10 public speaking tips for online presentations

Old rules are more important than ever

Presentations and public speaking were hard enough in the old days. You may have had a physical audience, but it was never guaranteed to be a captive one. Smartphones and their endless streams of content always stood a good chance of being more interesting than you.

That’s still the case, only worse. Once, social conventions kept surreptitious scrolling to a minimum. But there’s nothing very social about an audience of solitary viewers who have other screens to look at, or make no effort to disguise downcast gazes at smartphones, or turn off their cameras altogether. As a presenter, you may be doubly alone, physically and virtually.

Smartphones stood a good chance of being more interesting than you.

So, you have to be more interesting than everything else, as well as clear, and well organized. To find out how, we returned to Bob Ackroyd, a business communications instructor with the JR Shaw School of Business, who once supplied us with a list of things to do and things to avoid when addressing rooms full of real people.

The room may be gone but the rules remain, and they’re more important than ever. “These are the ‘10 Tips’ I will be giving my class,” says Ackroyd. No doubt, he will have his students, each somewhere else, glued to their screens.

man giving online presentation

  1. Look directly into the camera and remember to modulate your voice: volume, pitch and speed.
  2. Greet your audience with a smile (smile a lot throughout), introduce yourself by name, and perhaps give your qualification to speak.
  3. Don’t apologize for being a poor speaker or say you got roped into giving this speech against your will.
  4. Don’t tell an “ice-breaker” joke if it does not relate to the subject of the speech.
  5. Tell your audience “where you are going” with this speech. That is, the point.
  6. Keep that point in mind throughout the speech as you “go there.”
  7. End with a brief summary of “where you have been,” or how you got to the point.
  8. Close with a well-worded, memorable statement summarizing the point that you want the audience to remember.
  9. If there is a question period, repeat that well-worded statement at the end so it hangs in the air as the last thought.
  10. After a pause, thank your audience for their attention.

    Banner image credit: istock.com/filadendron

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