9 Tips to help you impress when communicating on the small screen

Tips to run a successful virtual meeting or presentationFrom bold new start-ups to established small companies branching out, meetings and interactions are increasingly virtual.

In some cases, due to distance and the global reach, you may never meet in the ‘real world’, only ever online. So to help create a good impression, now more than ever, is the time to invest in developing your small screen skills.

Whether you are hosting a virtual meeting, pitching to a potential client, running a webinar, conducting online training, or even interviewing a prospective new employee, how you present yourself on the small screen matters. So, here are 10 tips to ensure you put your best foot forward on the small screen.

1. Find the best software for your needs

There are plenty of different software packages and resources out there for you to try. It’s worth finding the one that you are comfortable working with. Take the time to review the online tutorial sessions that most offer.

You may find some work better for delivering training and webinars which involve sharing screens and information. Others when you want to be seen, in meetings and interviews. Most let you have a free trial so you can have a chance to check them out at your leisure.

2. Get your “studio” set up

Find a chair that you are comfortable sitting. Depending on the position of the chair to your screen are you looking down or looking up at your camera. Too high and we only see your chin, too low then it’s possibly only the top of your head.

Inevitably if you are not settled, you will move, usually small movements to start with, before you know it, you’ll be rocking in your chair like something out of a horror movie.

3. Notice your habits

Hands have a way to being in the way. When we speak we use our hands as part of the engagement. However, they can hinder too. You may be completely unaware that you have rubbed your ear lobe for 20 minutes, that’s all others have noticed.

Be aware of the position of your hands. Where possible keep them out view. You may need to train yourself to change a habit by sitting on your hands!

4. Starting a virtual meeting or webinar

Hosting a virtual meeting you will want to know that everyone has joined the meeting. The hilarious conference call meeting created by Tyler and Tripp is just as true for virtual meetings.

A quick round of introductions, name, position and company is a useful way to check whose there, and importantly who is not. If a key decision maker is missing, you want to know that from the outset.

5. The joys of audio

From the beginning check that everyone can hear you. The audio does have a habit of dropping out at key points. If the audio does blips along the way, you may not be aware of it and you may be speaking with no one hearing you. This is particularly challenging when delivering training sessions.

Some software include features that allow text questions to be submitted. This can be really useful, as if the sound does disappear, and they can’t hear you, they will type and tell you.

Joining virtual meetings there can be background noises which the attendees are unaware can be heard (the classic is the barking dog). Ideally you should mute the attendees while you are speaking which solves the immediate problem.

Alternatively you can ask them to mute themselves and just unmute if they want to join into a conversation.

There may be times that despite all the checks that the signal just isn’t good enough. For this reason it is always good to have a short recap of the main points prepared in advance so that you repeat them if necessary.

6. Bust the jargon

Within your industry there will be terminology which the majority will completely understand without question. Delivering your presentation in industry code may well be suitable for your audience. But for a wider audience always be careful.

For example, if you are discussing on-screen dogs – are you talking about an animal show or digital on-screen graphics?

It is important to avoid possible confusion if your audience members could have either interpretation in their minds.

If you are conducting business internationally it is always worth checking that the jargon is the same and will be understood.

7. It’s the British pantomime classic

“!t’s behind you!” Before you start a virtual meeting or creating a video have you looked at what’s behind you?

The maneki-neko figurine, better known as the lucky waving cat, will be extremely distracting if it’s waving its golden paw behind your head. Things like this are in your control so take the opportunity to clear the space behind you to more of a blank canvass.

The Robert Kelly TV interview is a classic in its own right. With all best plans, what happens when the interview is live on TV and your whole family are suddenly in the room with you?

8. Managing the online exchange

Using different software packages, voice over IP product and video calling services mean that you have to learn how to use them.

There are technical aspects for you managing the online exchange and also for those joining. Sending out clear joining instructions is a good step. Have you tested they work yourself? This is highly recommended.

With some, you may find that attendees have become trapped in virtual waiting rooms. Other situations can mean that they have IT restrictions that will not allow them to download the plug in necessary for the software to run.

Knowing how to resolve this type of situation and having a backup plan ready, which in most situations is a dial in option, is essential.

9. Looking professional on screen

How will you deliver your presentation? Will you be looking straight at the camera, speaking calmly and with confidence? Or will your head be down as you are looking at your notes?

By looking down, there will be a fantastic shot of the top of your head. Your voice will be muffled and not clearly heard.

Use prompt cards which you can glance at rather than read from. Try placing post it notes around your screen to keep you looking upwards.

For most online meetings and webinars you will have a defined time slot so you need to organise yourself to start and end on time.

At the beginning a smiling greeting to your guests will set the right tone. Check in that you can be heard. Explain how the session will be run, that you will use mute options, how the ask questions, even if an agenda has been sent out in advance a quick reminder of the points for discussion, reaffirm the timing, this may mean limiting the discussions be upfront about it and ensure that they attendees stay on topic.

As ever practice and review makes perfect. Watch back after the event so that you can improve your on-screen performance next time.

With time you’ll get more confident with delivering in this medium. Small screen is the future so start making the most of it now.

About the author

This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Helena Brewer from Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches communication and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. With 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland, you can find your local club at www.toastmasters.org

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