Speaker Training: How To Create and Deliver an Impactful Online Presentation

Modern-day speaker training cannot overlook the virtual space. As most events have pivoted to the online space, there is a growing need to adapt communication skills to fit the virtual context. Global pandemic notwithstanding, new research published by Markletic shows that 67 percent of businesses use virtual events to complement in-person events, allowing them to reach a wider, more diverse audience. 

Due to its more inclusive nature, the primary goal of mounting virtual events is to generate a sales or fundraising pipeline for a company, nonprofit or non-corporate entity. Nearly 46 percent of marketers attest to this strategy’s effectiveness. And because this marketing channel is expected to generate almost half of the pipeline, most organizations allocate 10-20 percent of their marketing budget to virtual events. Among the companies who regularly use virtual event platforms, 78 percent said it contributes to positive event ROI. 

Despite its current omnipresence, virtual events have helped increase businesses’ bottom lines even before the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, 89% of businesses that used event technology reported saving approximately 200 hours per year, while 20% of businesses see 360 hours or more saved per year. Around the time the pandemic hit, 52% of organizations reported seeing the same or increased attendance than they’d expect at an in-person event. 

Noting the many advantages of virtual events for businesses across various industries, we predict that more virtual events are in store in the future—yes, even after the pandemic has ended. This is why current speaker training offerings need to make room for online public speaking skills as in-person and online events call for different skills and strengths. 

In this article, we will help you understand what works well for virtual presentations and speeches, so you can prepare for your next speaking appointment even without enrolling in a speaker training class. 

Pre-Event Virtual Speaker Best Practices

As with offline speeches, preparing for your online speech or presentation requires a good amount of time. If you’re someone who typically wings it in the offline world, things are a bit different online. Below we break down the essentials. 

Know Your Vocals

Your voice is a crucial part of any speaking engagement. You can keep your voice in good shape through vocal exercises (search for basic vocal exercises on Spotify or YouTube) and staying hydrated. We’re not doctors or home remedy specialists. We trust you to know what does and doesn’t affect your voice — from lack of sleep to allergies. And if you don’t already have a sense of these factors, poll those close to you. Ask what they’ve noticed. 

Schedule Your Presentation or Webinar Dry Run

On the above note, the best way to know how you sound is with an audio-visual dry run. Before going live, allot some time to practice your delivery. Professional speakers usually imagine the audience around them and present as though they’re already doing the real thing. Schedule several dry runs leading up to the online event so that you can iron out the kinks in your presentation. You can also opt to record your practice runs to see how you project yourself and refine the presentation with the right communication delivery techniques.

Check Your Physical Surroundings

At an in-person event, an entire team is in charge of the stage design. With virtual events, the responsibility to create a conducive environment falls on you. For example, if you’re discussing politics, it’s better to keep your background as neutral as possible. Remove any telling book spines or controversial art. This ensures that your audience’s attention is focused on the content of your presentation. 

Inform Everyone in Your Household

If you live with other people, make sure to inform everyone about your engagement. Communicate the date and the time clearly, so they know when not to disturb you. If you have younger kids, explain the nature and magnitude of the virtual event as best as you can, so they can understand why it’s important to behave during those times. 

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Effective Virtual Presentation Skills

The most important part of your presentation is the content, which needs to be prepared well in advance. This part of speaker preparation is vital if you want to come off as a confident, if not seasoned, speaker. The reality is that even a novice can appear to have top-tier virtual presentation skills with the right preparation. 

Understand Your Audience

The only way you can make your content relatable to your audience is by learning about and understanding who they are. What are their pain points? What do they do for a living? What’s their level of expertise? Once you get a better grip of your audience’s needs, you can craft your content and delivery so you can meet your audience wherever they may be in their learning journey. 

Create a Presentation or Webinar Content Outline

If you are an experienced, off-the-cuff, crowd-charming public speaker, do not skip this section. Why? Because content outlines are not about you, they’re about multiplying your success across your company. The ability to “teach a person to fish” distinguishes great speakers from good.

We use the word webinar because many organizations find their virtual event sea legs in this format. Webinars are the content boot camp of virtual events. Usually conducted over Zoom, webinars are a more stripped-down format, with less interactive features. This puts more pressure on your content and delivery. A successful webinar content outline prepares you for your virtual speaking event, obviously. But it also can become a template for communicating with certain audience segments. 

Everyone has their approach, from analogue to app, for creating outlines. A tech-agnostic suggestion is to brain-dump your ideas in an unordered list. Then identify the notion that you want to communicate most urgently. It must grip your audience’s attention and introduce your narrative. Once your keynote idea is introduced, the process of ordering that unordered brain dump list becomes easier. Before you know it: outline. 

When preparing for your speech or presentation, make sure that you get your point across fast. Avoid getting caught up in hard-to-follow ideas. You’re competing with more potential distractions on your audience’s end, so they must understand your message within the first few minutes. 

Trim your speech and exclude unnecessary words. Furthermore, you need to think about the quality and design of your slides. Since they won’t be able to see much of your body language, visual components are crucial. The more visual your message, the better it can sink in.

Script or Outline?

If you’re more confident about your virtual public speaking skills, you can stick to a general outline to guide you through your presentation. But if you’re new to the game, you might benefit from a detailed script. Besides detailing your lines, your script can also consider your movements, pauses, and when to show specific images or videos.

Check Your Tech Environment

As with offline speeches, preparing for your online speech or presentation requires a good amount of time. If you’re someone who typically wings it in the offline world, things are a bit different online. Below we break down the essentials. 

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Lighting and Audio

Good lighting is essential to the quality of the video. More often than not, the best presentations suffer if the audio and video are bad. If you don’t have lighting equipment yet, you can get them online. There are a lot of options, from softboxes to ring lights. Any of these should work well; it boils down to personal preference. 

Even if you’re already using a professional-quality camera, we still highly recommend getting an external microphone. Using a microphone is ideal for professional speeches, podcasts and videos. 

Camera

Whether you use a professional camera, a webcam, or the camera that comes with your laptop, the camera’s position is crucial. Make sure to turn your camera on when you do your dry runs, so you can see what your audience will see and adjust accordingly.

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Virtual Teleprompter

To guide your speech flow, we recommend using note cards, a script, or a teleprompter. You can use a free virtual teleprompter app or website. Ensure it’s situated at the top-middle part of your screen or as close to the camera as possible. This way, you can still look like you are looking directly at the camera.

When you’re writing your script for the teleprompter, write how you speak. This ensures that you will sound natural and not too formal, which can distract some people in the audience. 

Test Before Going Live

Check your gear, internet connection, and everything related to your presentation at least twice. And remember to do the test a couple of hours before the event so that you still have enough time to fix it if anything wrong happens.

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The Performance

After you’ve prepared your tech and your presentation, the next step is to ensure that you won’t encounter any roadblocks during the virtual event.

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Keep Your Energy Levels High

In an in-person event, many expert presenters feed off the energy of the audience. But in a virtual setting, that may be challenging. So, you need to figure out how to keep your energy levels up and keep your audience engaged for your presentation duration. Maybe you need an extra cup of coffee, or you can exercise or dance a bit before the event starts. Do whatever you need to keep your blood pumping and your spirits high.

Tap Into Your Passion

When you show passion and emotion to your audience, it’s easier to hold their attention. Find a way to transfer your passion and energy through the screen—which can be hard when you have no visible audience feedback.

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What to Wear for a Virtual Event?

There is no one-size fits all to virtual event dress codes, aside from basic fashion sense, which can be outsourced by the right friends. One cannot expect a speaker being livestreamed from an outdoor setting to have the same attire as the moderator. 

Consider your individual context and whether it warrants a break from what other speakers will be wearing. Don’t go out on a limb unless the occasion demands it. In most cases, you don’t want to be a distraction. Or worse, the distraction. If you’re confident in your judgement — or that of someone with better judgement — your clothes can put you in the right attitude. In any public speaking setting, you need all the energy and confidence you can get. 

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Be Transparent

It’s ideal if your audience is aware, within reason, of everything that may occur during your session. For example, if you’re livestreaming via satellite connection, expect audio delays due to latency. If your dog is prone to bark, or if the babysitting arrangement for your toddler suddenly fell through. Many of these communication responsibilities fall on the shoulders of the staff or team producing your event. But some require in-the-moment thinking. These moments can even give you an opportunity to break the ice, connect and show your human side.  

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Wit in Brevity, Less is More, Etc.

Shorter talks work better in an online setting. This is because it’s easy for audiences to get distracted when they have kids or pets running around. Or if another internet browser tab is calling their attention. Get to the point fast. Use short and easy-to-understand sentences, and create quick and digestible slides.

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Always Summarize

At the end of your presentation, make sure to briefly walk through your discussion’s main points and calls to action. If there are any catchy phrases or keywords that help your argument resonate, reiterate them in your summary. It is often the case that other speakers will adopt these words in their discussions. 

Post-event Considerations

After the online presentation, you can take a break. You’ve done a great job, and you should bask in your wins. However, don’t just move on to the next thing on your list. Review your performance, even if there are parts you’d rather not see again. Pay attention to nervous patterns, what is your “um?” 

Never underestimate the value of role models. Contrast your performance and delivery of key points to that of speakers you want to emulate. 

  • Ask for Audience Feedback
  • Answer Questions
  • Repost on Social Media
Ask for Audience Feedback

Your audience can give you a more accurate picture of how your presentation turned out. Using their feedback, you can analyze your performance and recalibrate your techniques to give a better online presentation in the future.

Answer Questions

At an in-person event, members of the audience have the chance to connect with you during breaks or at social events. Take some time after your presentation to answer any questions that couldn't be included during the event. Doing so helps you carry a continuous conversation with the audience, leading to more opportunities for you or your organization.

Repost on Social Media

Due to the event's virtual nature, it's harder to feel connected to everyone who participated. This is where social media comes in. After your presentation or the event, you can repost other people's stories or posts about you. On a personal level, reaching out to them shows them that you are interested and involved in their online conversations. And doing so will give them the confidence to open to you and follow what you're sharing online.

Whether you are an experienced public speaker offline, speaking in a virtual setting is a different experience altogether, especially if you don't have a team to help you set up and prepare. Although you need to factor in many technical aspects on top of crafting your presentation and configuring the best way to deliver it, you'll get better with time and practice.

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