Blog: Personal Branding & Career Insights

The Devil’s In The Details: Improving Virtual Presentation Skills

Giving virtual presentations

Chances are you’ve experienced or heard about a virtual meeting or event where the presenter botched the opportunity. While at times this might be comical (e.g., the viral clip of an attorney stuck on a cat face filter while addressing the virtual courtroom), strong presentation skills should not be an afterthought.  

When a presentation goes awry, it’s usually because of small things that stem from a lack of self-awareness, technical skills or good habits. When presenting anything by video, all aspects of delivery shape audience perceptions of your expertise, credibility and likeability. These impressions affect relationships and opportunities, both today and in the future. 

While you may be comfortable commanding a live audience in a conference room, the virtual format introduces different challengesEven small mistakes get exposed when your facial expressions, body language and speech patterns are front and center on the viewer’s screen. This virtual proximity can magnify the impact of almost anything, like an odd facial expression, nervous tic or content error, making it hard for screen audiences to ignore. Multiple missteps can raise doubts over your authenticity, preparation and qualifications. When presentations are recorded, the initial impression can have lasting consequences too. 

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Here are some common examples where sharper virtual presentation delivery would’ve made a positive difference: 

  • A communications coach presented to executives over Zoom to share speaking tips, but her camera was positioned in a noticeably unflattering angle. This distracted participants and made it difficult for the coach’s expertise to come across credibly and effectively. Ultimately, she missed the opportunity to drive new business because of the poor impression. 
  • A head of business development (who aces pitch delivery in person) failed to connect well with participants over video. Standing while delivering video presentations, he paced erratically and talked with his hands nonstop, distracting the audience and detracting from the impact of the message.  
  • A sales engineer led a series of new product presentations with prospective clients, reading verbatim from text-heavy slides. This resulted in the prospects wondering if he really knew enough detail about the product and if it was a waste of time meeting with him. It also left the door open to consider competitors. 

Even if you have a sleek slide deck and compelling talking pointsthings like poor video setup, distracting body language and muddled speech can take away from the core message and negatively influence what others think about you, your product or service or your company. Weak presentation skills can undermine confidence in perceived abilities and credibility. Paying attention to all aspects of virtual presentations leaves better impressions, leading to better connections and opportunities.

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