As small business owners, the switch to virtual communications means we’re spending big chunks of every week in online meetings, joining webinars as well as dealing with social media.
We asked Lyn Roseaman to share her advice and tips on how you can get the most from communicating online.
Do you sometimes find yourself feeling exhausted by back-to-back Zoom meetings? Are you losing new business pitches that you feel you should have won? Do you wonder why you’re in a meeting that doesn’t seem to be particularly relevant to you or worry that people in your meetings aren’t quite as engaged as you’d like?
We’ve all switched to virtual meetings, but we’re not always mindful of the different skills and techniques we need to be really effective and make a positive impact online. To achieve this, we need to embrace the three Now You’re Talking communication essentials – Confidence, Connection and a message that drives Change.
Confidence online helps your listeners feel they’re in safe hands and can relax and concentrate on what you have to say.
If you come across as unduly nervous, people will worry about your wellbeing and may even tune out. To hold their attention, you need to bring confident energy to the screen.
Are you looking the part?
Start with location. What can your camera and mic see and hear and is it what you want people to see and hear? Is the space you’ve chosen sending out the message you intend?
A business meeting from your kitchen might not set quite the right tone. In addition, make sure your internet connection is as strong as it can be to minimise buffering.
Are you also looking good? You’re on the small screen and the camera will pick up every detail, expression and gesture. Put your main light source behind the camera so that you’re neither plunged into shadow nor dazzled by sunlight.
If you wear glasses, check your eyes aren’t obliterated by reflections on the lenses and adjust as appropriate. Wearing block colours also make you look strong and professional.
Relying on technology can sometimes feel like working with children and animals. No matter how many checks we do, technology can still let us down and people accept this.
What’s key is that you handle any problems calmly and efficiently, explaining what’s happening. Asking one of your meeting participants to take care of the tech for you is an ideal solution.
Show your confidence
Think of all the non-verbal ways you can bring confident energy to the screen. For instance:
- A genuine smile
- An open and stable posture that is relaxed and assured
- Reduce movement and gestures. Online, on the small screen, fidgeting distracts and big gestures that work in a large venue will overwhelm or fall off screen
- Steady eye contact, with the correct positioning of your camera lens at just above eye level, communicates openness and sincerity, while keeping any double chins at bay!
As small businesses, we have to work hard to be visible and stand out, and connecting with your listeners is essential. This becomes even more important when you’re talking to people who don’t know you, eg potential clients or audiences at events.
Over and above your message, you want them to get a feeling of what it will be like to do business with you.
What’s In It For Me?
Whether you’re pitching for work or inspiring your team, it’s your responsibility to know what your listeners are expecting from you, ie answering their all-important ‘What’s In It For Me’ question – as quickly as possible – so that you are relevant and on the pulse, and they have a reason to carry on listening.
This means deep researching your audience so that you understand who they are, what they already know and what makes them tick.
‘You’ and ‘we’ are magic words
Use of ‘you’ helps strengthen the relevance of your talk or presentation and make your listeners feel involved.
In the English language, ‘you’ power comes from being both singular – a personal connection through a one-to-one conversation – and plural, including everyone. ‘We’ is even stronger, giving the feeling of togetherness, teamwork and co-creation.
Barack Obama understood the power of ‘you’ and ‘we’. In his 2012 presidential election victory speech, he used the personal pronoun ‘I’ 36 times, ‘you/you’re/your’ 55 times and ‘we/us/our’ 97 times.
Stories trump PowerPoints
Storytelling comes into its own online. Sharing relevant personal stories, openly and honestly, helps our listeners relate to us as people. Stories not only create connections, but they are both engaging and memorable.
In stark contrast, screen-sharing bullet points is far less engaging and memorable, and fast-track to your listeners tuning out. Prioritise relevant storytelling at every opportunity to avoid online fatigue and tedium.
In the words of John F Kennedy (US President, 1961-63), “The only reason to give a speech is to change the world.”
As we increasingly head back to the workplace, speaking with others is vital to ensuring we keep on top of risks and concerns, and explore and share change together. Bringing fresh ideas to every meeting helps deliver energy and momentum to online experiences.
Message for the moment
Meetings can sometimes lose sight of a clear purpose and message. Starting at the end of your presentation or meeting with how you want people to think, feel or act after they’ve listened to what you have to say will help you stay relevant, show you’re in touch and on point. Identify your message and then incorporate only content which supports that message.
In the interest of vibrant online meetings, be selective about who you invite to come along so that the content is really relevant to them and they can see the value in joining.
Make life easy
Our attention spans are short. In our enthusiasm for a subject, it’s easy to say too much and overwhelm our listeners along the way. Less is most definitely more online.
Structure and signpost your talk so that it is easy to follow. Break up your presentation into small ‘chunks’ of around five minutes each and top and tail each chunk with what you plan to cover and a keyword to sum it up as you move on to the next chunk. Signpost what you have to say to let your listeners know what to expect.
Interact at every opportunity
In Zoom and Teams you can create breakouts. Dividing your audience into smaller groups and sending them to separate rooms where they can discuss a specific topic and report back to the main meeting engenders both energy and new ideas.
Aiming to make some 70% of the time interactive (interspersed with short presentations) will make your meetings more dynamic, relevant and memorable.
Online meetings and presentations need to be vibrant and memorable if small business owners are to stand out, win new business and have enthusiastic teams of colleagues and clients.
Online is here to stay and, as we shift out of lockdown, we will almost certainly need to shine online AND in physical locations, with our real audience back in the room.
About the author
This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Lyn Roseaman, a Distinguished Toastmaster at Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. With 400+ clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland, find your local club at Toastmasters.org
More help on perfecting presentations, pitches and talks
You can find lots more tips to help you deliver winning presentations, pitches and and talks in these other ByteStart guides;
- Perfecting your pitch: 10 Principles for entrepreneurs
- How to deliver ‘rocking’ presentations and pitches that will captivate your audience
- Harness the “Power of Three” to nail your pitch
- How to overcome your speaking nerves by turning fear into your friend
- The 3 Golden Principles of public speaking
- Using the power of your body language to deliver show-stopping speeches and presentations
- How NOT to Network – 7 Business networking mistakes to avoid
- How to get more out of your networking than passable plonk canapés
- The “Magic 10” Tips on networking – how the experts build great networks