Skip to main content

PictureElephant in the zoom – Photo by Keyur Nandaniya on Unsplash

Currently the amount of video calls, zoom calls, conference calls, webinars etc, is becoming overwhelming and as a communicator for your organisation, you need to be heard about the noise and clatter. There’s simply so much online. The competition for getting your voice heard online may get lost because we are all online ‘experts’ now.

Since communicating online is new territory for a lot of us, the standard of communicating online will need to improve so that your message can be heard and implemented.

With the onset of COVID-19, the reliance on communicating differently has been one of the turning points for our society  during COVID-19. This has happened in the past and has changed for the better.

During the depression President Franklin De Roosevelt embraced the technology of that day, radio, and delivered his very first fireside chats on radio about the banking crisis, eight days after taking office (March 12, 1933). These fireside chats turned into a series of talks given by him and by doing that, he went over the heads of the press and he talked directly to the American people.

Queen Elizabeth delivered her first televised Christmas Broadcast or ‘Queen’s Speech’ in 1957, it was her first televised Christmas Broadcast and it changed how the Royal family communicated from there on. So, like, then, our present way of communicating has changed because of  COVID-19 and we must change with it.

Before COVID-10, as a Speaker, Thought Leader or CEO, you may have simply spoken on stage with a microphone and used the stage as your ‘anchor’ now the process is not as simple. In order to be competent presenting online, a completely different set of skills is required. However, this can be mastered, if just a few of the basic requirements are taken care of in the first few presentations, then as you get more proficient you can add in the ‘bells and whistles’.

Below are a few basic ways we suggest you can communicate better and avoid some of the obvious pitfalls on zoom or other communication platforms.

However, remember the audience is there to hear from you and learn from you as a Speaker and that is more important than any technology. Simple things like shorter sentences, how you present yourself, along with your company branding, such as branded backgrounds & slide decks is also important.

1 – Positioning of yourself
Position yourself so that most of the light is coming from in front of you (behind your monitor), instead of behind you. If you have a window behind you, close the curtains, otherwise, you will be backlit.

Lighting is so important. Invest in a cheap ring light or position natural lighting so your face is fully and evenly lit from the front. Halogen lights are great and really help (At the time of writing there are some great cheap ones, on sale in LIDL). LED Ring Lights are also good. Make sure to check and tweak your lighting as it will change  according to the time of day.

3 – Positioning of your computer screen
Adjust your camera so that it is not too low or high. Your camera should be at eye level. Usually placing your laptop on a stack of books works, however don”t get too close! Position yourself so the camera is seeing you from the chest or waist up, instead of just seeing your face. This is more natural for the viewer (after all, in an in-person meeting you’re usually seeing more of a person than just their face). This is especially beneficial if you tend to gesture a lot.

4 – Background
If you are using virtual background, and want to pretend you are in Tahiti as opposed to the west of Ireland, it is a good idea to use a green screen before you switch on the virtual screen otherwise your head will just morph into the background and distract your viewers. Alternatively, you can choose a plain background to keep your private life out of the viewers eye or you can choose to decorate your background accordingly.

5 – Your Focus
Talk directly into the camera as if you are speaking to just one person! It’s much more engaging than watching a static power point slide, (where guaranteed your audience will get distracted and bored). This tactic will mimic the in-person feeling of eye contact.  You can also gauge reactions by looking at the screen, but alternating that with looking at the camera makes the audience feel like you’re really talking to them.

6 – Interact
One of the key differences between a traditional webinar and a truly virtual event is the level of interaction and engagement offered to attendees. Ask questions during your presentation. This will prompt viewers to type answers. Read comments and questions during the live segments of your stream so attendees feel more involved. You could also consider running competitions or surveys to keep people interacting. When you get more proficient you can start using slides

7 – Technology
Start off with the basics, as getting used to all the technology and platforms that could be used is somewhat intimidating. However. if possible, try to use a good quality camera and headset instead of your computer’s built-in ones. Zoom works just fine with the built-ins, but the quality is even sharper with higher quality hardware.

Regarding cameras, a lot of expert Keynote Speakers are recommending the Logitech C920 and the even more advanced, Logitech Brio. Likewise with audio, a lot of the pros are using the Yeti microphone, but there are a lot of cheaper versions out there.

6 – Platforms
Every platform offers certain advantages and disadvantages, but it depends on where your audience is and your budget. If you already have a particularly large following on a certain platform then that might be where you start. Whatever you do, don’t get overwhelmed, get really proficient in it and then use that same platform.

Below are a list of some of the many platforms we have come across that seem to be the most popular.

A – Zoom
It seems to be the most popular for businesses at the moment as it’s great for meetings. It is also scalable, as you can simply start off using the free program and if that works you can scale up depending on your needs, however there is a flatness to it and there are restrictions and limitations (unless you’re willing to pay a lot).

Nevertheless, there are a lot of built-in engagement tools at your finger-tips such as screen share, annotate shared content. You have the capabilities to send out quick polls, solicit feedback in chat and split your attendees up into video breakout rooms. You can also measure if your audience is engaged during screen sharing by using the Zoom attendee attention tracking feature which is quite handy.

B – Skype
It’s one of the easiest ways to get a video-conference going without anybody having to install anything new. Skype for Business has long been a more robust tool, but it has officially been substituted and replaced by Microsoft Teams.

C – Facebook Live
According to SproutSocial- A social media management and optimization platform for brands and agencies of all sizes, Users 65 years and older are the fastest-growing group on Facebook and 74% of Facebook users are high-income earners. With that, It’s a nice safe place to start if your organisation is already active on Facebook, and in the light of the jump in live streaming popularity, they have also started to quickly roll out more features.

The advantage of using Facebook live is you can stream privately or publicly. There’s great opportunity for chat through ‘viewing parties’.

However, if you want more than one session to flow together you’ll probably need additional software. There can be restrictions on how you access and communicate with your viewers and to a certain extent you’ll find yourself at the mercy of Facebook. It’s their audience, not yours.

D – YouTube 
Probably one of the best and least technical options out there and with lots of possibilities. If you are running a free event you can always stream to YouTube as well as your own website. You can switch between public and private videos and there are loads of free, built-in features including a ‘tip jar’ which is a nice addition, during these COVID-29 related times.

E – Periscope/Twitter 
Periscope is Twitter’s live video tool.  It’s good for simple, raw live streams but it’s quite limited in what it can do and how much control you have. It’s probably not going to be your best option, but if you have a good Twitter following it can be worth testing.

F – LinkedIn Live – This is still in beta mode and not available to everyone, but works in much the same way as Facebook Live. They will be rolling it out to more and more people over time, but currently you have to apply and wait.

G – StreamYard
This is a live streaming studio in your browser. You can interview guests, share your screen, etc as well as stream directly to Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and other platforms. There are other ones, such as Twitch and Wirecast, Streamyard and loads more seem to be popping up, with their own features and pricing structure.

There are many other platforms, but these are the ones we have come across, give them a test and see what works for you. A lot of them let you use a free trial version first which is great for playing around with.

7 – Extra tips
Should you be presenting live have some extra devices at your fingertips, like a spare laptop, just in case your computer decides to give up the ghost at the most inopportune time.

Likewise, should the internet go down, have back-up. Don’t depend on only one provider. Have access to another network or the capabilities of hotspot. So, in that case, it could be wise to have two different carriers. It’s an insurance policy if you are going to be speaking professionally

Since this all new for a lot of people (and us too) experiment, play around with all these formats, get live demos.

For your own presentations, record yourself and watch the playback with a critical eye. Did you talk too quickly? Too many ums and ahs? Send the recording to a colleague/ friend who you know will give you candid feedback.

We hope you have picked up at least one piece of valuable information for presenting. If you need more advice or you are looking for one of our expert Keynote Speakers please call us