Whether you're on the cusp of bringing in new business, updating workplace processes, or sharing what you've learned at a conference, you need your coworkers to be all ears. But if you're employed by a small business, there's a good chance some of your team members work remotely. Instead of sitting around a table together, you have to collaborate with five people in three time zones.
The best way to get everyone on the same page is with a visual presentation. But it's hard to keep an audience focused from a distance. You know they'll be half paying attention while they multitask and check their email. It's up to you to command their attention. Having a game plan and using online meeting software like join.me can help you leave a lasting impression. Here are five tips to make your presentation smooth and compelling.
1. Make it easy for the participants. Setting the mood can be a challenge when you're presenting to people who aren't in the same room as you. It's hard to read people, and you have no way of knowing what outside stressors are at play. It's your job to ease your attendees into an open mood. Communicate clearly about where and when to tune in. Don't make it difficult to join a meeting — use an online meeting app like join.me, which doesn't require complicated software downloading and sends each audience member detailed login instructions. This way, you can share your screen and your slides in addition to leading the audience through your presentation vocally. Tech issues can delay your presentation and frustrate others who may be waiting — you're much better off using the time before you begin for small talk so people have a chance to warm up to you.
2. Consider your audience. Many presenters seem to forget whom the presentation is for. They set up slides that hit all their key points without addressing why the participants should consider the concepts they're about to see and hear. Learn about your audience before the presentation. Speculate on how they might be skeptical and cynical about what you're offering. Show empathy early on so you make a connection. Then craft the presentation to tease, reveal and delight so your audience feels connected, excited and motivated.
3. Edit, edit again, and then edit some more. Boring and redundant: these are the two biggest complaints about most presentations. Just because you scheduled an hour-long meeting doesn't mean you have to use it all. Create just enough slides to support your points and stimulate conversation. The goal is to get the conversation going. There is no need for text-heavy slides, and no one wants to hear you read them verbatim. They want to know that you have a command of the subject. Start with 10 – 12 slides. Each slide should have three to four brief points and shouldn't take more than two to three minutes to explain. This isn't a Senate filibuster. Make your statements brief and to the point. Keep editing until everything is clean and simple.
4. Get comfortable with yourself. Have you ever heard yourself present? It's possible you're as interesting and polished as George Clooney or Meryl Streep, but even those pros have rehearsed in front of cameras for years. Rehearse your presentation several times, exactly as you intend to present it. Practice every detail from signing on, running your deck, and even taking questions from friends posing as participants. join.me allows you to record your presentation days before so you can watch and listen as if you were in the audience. Keep refining until you eliminate all the problems and you feel confident and relaxed.
5. Bring on the fun. There are three ways to be a truly memorable presenter: use trauma, beauty or humor. Trauma can create lasting impact, but you run the risk of offending your audience and leaving them with a negative impression. The trouble with beauty is that aesthetic taste can vary. Not everyone can see the beauty in technology or accounting. But humor is universal. A little laugh here and there will keep people engaged and make them want to revisit a recorded version of the presentation after the fact. And that may just help you maintain momentum with your team long after the presentation is over.
An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York. Follow him: @awesomeroar.