Don’t Present…Dialogue: The Key for Making Virtual Presentations Effective

The Event Group team is using this unprecedented time as an opportunity to connect with others who are experts in their fields to ensure that we and our clients come out of this stronger than ever!

This week, we welcome Valerie Di Maria of the10company to share insights on presenting in the virtual space. Valerie and her business partner, Clare DeNicola, are principals at the10company, a female-owned marketing and communications firm offering specialized executive coaching, including training for the virtual world. With online meetings being the norm, the10company helps executives perfect their content and delivery for remote presentations. The Ladies in Black Blog invited Valerie to share her expertise on this important and timely topic!

Valerie Di Maria (left) and Clare DeNicola (right) are principals at the10company.

Valerie Di Maria (left) and Clare DeNicola (right) are principals at the10company.

Follow the10company on LinkedIn and Twitter (@the10company), or reach out to Valerie directly at valerie.dimaria@the10company.com.

Don’t Present…Dialogue: The Key for Making Virtual Presentations Effective

By Valerie Di Maria, Principal, the10company

In our current pandemic environment, virtual meetings are becoming the norm as businesses continue to operate remotely and executives are reluctant to travel. Now that we’ve discovered how much can be accomplished via Zoom, WebEx or Skype, it’s likely we’ll see this way of connecting continue when we get back to business as usual—whatever that may look like.

But how can you replicate the interactions that make in-person conferences so meaningful?

One of the most important techniques to master is encouraging two-way dialogue when you present—even if it’s via a virtual meeting. Whether you are speaking with a few or many, planning for interaction will not only better engage your audience, it will also enable you to learn what your viewers are really thinking—crucial for meaningful follow-up communication.

Here are 10 specific ways to make your presentation more of a dialogue:

1. Ask for questions and comments in advance. When you invite your guests, solicit questions or comments relevant to your topic before you finalize your remarks. It may help you shape your content, and you can specifically reference the input throughout.

2. Don’t save all the questions until the end. To best involve your audience, pause periodically for questions throughout your presentation.

3. Eliminate “Any questions?” from your vocabulary. Ask something specific to encourage a conversation. Ask your team what they are hearing from clients or ask prospective customers what their biggest concerns are or what lessons they have learned. If it’s a small group, consider having them not use their mute button so interaction is easier.

4. Use electronic polling. Embed a few multiple-choice questions in your presentation. This will give you real-time feedback from the audience as a whole.

5. Take advantage of the raised hands or chat room features. Provide explicit instructions on these features up front to promote use and because not everyone may be well-versed in the tech aspects of the specific platform you are using. Have a colleague monitor incoming inquiries and bring them to your attention to help you navigate the interaction.

6. Anticipate questions by brainstorming. Often executives spend many hours preparing slides, some time on messaging and almost no thought is given to what questions might be asked. We suggest reversing that process. Brainstorm in advance all the questions that might be raised—especially those you hope they don’t—and have answers prepared.

7. Build in enough time. If you have 20 minutes on the agenda, plan for 12-15 minutes of content, so you leave enough time for interaction. If you frame your key messages at the beginning of your talk and conclude with your key takeaways, it won’t matter if you get to every point. Engagement is more important.

8. Know your content. Of course, there is no substitute for knowing your content. If you rehearse yourself and are truly confident with your storyline, it will be easier to stop and take comments from the audience without getting tripped up. Don’t read from a script—that is certainly the way to lose your audience’s attention and sound less authentic.

9. Commit to answering any unanswered questions post-meeting. If you can’t get to all the input during your presentation or if someone’s question requires a more detailed response, that’s okay. Just promise to follow-up individually—and do so within a day or two. Also include your contact info as one of the last slides so the audience may follow-up with you directly.

10. Don’t end with a Q&A session. The last question may not be a great one. You own your talk, and you should conclude it with a bang not a whimper. Conclude every presentation with the two or three most important messages you want your audience to remember.

With most everyone working remotely, connecting via video meetings, webinars and video chats can be excellent ways to reach your team members and current and prospective customers. People are hungry for “live” interaction, especially when they feel isolated. With advance planning, striving to make a virtual presentation a dialogue will enhance your relationships and make a real impact.

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