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4 Tips for Creating Engaging Online Presentations

A year into online meetings, many people are still struggling with how to present virtually. It requires a different skill set from in-person, with more effort needed to keep people engaged as it's easy for your audience to turn off their camera and tune you out.


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Cynthia Lockrey

3 years ago | 2 min read

With all the time we’re spending in online meetings, it is easier than ever to tune out a bad presenter. It’s as simple as turning off your camera and scrolling through your phone while the boring presenter drones on and on. With it being so easy to tune out, how do you create engaging online presentations?

While I’ve previously written about foundational presentation skills to help you present like a pro, let’s zero in on the key shifts you need to make when presenting online.

1. Look at the camera not your notes

Reading verbatim from your notes has always been the best way to put your audience to sleep. But for some reason, I’ve seen an INCREASE in people droning on and on, with their heads down, reading from a script, since we have moved to online meetings.

Please stop reading your notes!!

If you’re presenting, you should be knowledgeable about the topic. Sure, it’s okay to be nervous or need some points to keep you on track. If that’s the case, have some bullet points (not copious text) in your PowerPoint slides. This will force you to look at the screen, not your desk.

When you’re presenting, know where the camera is on your computer and look into. Directly into it. Making eye contact let’s people know you see them and encourages engagement.

2. Be a person

While it can be a bit more challenging letting your personality come through a computer screen, you need to let your individuality shine. And yes, this means being a little more animated than you would be when meeting face-to-face.

Knowing that 80 to 90% of communications is non-verbal, be aware of your facial expressions. Smile, nod and make other gestures to ensure you aren’t stone faced.

3. Keep it short

A good rule for online presentations is they should be half the time of a typical in-person presentation. That’s right – half!!!

An example – pre-COVID my keynote presentations at conferences were 1-hour. With the shift to online, these are now scaled down to 20-25 minutes. It’s more challenging to keep it short, and involves less storytelling, but I’ve found the shorter presentations have resulted in increased questions and engagement.

4. Break it up

When presenting, make sure you spend no more than 10-15 minutes talking without an opportunity for dialogue with participants. This can include posting a poll, answering questions from the chat and opening breakout rooms for smaller discussions.

By asking questions and getting participants talking, they are more likely to stay engaged in your presentation. Plus, when they see they have a role to play, participants are less likely to multi-task, knowing you may call upon them to contribute.

While we’re all waiting for a day when we can meet in-person, I expect online meetings will continue due the convenience factor. So, if you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to learn how to present in this two-dimensional space.

Want to learn more about presenting online? Check out my training video How to Host Engaging Online Meetings.

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Cynthia Lockrey

Cynthia is a speaker, writer, advocate & public relations professional who's passionate about helping people share their stories & be heard! Having worked in pr for over 20 years, she's understands how to make a personal connection through clear communications www.howtocommunications.com


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