Written by: Ljana Vimont, Managing Director of Stinson Design
For many PR professionals who are happiest fine-tuning a piece of written communication, behind the scenes, the pandemic has functioned as a sort of trial by fire, requiring consistent video meetings and presentations, which often have a mix of tiny blank black boxes, and headshots the presenter must stare at while aiming to capture interest and deliver value. This added challenge of presenting to an invisible audience through technology can make even confident presenters stumble.
If you are one of those communication professionals who would prefer anything but public speaking, know you are not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 73 percent of the population is plagued by glossophobia, the fear of public speaking. This means the fear of public speaking is more common than the fear of death.
With remote work and virtual connections primed only to increase, it’s worth discovering a more comfortable, and compelling approach to virtual presentations.
Here are some tips on how to present with confidence and assert a strong presence remotely.
1. Focus on Your Breath
When you present remotely, people may not be looking at your face, and if you are dialing in to present slides, for example, well there goes body language cues. As a result, your voice’s tone and inflection plays a much bigger role in the comprehension of your presentation. Speak slowly and use pauses to dramatize critical parts of your presentation.
Controlling your breathing and taking breaths from your abdomen will also enable you to speak more slowly as you’ll have more air in your lungs. By breathing more deeply, you’ll also be able to lower the pitch of your voice. Studies also show that CEOs with deeper voices are more likely to persuade their audience.
Record yourself before the presentation and listen back to it. If you want immediate feedback, you can also join a club like Toastmasters to practice speaking publicly.
2. Posture helps with confidence
In a live presentation, you’re accustomed to standing and presenting, which allows you to physically take up space and communicate non-verbally. When presenting remotely, you should still be conscious of your posture even if you aren’t visible to other people. A study done by Ohio State University demonstrated that posture not only improves how other people view you, but it also improves how you view yourself.
Richard Petty, the psychology professor directing the study said, “Most of us were taught that sitting up straight gives a good impression to other people. But it turns out that our posture can also affect how we think about ourselves. If you sit up straight, you end up convincing yourself by the posture you’re in.”
3. Look directly at the camera, not your screen
We all know the importance of eye contact, studies also show that people who maintain eye contact are perceived as more dominant than those who do not maintain eye contact, which can be means to demonstrate your authority and establish leadership.
When you are presenting to a group of people virtually – or even streaming your own IGTV or Stories – it’s important to focus on the camera, not on your own face or the slides. While it may feel a little strange at first, your audience will feel that you’re speaking directly to them and will connect with you on a deeper level.
Quick Tip: Try turning off the camera view so that you can’t see yourself as you’re presenting and eliminate other distractions that would pull your focus away from the camera.
4. Dress for the occasion
While it may be more comfortable to simply present in a nice t-shirt, and sure, those you are presenting to might come casual, but as the presenter you have an opportunity to distinguish yourself and inspire more interest in your topic by dressing professionally. For example, marketing expert Neil Patel shares the story of how he spent about $160,000 on clothes for pitches, and it resulted in $700,000 in profit. Before the experiment, his team hadn’t closed nearly as many deals, and the only variable was his attire.
Not only do attendees take you more seriously when you’re dressed well, but you can more easily step into a lead role when you dress up. One study even showed that people who dressed “better” scored higher on the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale.
The Bottom Line
While presenting remotely may feel uncomfortable in the beginning, like anything it becomes easier with practice. If you are ready to prioritize public speaking, consider reaching out to groups like Toastmasters or find a public speaking coach to help you hold your own as a powerful engaging speaker – no matter the presentation.
Ljana Vimont is the managing director of Stinson Design, a design agency specializing in customized, professional, and on-brand presentations for companies across all industries. Ljana’s leadership has taken Stinson from a hobby to a well-respected creative agency working with big global brands like McDonald’s, Microsoft, Google, and Coca-Cola.