Besides, knowing that your tools are in good condition boosts your confidence because you're sure they won't interrupt your presentation. 

How to Virtually Present on Lifesize

Lifesize is a high-definition, secure video conferencing solution for online meetings that helps you hold uninterrupted presentations and deliver an exceptional experience for meeting participants across different devices. Here are a few steps to help you use Lifesize for your next virtual presentation:

1. Have your presentation ready

Compelling visuals and copy make any presentation better. Don’t worry if your design chops are lacking; use content from your company’s website, blog or social media feeds. 

Screenshot of blog posts to show they are great for presentations

Great copy helps back up your slides and persuades your audience to take action. You want to talk about the benefits of taking action, overcome objections and provide irresistible calls to action to make it easy for your audience to get involved. 

For your most critical presentations, consider hiring a copywriting service to help you create compelling slides that leave a lasting impression in the minds of your audience so that when you ask them to take action, they'll be ready to do so. Interactive presentation development tools like Visme also simplify the process of building unique, immersive content that will show great during meetings. The company also regularly publishes presentation best practices to help users avoid overly cluttered or text-heavy layouts.

2. Click "Present"

Once you're ready with your presentation, join your Lifesize meeting from the desktop/web app, confirm that your attendees are present, then click on the “Share your screen” icon to start your presentation. You’ll then be prompted to select which display or application you want to share.

3. Share your slides or the entire screen

Once you’ve made your selection, click on the “Share” button to show your slides. Remember, you can't share slides at the same time as another presenter, so make sure any other speakers have ended their presentation before you try to share your slides.

What to Do After the Presentation

Great news — you crushed the presentation. Now what do you do? The best presenters don’t stop once the meeting ends. After every presentation, take a few minutes to evaluate yourself, or ask colleagues for feedback, to see how well you did and whether you achieved your objective. In addition, here are a few ways to ensure the presentation translates to business impact.  

1. Send out your recorded meeting link

Depending on the material, your audience might need to rewatch the meeting to help them get hold of crucial details in your presentation. Lifesize allows you to record and share your presentations so that once you're done, all you need to do is share a link of the recording with your attendees for later reference.

2. Schedule a follow-up meeting if necessary

When is the appropriate time to reconvene and discuss progress? In a week? Two weeks? All great virtual meetings result in some type of action, so don’t wait to schedule and send a meeting invite for your next Lifesize call. Follow up meetings are great way to stay top of mind with customers, move projects forward or course correct if there is any misalignment concerning next steps. 

Conclusion 

Your next presentation won't suck because of one thing: keeping your audience engaged. You've got excellent presentation skills and great content, but distractions are your biggest enemy. 

By implementing the ideas we've discussed above, it's possible to get rid of these distractions to help you focus on getting the most out of your presentations. 

Virtual Presentation FAQ's

How do you create a virtual presentation?

You’ll need some sort of visual medium to create a virtual presentation (such as PowerPoint) and a teleconferencing solution like Lifesize that allows you to share screens. With the visuals in place, you just have to come up with a speech or speaking plan to accompany your presentation.

How do you engage the audience in a virtual presentation? 

To create an engaging virtual presentation, make sure that the presentation flows smoothly with no awkward pauses, and that you have a number of things to say for each slide or visual reference. From there, you have to speak in a lively and engaging manner, and ask the audience questions if possible to keep them engaged. 

What are some of the challenges you need to consider when presenting in an online environment?

The wild card is technical difficulties: lag time, poor video/audio quality, or connectivity issues can ruin a presentation. If you have an integrated video conferencing solution in place, then the main challenge is keeping the audience’s attention (which can easily be lost).