5 Things That Can Kill a Virtual Presentation

Avoid these common pitfalls if you want to connect with attendees better.

Without a doubt, the manner in which we connect with others has been significantly altered over the past several months. The differences can become even more significant when we must address a large audience remotely, with the speaker and each participant in their own physical space. A presentation that may have gone over like gangbusters at previous in-person events may fall completely flat when delivered on a digital platform.

Don't fall into the trap of believing you or your presenters can just casually deliver the same presentations from your home offices. Here are five common pitfalls you should be sure to avoid.

Let Other Apps Distract You

As event organizers and presenters working in this new digital era, it is not just our audience who can become distracted. We can easily become side-tracked by our own tools and devices — from notifications popping up onscreen to advancing our slide decks. Remember that even in a digital event, eye contact is key. Consider taking a Post-It note or a piece of paper with some sticky tape and draw a big, bold arrow on it, sticking it just beside your computer camera, with the arrow pointing towards the camera. This will act as a gentle reminder to look into the little lens at the top of your screen; when you glance at the arrow, it will appear to your audience as though you are looking directly at them, making a real difference and building a connection even if they are hundreds or thousands of miles away.  

Overload the Text

Beware of "death by PowerPoint," with slides so packed with text that the audience can barely read them. Do not expect your visuals to deliver all of the information for you. Remember that your slides are a support for you as a presenter and you need to be the focal point delivering that message. Pull the key points out of your presentation deck. Drop in highlights and key stats — a number or percentage — and combine with some strong visuals that viewers will remember. Considering that many people tune in to webcasts on their phones, simpler visuals will be much easier for them to view.

Give Away the Ending

Like a good story, a presentation should keep the audience curious about what's coming next. So, we don't want to unveil all of our information either in our description or on our slides that people can read in advance. For example, if you're presenting a list of tips (like this one!) reveal each one at a time. That has the added benefit of slowing you down so you can take a breath and pace yourself, while you emphasize specific points and build dramatic tension, you might say, before the next item on the list is revealed. 

Hide in the Shadows

Lighting is hugely important in keeping your audience connected with you. Make sure you're positioned beside a good light source — a window, spotlight or desk lamp. If it's too dark, the whole visual will be flat and ominous. You want to be a source of warmth and enjoyment for your audience, and that includes making sure they can see you clearly.

Wing It

If you want to get great at doing a presentation, practice. Recruit a colleague or friend, rehearse it for them and ask them to give you notes about what you can improve. Record yourself and review what could have gone better. If you're running a 10K, you don't just hop out of your car and start running — you practice in the days leading up to it and then do a stretch and warm up. The same is true of presenting. 

Alan Davis is founder and designer at UltraDesign.ie. He helps organizations increase engagement with customers and clients with better presentations and brand communications. A Microsoft Powerpoint Specialist, he has created presentations to launch marketing plans, pitch to investors, report research findings and shape academic proposals. Alan will share tips for presentation success, with relevance to overcoming the challenges of presenting remotely.