Blaire Palmer is a keynote speaker and a world authority on leadership and the future of work. A former BBC Journalist, she shares her insights from 20 years of coaching and provoking leadership teams with conference audiences all over the world.
Engagement. A word that’s become synonymous with speaking and presenting. A word organizers just casually throw around, “make your speech engaging”, as if it’s easy as sprinkling pepper on your mashed potatoes. A word you just can’t escape from.
With all the talk these days about creating engaging events or presentations that hook your audience from the get-go, no one’s really been discussing HOW you actually go about making anything engaging…
In this post, I’m going to be sharing a few of the tips that’ll make members of your audience feel like you’re looking right into their souls.
1. Position of your camera
Most people have their laptop where it’s comfortable for typing. But this means everyone can see ALL of your chins… And up your nose…
Needless to say, that’s not good.
So, try putting your laptop on a stand or even a pile of books you have lying around at home (finally a use for all those books gathering dust on your shelves!!). Either of these options creates a better angle for yourself. Line up whatever is behind you with the sides, top or bottom of your laptop screen so everything looks parallel.
You’ll only know when you’ve got the right angle by turning on the camera and playing around with it. So experiment before the big presentation or meeting!
A messy or fussy background is going to be distracting. On stage you probably have a set with fancy lighting, video screens and backdrops. No one expects you to have this at home (although for a big event you may want to invest in studio space). But just because you are presenting from the comfort of your home, doesn’t mean you can showcase your dirty dishes, old towels or cluttered shelves as your background. You have to make sure that whatever is behind you is tidy and enhances the visuals rather than detracts from you.
You may feel self-conscious ‘dressing’ your background at first – a few strategically placed books here and there, a lovely ornament, some fresh flowers beside you – but, it’s all part of the image you’re trying to portray. Do you want to look like the established, trustworthy, experienced leader you are? Or do you want to look like you’ll be appearing on the next season of TV sensation “Hoarders: Buried Alive”?
3. Eye contact
Probably the most important part of any presentation, whether it’s online or offline…
Nope. Believe it or not, it’s not the words you’re saying or the speech you probably spent weeks perfecting and rehearsing…
It’s EYE CONTACT! And before you say it… just because you can’t see the people you’re presenting to, doesn’t mean eye contact isn’t just as essential!
And let me tell you why…
Most likely, members of your audience are not physically sitting with each other. They are probably sitting alone in their home office, or with a small group of colleagues. This makes your online presentation more like TV than a theatre show. Eye contact matters on stage but it’s even more important when, as far as your audience is concerned, you’re talking only to them.
You need to look as though you can see in to their soul. This takes some practice, otherwise your eyes will dart around, lose focus or look in the wrong direction – and we don’t want that.
Many people think that they need to look in to the camera itself but often, when you look directly in to the laptop camera, it can appear too high. Straight ahead is normally best. Try sticking something to your laptop screen if you need something to focus on (like a small photo of a loved one or your dog – something that makes you smile is good). Then, film yourself and watch it back – how did it make you feel?
Don’t feel like you need to hold eye contact 24/7 during your presentation. You’re allowed to look away. You don’t need to stare. Movement is actually good, it makes the presentation feel natural. But if your eyes are constantly darting about, looking from side to side, you’ll look shifty. And, if you constantly look in the wrong place, your audience will feel disconnected from you and become distracted. My advice – try to hold eye contact for a full phrase or thought, then look somewhere else for a while, and come back.
Virtual conferences can be even more intimate than face to face events and looking in the right direction is a great place to start…
And that’s your first sneak peek into delivering an engaging online speech!
Stay tuned for more Presentation Tips with Blaire Palmer next week!
Blaire Palmer is a speaker mentor. Reach out to us if you’d like her advice or help on how you and your speakers can give presentations that inspire and engage their online audience.