Making Your Next Virtual Team Presentation A Roaring Success

It’s safe to say that the business environment and the way we interact with clients and prospects is very different than it was just several weeks ago. In-person contact has been replaced by social distancing, and virtual meetings have become the new norm.

We find ourselves moving out of conference rooms and onto platforms like WebExMicrosoft Teams, and Zoom. Whether you are presenting a sales pitch, internal project proposal, or quarterly numbers to the board, we are all experiencing new challenges in presenting our message effectively as a team. Let’s examine some team presentation best practices that will help you overcome these challenges, elevate your message, and truly distinguish your team from the pack.

Know Thy Content

While knowing your content should always be a constant, it becomes more important than ever when presenting virtually. Every member of your team needs to be intimately familiar with the content they are presenting, ready to answer questions, provide relevant examples, and pivot on the fly.

As part of the preparation process, it is a good idea to think about having at least two variations of your presentation ready – a full version and one that is scaled down for time. Scheduling constraints and technology challenges are real possibilities, so you must be ready to adjust accordingly when your allotted presentation time ends up being shorter than anticipated. Attendees may arrive late or need to leave early because of scheduling challenges such as being in back-to-back meetings. Mastery of your content and the ability to succinctly share why it is important to your audience will make it easier to adjust on the fly without breaking a sweat.

It All Starts with a Question

You have done your due diligence. The slide deck is stunning, your team is prepared, and you are ready to begin your presentation. Well, almost. Even in the most ideal circumstances, it can be hard to read a room. When you move to a virtual platform, the difficulty increases exponentially. Not to mention, participants may be distracted by pets or kids at home, or unable to make the meeting entirely.

To ensure you are engaging with all the stakeholders in the meeting and making the best use of the time you have together, start your presentation with a question. For example, “What are some of the biggest concerns you have in moving from a live event to a virtual one?”

This will give attendees the opportunity to interact and share questions or areas they are most interested in. Also, based on the responses, it will give some keen insight into the strength and power of individual voices in the room. This is a perfect opportunity to fine-tune your message in real time and ensure you are emphasizing the right content with the right stakeholder. It is also a great way to connect, and let the audience know that you are there to solve their challenges, not simply perform a dog and pony show.

Know Thy Time

The cadence of a presentation is important. As with any meeting, be respectful of time constraints, and be sure to leave openings for the audience to engage and ask questions.

When presenting in person, it is much easier to read a room and act on non-verbal cues. However, when moving to digital platforms, it becomes more difficult to gauge reactions to your content. When we speak too long on a subject without a break, attendees can more easily tune out, especially in a virtual meeting.

When presenting, keep a clock or timer nearby. Personally, I always use the time display in the upper right-hand corner on my MacBook Pro to keep my presentations on-track. Take more pauses than you would in a normal presentation. Ask for audience questions or feedback. Virtual meetings simply do not have the same engagement factors as live meetings. Be sure to stay connected with your audience and pace your presentation accordingly.

Never Talk Over Anyone

We have all experienced this on conference calls. Inevitably, when you cannot see everyone in the room, it is far easier to interrupt or talk over someone else. Even if unintentional, this is bad form and can leave a sour impression with attendees.

To help alleviate this, a simple rule of thumb is to always count off one second from the time a speaker stops talking before jumping in. Repeat after me in your head, “one, one-thousand.” By simply taking a full second to pause before attempting to speak, you will lessen the chance of speaking over or cutting someone off before they finish. Also, be sure to mute your mic when you’re not speaking, so background noises don’t interrupt anyone either.

Pass the Baton with Confidence

A great team presentation is a lot like a relay race, with the lead runner providing guidance to the next leg and setting up a clean and effortless pass of the baton. As part of your preparation, be sure to know the part every member of your team plays, who your subject matter experts are, and how topic areas complement one another. This will make it much easier if a pivot becomes necessary.

As you transition from one section to another, be sure to set up the hand-off. Always end your section by asking the audience something like, “Do you have any questions?” or “Does that make sense?” In doing so, you are implicitly earning the right to proceed and giving your attendees the all-important opportunity to clarify areas of confusion or interest. It’s a perfect pulse check, letting you know if you should move to the next presenter in linear fashion or if you need to tag in someone else.

The second key part of an effective hand-off is making an introduction. For example, “Next, Kecia will explain how we will be structuring break-out sessions and certification rooms.” An introduction provides the audience clear guidance on who will be presenting next and what will be covered. It also provides a verbal cue for when the next team member should begin and when to advance the slides. These transitions will not only help the flow of the presentation, it will also convey a sense of confidence and polish to your audience.

Virtual meetings will continue to be a part of the business landscape for the foreseeable future, and we must prepare accordingly. By adding these simple best practices into your preparation regimen, you and your team will be prepared for success, regardless of the platform.

Centrifuge Media
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Mike Dowd

Mike Dowd