by Cathy DeFrances-Vittorio, Associate | Business Line Manager
Over the last few months, I’ve attended numerous webinars, Zoom meetings, UCX calls, and Microsoft Teams presentations. I’ve seen organizations that clearly know what they’re doing and those that are clearly uncomfortable with the new format. You can guess who’s winning the work.
Whether on-line or in person, the goal is the same: you want to engage your audience. You need to consider not just what you’re going to say, but how you’re going to say it. The “how” has just changed a bit. You need to still consider your audience’s level of knowledge on the subject and you need to always be asking yourself “what does my audience really care about” and narrow down your message to answer that question. But now that you’ve severely expanded physical distance how do you communicate your message so that it is clear, on-point, and engaging?
Whether you’re part of a panel, presenting to a community group, or participating in an interview, here are three tips for making your on-line presentation successful.
#1 Lean into the tech
One of the key benefits to on-line presentations is that presenters can have written notes with slide transitions in front of them. But please, don’t read word for word – it’s obvious, makes you look unprepared, and is disengaging. Your notes are prompts. Remember that you are the expert – otherwise you wouldn’t be the one speaking on the subject. You know what you’re talking about!
You don’t have to try to cram everything onto a large board anymore. Start with the full image, and then do small, bold, colorful sketches of outlined areas of discussion, and switch through slides. Use a program that allows you to make real-time edits. Circle, highlight, draw, and explain. Ask for questions and draw out the answers. For renderings, make them more line-intensive and less watercolor-like. This will be easier for the audience to see.
Consider adding short, pre-recorded video. I don’t recommend an all-video presentation because it’s less personal, but short, relevant, and high-quality video clips can be highly effective and engaging.
A word of caution…WIFI – don’t depend on it. Hard-wire into your internet. Always.
#2 Be consistent
If you’re doing a series of webinars either hosted by a single person or having a multitude of individual hosts, make sure it looks like a series. Use the same slide template and make sure your opening and closing slides are identical.
If you’re participating on a panel, pre-determine rules for presentation: everyone muted except speaker, seamless transitions between speakers and slides, and one director for all technology, etc. Have one person be the moderator. Have them begin with warm, personal introductions for speakers.
Look for consistent and specific lighting for each speaker so that there isn’t a harshness between speakers of dark, light, blurry, etc. Make sure each presenter has a good quality microphone. If possible, purchase the same kind for the entire team. Don’t rely on the computer’s microphone.
#3 Practice, practice, practice
Very few of us are naturals at this. And if you’re part of a panel, then the chances for errors go up exponentially. Perform the entire presentation beforehand, ideally with an audience watching for awkwardness, slide sharing issues, background distractions, and poor eye contact. Then run through it again.
While we may not be Silicon Valley, we are in a tech-forward industry. Outdated templates, text-heavy slides, or the inability to use modern technology will cost you work. No one wants to hire a firm that appears outdated. If you fumble through, look unprepared, or have someone say “next slide” over and over and over again, you instill no confidence in both your own ability and your firm’s ability to actually perform the work you’re touting.
About the Author
Cathy DeFrances-Vittorio is an Associate and Business Line Manager at Fuss & O’Neill. With more than 30 years of experience in A/E/C marketing and business development, she has seen the industry evolve, but still remains true to coloration, integrity, and honestly. Cathy is a two-time past president of the Connecticut SMPS chapter, a recipient of an SMPS Lifetime Achievement Award, a member of the advisory board of the ACE Mentor Program in Hartford, co-chair of the allied committee for the Connecticut AIA, and a member of the programs committee for Professional Women in Construction.