Remote presentations have become quite the trend in today’s corporate world. Heck, there are reports that state 4 out of 5 corporate presentations are now delivered completely remotely.
It’s clear how today’s technology brought some major conveniences in the way we do business. I mean, why would I spend hours of my time commuting to a location to give a 30-minute presentation when I can do the same thing in the comfort of my own home?
But like all convenient things in life, people take them for granted.
Listen, remote presentations aren’t an excuse to be sloppy. If you’re delivering a remote presentation, then you have to work extra hard to make sure your session’s a success.
Because remote presentations make it easy to lose the one thing that every presentation so desperately needs to be successful: a nurtured human connection.
Okay, I know I sound like a pretentious spiritual guru when I say this, but it’s true.
A key trait for all successful presentations is to treat them like a conversation. And the only way to have a ‘good’ conversation is to make sure the connection between the deliverer and recipient is present.
I know this sounds a bit flaky and intimidating, but don’t worry. In this post, I’ll detail what remote presentations are, establish what makes them effective, discuss their pitfalls, and go over a few tips and tricks to make sure you nail your next remote presentation.
What are remote presentations?
Remote presentations are any presentations that are hosted and facilitated in virtual settings, particularly where the presenter and members of the audience are not physically in the same space.
In most cases, they require an internet connection (I mean, how else are you going to get your slides across?)
Some examples of remote presentations include webinars, e-lectures and web-conferences. Heck, if you’re using a tool like Zoom or Skype to share your screen and go over a set of slides, that counts as a remote presentation too!
Why are remote presentations effective?
First and foremost, you, as a presenter, have immediate access to anyone, anywhere, at any time. I can’t overstate just how much benefit this can bring to just about anybody in this day and age.
A professor in Mexico can teach students in South Africa over an online lecture.
A management consulting company in Australia can go over their findings with their international peers over a webinar.
A presentation design agency made up of people from all over the world (that’s us, by the way) can present their designs to their clients in Massachusetts (yep, we did this, too!)
The second reason comes with the benefit of the first. Using remote presentations helps everyone involved cut down on time (no more long commutes or travel requirements) and cost (no more expensive hardware like screens or projectors).
While we should recognize the enormous amount of benefit that remote presentations can bring, we also have to recognize their downfalls.
Ignore these at your own peril. They can cause some serious reputable damage. Nobody wants to be the guy that colleagues and clients sigh at whenever a presentation is involved.
Interaction and feedback isn’t easy in the virtual world
When you’re on stage, it’s easy to stop at a point, look at an audience member in the eyes, ask a question, receive a response, expand on the audience member’s answer, and move on with the content.
Let’s take a step back now. Why is the process easy?
A presenter can gauge the reaction of the audience, look at someone who has a facial expression of interest, and engage with that member.
In short: the mode of interaction is easy because the audience member’s facial expression invites the presenter to engage with that person.
Does this all sound complicated? Then consider another, more familiar approach.
You’re on stage, and you make a joke to ease the formal tension in the room and get more people relaxed.
If people laugh, your joke was a hit and you were dead on.
If, on the other hand, the audience is dead silent, then you know your joke didn’t land so well, and you need to work on your comedy routine.
The point is, we’re able to interact with the audience because we’re encouraged to do so. The feedback is immediate, and we’re able implement an approach to our delivery to move the content forward.
Now take these contexts and apply them in a remote presentation setting.
See the problem now?
We’re not able to immediately understand the feedback our audience is giving us. Yes, there are hints and queues we can pick up on (like an audience member typing “haha” in the chat window after you made a joke in the middle of your presentation), but it just isn’t the same thing.
The point is we have to work extra hard to make sure we can both receive some sort of feedback from the audience, and leverage some sort of interaction based on that response.
I’ll go over some of the methods I personally use later in this post.
Technical difficulties suck when you’re remote
My anxiety is at its peak whenever I host a webinar, because my mind comes back to one question.
“What if the internet dies and I leave my audience stranded?”
You might think I’m just paranoid, but give me the chance to validate that fear to show you what I mean.
In early 2019, I co-hosted a webinar with the fine folks at LogMeIn’s GoToWebinar. In that webinar, I was set to give a live (yes, live) PowerPoint tutorial to every person that signed up to attend the session.
Over 1,500 people registered for this webinar. In fact, someone at LogMeIn told me that this webinar was the one that had the most amount of registrants by a large margin.
Can you imagine my internet connection dying half way into the session and leaving every single person who attended that session with nothing? Literally wasting their time and devaluing their busy schedules?
Of course, I’m giving the extreme scenario. But technical difficulties don’t have to be so detrimental. Even the smallest challenges can set your remote presentation up for failure.
Things like choppy videos, awful microphones, slow internet connections and trouble registering for and/or joining the remote presentations can cause some serious harm to your remote presentation’s outcomes.
Sure, technical difficulties can happen when you’re delivering a presentation on stage, too. But I’d argue that these technical difficulties can be mitigated quite easily. Projector not working? No problem, get someone from IT to fix it. Still not working? Fine, give out handouts and use the handouts instead of the slides.
But in the remote world? Things are different. People often don’t have the time (and if I’m being really honest? The skills, too) to fix whatever troubles they’re faced with. Decisions have to be made in seconds, not minutes, and a solution needs to be found ASAP.
Distractions and remote presentations go hand-in-hand
Giving a presentation in a conference room? You have the room, and have total control of the outcomes.
Giving a presentation on stage? The venue’s yours, and you know what you’re dealing with.
Giving a presentation remotely? Things change.
And you know what? I could go on for hours about this. But I think this 43 second video can do all the talking for me.
The experience of this poor soul embodies every remote presenter’s worst nightmare.
I digress. The point is, distractions come far and wide when it comes to virtual presentations.
And to make matters worse: Some of these distractions aren’t even in your control.
I was once pitching a sale to a potential client over a Zoom conference call. In the call, I was going over the proposal slide-by-slide.
I was on my game, hitting point after point. I knew I was really, really close to closing that sale.
And then my neighbor in the apartment upstairs thought it would be good to blast some dubstep music at 100% volume. It was so bad my ceiling literally shook.
I was distracted and frustrated. All I could do was try to keep calm and carry on. Sure, I could have asked her to hold on for a second while I dealt with the issue, but it would be rude to keep her for a whole waiting for 10 minutes in absolute silence.
I apologized profusely, and asked her to schedule the call.
At first, she understood and agreed. But that moment was gone. She wasn’t as inspired as she was when we were engaged in a discussion, and the potential sale understandably just fizzled out.
The point is this: remote presentations are a lot more susceptible to distractions. Yes, some of these distractions can be in your immediate control. But others, like a lousy neighbor playing awful music in the middle of your conference call, aren’t.
In case you’re wondering, yes. I did confront the neighbor and even filed a noise complaint. I haven’t heard a peep since then.
Total lack of a voice’s potential
It’s one thing to have a robotic, monotonous voice when you’re on-stage or delivering a session in a closed room.
But an unengaging voice is a whole different diabolical thing when delivering a remote presentation.
When behind a computer screen, an effective voice really matters. It helps build trust, emphasize on key points, create emotional contexts, and even help strategically sequence content.
But when a remote presenter makes no effort to vary his pitch or volume throughout the session? Or worse, doesn’t pause in between key pieces of content?
Then I can almost guarantee you that nobody is going to take that remote presentation seriously.
I’ve been asked to attend a large number of remote presentations in my career. Some of them were mandatory.
And I can tell you, hand-on-heart, that whenever I do take part in these remote session, and I feel that the presenter adopts an absolutely zero-sense-of-creativity approach to his voice?
I stop caring. Immediately.
Sure, I may still be in the session. But I’m only pretending to take part and browsing Reddit instead.
Effective visuals aren’t optional
Let’s be clear about something from the get-go.
To me — and I realize this is biased because I’m the CEO of a presentation design agency, but still — effective visuals are absolutely 100% required when delivering a presentation remotely.
And the reason for that is straightforward: You need to find ways to keep the audience engaged since you don’t have many options available.
I’ve already mentioned that the use of one’s voice is essential when it comes to delivery. But even if you adopt the best voice-related approach in the world, it won’t matter if you present slides like this:
It’s 2020, folks. Nobody has the time for ugly fonts, misaligned pictures and ugly clipart anymore. Everyone wants information that’s easy to process and remember.
And effective visuals help with that. Let’s be honest, wouldn’t you want to look at something like this instead?
How to win at the remote presentation game
Okay, I’m done with the depressing information now.
Let’s go over the tips, tools and strategies that will ensure every remote presentation that you deliver is an outstanding success
Create an environment that allows for remote connection
I get it. It’s hard to make sure that you constantly interact with your audience when you’re dishing out your content remotely.
But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
Take the time to set up your virtual space in order to ensure there’s at least some sort of interaction between you and your audience.
For example, when I use a web-conferencing platform like Zoom to host my remote presentations, I make sure that at least half of my participants have a microphone so that the remote presentation is treated as a conversation rather than a lecture-like session.
If I’m hosting webinars, I make sure that every attendee in the webinar session has the ability to engage with my content by typing in the chat box, or taking part in my quizzes, polls and surveys. I even read out some of the answers I receive to make clear that I am indeed listening.
Here’s another trick I use when presenting remotely: I always ask questions as I go through my content. I do this regularly, and I make it a point to not move on until I receive a response.
Oh, and my questions aren’t “Any questions?” either. They’re meaningful, engaging, and help create context.
What I do is something along the lines of this:
"So, how many of you think that you just aren’t creative enough to design something effective in PowerPoint?"
"Chris, I see that you said no in the chat box. Can I know why?"
"Come on Chris, waiting on your answer here, my man! Don’t keep me and 90 other people hanging like that."
Adopting a similar approach highly encourages your audience to become active participants in your session. And there’s nothing more beautiful than that.
Take your designs seriously
Yes, you need to design effective visuals for your remote presentation. It isn’t an option.
You owe it to your audience to make sure they stay as engaged as possible while you’re delivering your material.
I realize that time is money. If you can’t design beautiful slides around your content, and you don’t have the time to do so, then here are a couple of solutions to consider:
Option A: Get a presentation template
Consider this option if your remote presentation is simple and/or more routine. Examples include: status updates and internal meetings.
Get your hands on a decent presentation template. Some are free, some aren’t. The only thing I’d note here is to make sure you get a template that’s effective and from a reputable seller. Trust me, you don’t want to buy an ineffective template.
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Option B: Get professionals to design your slides for you
Consider this option if your presentation is critical. Examples include: pitch decks, sales proposals, major webinars, virtual summits, etc.
Get a professional or an agency to design your slides for you. This is often a more expensive approach, but it’s well worth it.
Also, try and avoid freelancer platforms like Fiverr, Upwork and 99Designs. You might end up being very disappointed.
If you’d like, our agency can do all the hard work for you. We’ve designed presentations and templates for brands all over the world, from major Fortune 500 companies to one-man startups. So, if you’re up for it, get in touch and we can get a call going.
Check out a presentation designed for Exxon Mobil!
Mitigate the risk of technical issues and distractions with a solid backup plan
I’m not going to give you some boring fluff like “always be prepared for the worst” because you already know about that cliche junk already.
But I do want to take the time to show you how to be prepared in the event you run into technical faults, or are distracted by things beyond your control.
And it all comes back to this one principle: You have to make sure you have an alternative way to successfully communicate your content.
For me, this means that I have a backup internet connection. If my internet disconnects, I use the mobile hotspot feature on my phone, connect to it, and continue the session.
Similarly, if my computer decides to break down and stall on me, I have my laptop ready to go.
And if both options fail, I make sure that one of two things is actioned immediately. I either:
- Record a video of the content I want to communicate using a video recording service like Loom, and send it to the participants of the session whenever I can, alongside a request to reschedule the session if they’d like, or;
- Immediately have a co-worker take over the session whenever I have to stop the session for whatever reason
Let me be clear, none of these options are ideal, but when everything goes to crap, you have to remember you’re in damage control mode.
The show must go on!
Invest in the right equipment
You know what really hurts a remote presentation experience? These things:
- A slow internet connection which leads to choppy audio and video
- A $2 microphone that sounds like you’re talking into a tube
- A webcam with the picture quality of a 1940’s motion picture
- A less-than-ideal software solution that makes it extremely hard for you and your audience to take part in your sessions
I could go on, but I won’t.
Invest in valuable equipment. Get a decent microphone, a fast internet connection, and a webcam that doesn’t suck. Also make sure that the platform you’re using to host your remote presentation doesn’t have an interface that cavemen can resonate with.
Use your voice like your life depended on it
Like I mentioned before, the use of one’s voice is essential when it comes to delivering remote presentations.
Do not be afraid to be seen as someone that’s unprofessional, dramatic, or even immature, just because you’re making the effort to engage with your audience.
Excited about something you’re presenting? Elevate your pitch and get that excitement recognized. Trust me, it’s contagious.
Conveying something a little more serious? Pause frequently to let your message sink in.
Telling a joke to ease tension? Chuckle at the end of it to signal that you’re making things comfortable for everyone.
Make your passion known.
Don’t be your own distraction
One time, I attended a webinar where some CEO of a SaaS company was going over his latest product that was set to be launched soon.
I absolutely hated it.
He did everything right. He used his voice well, his visuals were decent, the video was smooth as butter, and the audio quality was perfect.
But every 30 seconds, he’d cough or clear his throat, and it felt like a knife was stabbing my ears.
Every. 30. Seconds.
It was torture.
I really feel bad for the guy, because I know it wasn’t intentional. Still, his experience led me to write this section.
Please realize that when you’re delivering a remote presentation, you are the center attention during that time. Everything you do can be heard (and in some cases, seen). Be conscious about the subtle things.
And for God’s sake, have a bottle of water with you or something.
Don’t go for the safe approach every single time
Please don’t adopt a cookie-cutter approach all the time.
Be creative. Find things that will make your audience remember you and look forward to your next round.
Using things like games and contests can elevate your remote presentation to new heights! And they don’t even need to be complicated. Something as simple as “The first attendee to tweet something with #ThisHashtag doesn’t pay for lunch next week” will do just fine.
Even better: Leverage other software solutions into your remote presentations! When I facilitated a virtual presentation design workshop with Konami Gaming, I had every attendee use a whiteboard that I hosted on Miro to compile their ideas. I then went through each and every one of these ideas to give merit to the discussion.
Put a face to the name (optional, but recommended)
This one’s subjective, but I’ll mention it anyway.
It’s always a good idea to have a webcam ready if you’re giving a remote presentation. Allowing your audience to watch you go through your material helps put them at ease.
This makes sense. Putting a face to the name makes the whole experience feel more human-like.
And if nothing else, it helps establish trust. A smile can go a really long way. Trust.
Did you go through everything in the post?
Good. Now you’re ready. You know exactly what remote presentations are, their major drawbacks, and ways to overcome any obstacles thrown at you.