Presenting online, especially to potential clients, poses a number of challenges ranging from the topic, getting the word out, and choosing the correct online program to use. But once you do have a captive audience online, it’s critical to engage them immediately, keep them engaged, and leave them wanting to talk to you further. Unfortunately, many online presenters engage in one or more of the following mistakes, leaving their audience with no reason or desire to engage them further.
1. Failing to look at their listeners.
Making eye contact by speaking into your webcam is important when presenting online. Think about the last time you were watching someone present online and they were looking off to the side rather than into the camera. You probably had trouble paying attention as it didn’t appear the speaker was paying attention to you.
It will feel weird at first to look into a camera rather than at your screen or your notes. But it will pay off when you have and keep the attention of your listeners.
2. Fumbling the first 30 seconds.
Attendees have come to hear you speak. You have no more than 30 seconds (probably less) to engage your listeners and keep them from tuning out and checking email or turning to online shopping instead of listening. Whether live or online, when a speaker “takes the stage” and immediately starts asking whether people can hear her or fumbling with notes, most of us tend to tune out.
There are a few ways to avoid losing your audience in the first few seconds: Make sure someone introduces you so that when you begin to speak you can get right into your topic. Prior to introducing you make sure this person handles “housekeeping items” like how attendees can ask questions and what to do if they have trouble seeing or hearing you.
3. Check your back(ground).
What’s going on behind you can hijack your entire presentation. Make sure you do not have distracting pictures, furniture, or anything else that could detract from your presentation. You’ll also want to test the lighting to avoid looking washed out when on camera. When doing so, make sure you test it at the same time of day that you’ll be giving your presentation. If you’re presenting from your office, make sure others working nearby know not to interrupt you or walk in while you are presenting. Pets at home can be a little more challenging – just do your best to limit interruptions so the focus is on you and your content.
4. Sounding scripted.
It’s totally fine to create a script to make sure you cover the points you want to be sure you make. It’s not fine to read that script while presenting. To avoid sounding scripted, create bullet points instead that you can add to your powerpoint without being distracting. Also, there is no better way to avoid sounding scripted than to practice what you want to say until it becomes natural for you and you no longer need to be prompted. While we are on the topic, practice what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it (into the camera). Then practice again. Ask a friend or family member to be your audience and accept constructive criticism – better to practice on them than someone who you will be asking to hire you!
5. Failing to expect the unexpected.
Presenting online means you are dependent on several things outside of your control: the internet, the platform you are using, and nature (i.e. unexpected storms that knock out your power). You are also dependent on your attendees’ internet, ability to navigate the program you choose, and interruptions on their end.
Anticipate as many of these interruptions as possible and have a backup plan in place. But if you do online presentations often enough, something unusual is going to happen that you did not expect. Be prepared to roll with it. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to make light of it and create a positive, memorable experience for your listeners.
We’ve highlighted several mistakes we have seen online presenters make. However, there is more to providing a compelling presentation than what we could include here. If you’re serious about improving your online presentation skills, join us for Learn by Doing: Presenting Online.
Learn by Doing: Presenting Online
Workshop: Tuesday, July 28, 12:00–3:00 p.m. ET
“Learn by Doing” series – most legal service educational offerings involve one person lecturing while participants watch. Courses in this series are different. You will have the opportunity to apply the lessons learned, receive feedback from your classmates and observe others doing the same. This hands-on educational model has been proven to be effective in accelerating the learning curve and is way more fun! In this series you will also leave the workshops with presentations, plans, checklists and other real world tools you will use every day in your law practice.