Become a More Engaging Virtual Speaker
When speaking for virtual events online, one of the challenges you will face is how to communicate clearly and effectively with your audience. You may have mastered the art of presenting on stage, but you will have to do some adjustments when you present virtually.
In a virtual setting, you cannot really move around or do grand gestures as you would have on stage. More often than not, you can only show your face down to your shoulders on screen.
Whatever you choose to present, make the most out of your virtual events by capturing your audience’s interest through non-verbal communication. Your body is a tool you can use to emphasize your message while reinforcing enthusiasm and sincerity. Here are a few tips on how you can keep your audience hooked through non-verbal communication:
In a virtual conference platform, the only way you can look at your virtual audience is through the lens of your webcam. If you look at a person on your screen, your audience will see it as you looking away. Make sure to raise your camera at eye level. If you are using a laptop, invest in a riser, or even stack a box or books underneath it so that it rises to the level of your eyes.
Do not sit too close to your webcam. The distortion in the camera will make your face appear too large on-screen.
Use good lighting so that your face can be more visible. Otherwise, your audience might not be able to see where you are looking.
Put your notes near the webcam. Ideally, tape them on either side of your cam. If you want to see the reactions of your audience without making it obvious you are looking away, move their icons within the virtual eye contact area.
Don’t overdo it! Do not just stare at the webcam without looking away. It’s creepy!
How you say something (tone of voice and body language) will influence your audience more than the words that you say. According to some studies, people learn better from teachers who use gestures. This is more apparent in foreign language and math learning which involve unfamiliar words and abstract ideas. No matter their age, learners who were taught by teachers using gestures have a better grasp of the material they’re trying to learn.
This is how you can use gestures when presenting for online events:
Watch your distance to the webcam. If you are too close, it will look like you’re invading your audience’s personal screen space. This does not make for an inviting presence. So make your gestures as close to your body as possible but far enough to give you the right moving space.
Do not gesture too quickly or your movements will appear as a blur on camera. An arm’s length from your webcam to your body will give you just enough space for gestures.
Put verbs into action. If possible, physically act out your message using your hands or face.
The expression on your face can reveal what you are thinking or feeling and it can affect how your audience perceives your message. If you want people to listen to you, smile and animate your face so that you can show enthusiasm and positive energy.
Don’t suck in your lips. This is a sign of distress which you will usually see in people who have the tendency to be apologetic when facing uncomfortable positions. Being aware of this tendency will help you train yourself to seem calmer in difficult situations.
Match your facial expressions with active listening cues such as nodding or tilting your head. This shows interest when a member of your audience or fellow speaker shares his or her insights with everyone in the virtual events platform you’re using.
In general, frowning or grimacing can make your audience uncomfortable so make sure you do not unconsciously use those expressions. If you want to see how you look on cam, make sure to videotape yourself when practicing your presentation. Watching yourself will give you more self-awareness of your tendencies and habits. This way, you get to fix the way you present before the day of your speaking engagement.