I must prepare for a virtual board presentation. I reviewed your tips for leading an engaging meeting and loved them. I am curious if the same tips are applicable for a presentation that is intended to inform rather than entertain.
Learning More than Ever
Dear Learning More than Ever,
I love your question, and you are not alone. This is a common challenge for everyone using tech to work remotely. As we continue in our current state, many are looking for ways to deliver effective and engaging training and presentations. I’ll speak mostly to training, because that’s what I do, but whether you’re leading trainings or meetings I think there are three things to consider: Mindset, Environment, and Technique.
For most trainers, virtual delivery is foreign. They’ve never really ventured into the virtual realm until now. Many (if not all) have developed a story that virtual training is not as good as in-person training or that they won’t be as good at delivering it. I was visiting with one of our Master Trainers just the other day and he said, “I have to admit, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about virtual training, but now that I’ve trained a few times I’m finding I really enjoy it.”
To deliver effective virtual training, you must shift your mindset. It’s a limited perspective to think only about how your content will be affected by a virtual platform. Instead, think about how you can create a virtual learning experience.
You must first realize that a virtual classroom behaves similarly to a physical classroom. So start by asking yourself, “How do I deliver a successful in-person presentation?” Then ask the follow-up question, “How would that translate to a virtual classroom?” These questions will help you address everything from classroom setup and slide-deck preparation to classroom management and delivery techniques. Having the right mindset, and seeing the benefits and opportunities of virtual delivery, is the right place to start.
Another key factor in successful virtual presenting is creating the right environment. This, of course, includes the obvious:
- Dedicated delivery space
- Neutral background
- No distractions
- Good lighting
- Good webcam
- Good headset and microphone
- Good Internet connection
Additionally, you also should know how to use the features of the delivery platform you choose. All platforms are not created equal, nor do they offer the same features. Get familiar with your chosen platform.
Knowing the makeup and size of your audience, as well as their platform preference, will help you make the best decision. And don’t forget that there are numerous ways to interact with those in your session or meeting: screen sharing, webcam, audio, assessments, or polls. Each feature performs a specific function and knowing how to utilize each will enhance your presentation.
With the right mindset and environment, you are ready to focus on delivery techniques to create an engaging virtual experience. Here are three steps to consider:
Introduce the Expectation
Before your session or meeting, let those attending know that this will NOT be a typical presentation. Explain that they will be asked to engage and participate in a variety of ways. That way they’ll be present. But position the presentation from a place of service. One of my favorite mantras is “serving is learning.” When we share our thoughts and insights, not only does it benefit others, it also encourages them to share their ideas, which lead to further discussion and insights. This is helpful for learners to know this from the onset.
Reiterate the Expectation
When you start your presentation, remind everyone of the goal of presence and engagement.
Fulfill the Expectation
If you set an expectation of engagement, make sure you actually follow through. It’s easy to get so caught up in the presentation that it turns into a typical screen share. Don’t make that mistake. Invite attendees to participate. It doesn’t make sense to establish an expectation and then not encourage engagement.
Here are some “rules of engagement” that will help you foster the experience you seek.
Encourage ALL to share. In any training or meeting, it is easy for a handful of people to dominate the discussion. This can be especially true when delivering virtually. One benefit of virtual delivery is that it allows time for ALL to share, because they can share their ideas via text on screen. Be mindful of who is sharing and who is not. Monitor the chat pod and invite others to share as well. A simple, “These are great comments. I’d love to hear from the rest of you.” can go a long way. And look for opportunities to deepen the discussion throughout your presentation.
Prepare them to share. People are more inclined to share when they are prepared to do so. No one likes to be caught off guard. Try saying something like, “In a moment, I’m going to ask a couple of you to share your thoughts.” This includes giving people time to share. If you are using the chat pods for discussion, it can take people a little longer to put their thoughts into text. There may be extended periods of silence, so be prepared yourself and wait.
Recognize and reinforce sharing. One of the best ways to encourage engagement is to use positive reinforcement by recognizing those that share, both individually and collectively. Be liberal in thanking others for their comments and insights. Try to highlight individuals for their contribution and service to the experience.
In the end, the right mindset, a good environment, and good delivery techniques will improve your ability to deliver an engaging virtual presentation. It also helps to know your content well, have fun, and be yourself.