How to shine online: 7 video presentation tips from an expert

With COVID-19 having sent us all scuttling from live interaction to our on-screen doppelgängers, please join me in welcoming back one of the UK’s leading presentation trainers – Dr Simon Raybould of Presentation Genius – to share his tips on how to come across well and as much like your real self as possible on the new, essential online video platforms. Here’s Simon…

“Do whatever you can to be seen to be a real person,” says Dr Simon Raybould of Presentation Genius 

Live presentations are out of the window right now. They might never come back. Given how bad most of them were that might not be totally a bad thing 😉 But moving to online presenting is more than just turning on the camera and microphone and then praying.

The tech is easy and you can get good enough with just an hour’s practice.

Pro tip – if it takes you more than an hour to get the hang of your tech, you’ve got the wrong tech!

Online ‘rules’ are a bit different, so here’s some help… seven things to do differently online. I’m not pretending this is a comprehensive list: it’s just the first seven things that occurred to me when Suzan asked me for some advice. It’s based on experience, not research (so treat accordingly – although I have a shed-load of experience, of course 🙂 ).

1.Be bigger than you are – and bigger than you probably want to be. Computer and phone screens suck the energy out of your delivery (from the audience’s point of view.) This means that to keep your audience engaged you need to work harder. Be bigger. Ham it up a bit. It feels weird doing that, especially ‘cos there’s no audience, just a camera, but you should absolutely go biiiiiiig.

2.Look at the camera. Yes, I know that’s obvious, but our natural inclination is to pay attention to the screen. It’s got faces on it and it’s moving so obviously it pulls at our subconscious… but from the audiences’ point of view, you’re not looking at them any more!

Pro tip – Don’t sit in front of a window and always have more light on you than you think you need. Your camera needs help! Oh, and make sure the camera is more or less at eye height – and certainly NOT too low.

3.Have more going on – to the point it almost annoys you. Without being in the room, “you and your personality” are diluted. It’s harder to keep people engaged, so you need to compensate… you need more to happen on your screen/slides.
If you were live and in the room it’s perfectly okay to have one slide for as long as you need but online that can mean that people lose focus and perhaps even try to multi-task. I’m not saying you should put in tons of animation for the sake of it, but when you’ve got an option to ‘have more happen’ take it (within reason! 🙂 ) Personally, I’ve got live-slides that I sometimes use for up to 20 minutes just with the one slide. If I tried that online I’d lose people very quickly indeed!

Oh, if you prefer, here’s a fun/quick summary video of these thoughts here:

4.Try and force people to pay ACTIVE attention. Admit it  – when we’re watching other people’s presentations we try to multitask – pretending to ourselves that we can both listen to a presentation and have our emails open in another tab on our browser. We can’t. It doesn’t stop us trying though
So when you present, try things like having key information only available visually on a slide. Don’t repeat it out loud, and make sure you tell people they need to read the screen, so that they’ve got to come back to you and your presentation

Pro tip – check your audience and talk to people who can’t see the screen because of an eye problem or something separately.

5.Test your technology. Obvious. Right? Right? So why do we not do it? Remember that your audience will subconsciously associate your technical competence with the value of your content. That means that if your technical abilities let you down, they start to wonder if your material is up to scratch too.
Test things the day before, using the exact set-up that you’re going to be using for the online presentation itself and check how to do things like shift between screens. Then arrive early and check it on the day!
And when I say ‘early’ I mean easier than you just thought of.
And earlier than you’ve just corrected it to, too!

6.Show your face… Yes really. Whenever you don’t need the slides, turn the slides off (and rehearse doing that – see the note above!). If your software allows you to be a small, floating head in the corner of the screen when you are showing slides… do that! Do whatever you can to be seen to be a real person.
Quite apart from adding personality, people feel more guilty about multi-tasking if they can see you!

7.Be somewhere sensible. You might not have a choice, I know, but if you can…

Another obvious tip is to make sure you go somewhere with a fast WiFi upload speed (as well as download) and without background noise. Use a headset mic to make your voice clearer in comparison to the background sounds… and find somewhere without people walking past in the background, dogs barking, children rushing in…

Dr Simon Raybould

Dr Simon Raybould has become one of the best known and most respected presentation trainers in the UK today.

Based in Newcastle, north-east England, Simon has been training leaders in all walks of life to present and speak effectively and professionally.

In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic Simon’s new course, Remote Impact, looks at the exact skills, structures and methods you and your business need to host virtual events so you can have the impact you need.