It’s been quite an adjustment—moving all our meetings to virtual. One thing we’ve learned is online meetings can be just as boring as in-person meetings, and maybe even worse.
If you are someone who would like to hold meetings that mean something, that people will participate in, and that will be effective, then you’ll be glad to know these Virtual Meeting mine traps to avoid.
To help you avoid boring meeting purgatory, here are 5 No-Nos of Virtual Presentations:
1. Lack of Webinar Tech Savvy
The time to get to know how your webinar software works is before the meeting, not during. A day or two before your meeting (especially if it’s an important one), hold a practice session. Enlist the aid of a couple of coworkers and do a dry run. Try out the virtual conference features you think you might like to use and assess whether they will add to, or take away from, your presentation. Bells and whistles are only worth something if they add something.
2. Boring Slides
Ah, PowerPoint. It’s amazing how many people, even today, still don’t know how to make impactful slides. A large amount of words on a slide is a definite no-no. Even if you’re not reading everything off the slide, your audience will be. And since they’re reading, they won’t be listening to you.
Instead, use some strong images that get attention and relate to what you’re saying. Use colour in a way that highlights your message but doesn’t distract.
Here’s one done by Duarte. Granted, they are known for strong PowerPoint presentations, but we can all incorporate some of what they do into what we do. Clean, simple—this is a slide that looks good, and allows the speaker to tell the story.
3. Boring Presentation Style
Oh dear… we’ve all experienced meetings where the speakers drone on and on in a monotone, lulling us to sleep with their voices. Reading all those lines of bulleted text, speaking with absolutely no animation, and hiding behind slides will ensure you lose your audience.
If you are sharing your screen and people can only see your slides, then you have to make sure your voice is lively. Pretend the audience is sitting in the room with you and you are speaking directly to them. Try standing up and/or gesturing. That is a very helpful technique to get some animation into your voice. (Of course, only stand up if they can’t see your webcam.)
4. No Interaction
Webinar software offers all kinds of features to interact with your audience. If there are a lot of people online, use chat instead of having people speak. Be sure to monitor chat and questions and read what is there to the group. If you don’t have the tech savvy to handle all of that, ask someone else to monitor chat for you.
Many webinar services offer a Raise Hand option. This is a good way to get your attention when someone has a question. You can then unmute that person and let them speak to the group. I really like to use features like breakout rooms when small-group discussion is needed, and whiteboard or other annotation features for brainstorming.
Learn what features your service offers and determine how you can use them to spice up the interaction in your meeting.
5. No Connection
I’m not talking WiFi here. What I’m talking about is you, as a speaker, connecting with your audience. If you were holding an in-person meeting, you’d be making eye contact around the boardroom table. That can’t be done so easily online. It’s tempting to look at everyone else’s face on your screen. However, when you do that, you’re not making eye contact with them. Rather, you are making eye contact with your monitor. Instead, look directly at the webcam when you speak. It’s weird at first, but you soon get used to it. And it’s so powerful when you make “eye contact” in that way.
Don’t hide behind your slides. If possible, have your webcam display at the same time as your slides are up. The dynamic movement of your image in a corner of their screen is enough to make your audience more engaged and connected. Be sure to use their names and involve people in discussion. Attendees love to hear the questions and answers of people in their meeting.
One thing you should always do, before diving into the main part of your meeting, is start with full-screen video of you so people can engage with a person before the presentation. Practice switching from your webcam to screen sharing so the transition is smooth and successful. Oh – and be sure to close out anything you don’t want people to see on your desktop, just in case.
Virtual meetings are a powerful tool to keep your team connected when working remotely. But only if you do them right. Using these 5 tips will make you much more likely to have an engaged audience, and not one that is multi-tasking by checking their emails or otherwise zoning out. After all, you have something valuable to say, and now you have the tools to make an impact!
Laura Sukorokoff is the Founder and People Maximizer at C-Change Learning and Development. She knows managers hold the key to employee engagement, and provides training and coaching for them to be great at what they do. Reach out to her at www.cchangelearning.com.
(cover image courtesy of: freepik)