A 4-step guide to acing your virtual presentation

Cassy Aite
July 20, 2022
A 4-step guide to acing your virtual presentation | Hoppier

Virtual presentations have become a mainstay of remote work culture. Even though people are gradually going back into their offices, virtual presentations will remain a key communication channel.

Let’s face it: Delivering virtual presentations isn’t easy. Even if you've been doing them for a while, pre-gig jitters are common for most of us as we launch Zoom and wait for people to join. Perhaps, the biggest hindrance to delivering amazing virtual presentations is the lack of in-person interaction. This makes it difficult to understand audience feedback or "have a conversation" with the audience.

If you've been facing any of these difficulties, sweat no more! This article will help you ace that virtual presentation from designing a stunning slide deck to keeping the audience engaged throughout the session.

Step 1: Designing the presentation

The presentation design serves as the anchor in your virtual presentation. It’s what grabs the attention of participants as you speak or convey information.

It can be daunting to design a presentation that looks appealing and engaging. In this section, we will look at five tips to design a delightful presentation, even if you're not a design wizard.

1. Less is more

If there’s one piece of advice that would significantly improve your presentation, it's this: Less is more.

People can only focus on one thing at a time. Long paragraphs, bullet points, and too many stats and tables can be overwhelming and cause your audience to zone out. If you have to deliver complex information that needs text, break it down into multiple slides to simplify comprehension.

If you’ve been having difficulty trimming information, here’s an easy tip. Each slide should convey only one point. Remove any content or information that doesn’t support or build on your point.

2. Use typography to denote hierarchy

Typography is the art of organizing text to make comprehension and readability easy. It includes the font family, size, weight, and color. While a simple Google search will fetch countless examples of artistic typography, you don’t really need those. Again, the goal of your typography should be to focus on comprehension.

Here are a few basic typography tips to get you started:

  • One of the secrets to great presentation design lies in font pairings. There's an art to creating font pairs. However, you can find plenty of readymade font pairs to use in your presentation.
  • Set the font size for heading elements and body text. Different fonts set to the same font size can actually be different sizes. Tinker a bit with fonts and their sizes before you come up with your informal style guide.
  • Play with font weights to create symmetry and add emphasis. You'll notice in the following example how the colored font and bolder font-weight add emphasis to Summer Sale.
An example of font weights in a virtual presentation slide

3. Colors, contrast, and whitespace

Colors, contrast, and whitespace act as the backdrop on which you add text and visuals. Here is how you can play with them:

  • If you want viewers to focus on the text, pick a subtle color theme that doesn’t draw attention to itself but holds everything together. Think of a bass player in a hard rock band. They lay down a rock-solid groove without any flashiness.
  • You can pick a punchy color theme for introduction, transition, and summary slides. This will help you segue into the next section.
  • Use color contrast to draw attention to a specific point, such as a key stat or finding.
  • Cluttered presentations are distracting. Use white space liberally to add breathing room in your slides.

4. Use visuals to direct attention

Humans process visual information faster than text. Visuals also act as cues to the point you're conveying. Use photos, icons, and shapes to direct the participants’ attention to a certain point.

For example, instead of key stats in a table, you can use iconography to represent the data visually.

Similarly, you can simply use an arrow and draw a circle around an upcoming trend to direct the audience’s attention.

For online presentations, it’s best to stick to static visuals. Using GIFs or videos may impact the experience if there’s a connectivity lag.

Step 2: Streamlining technology

Streamlining the technical side of virtual presentation ensures fewer hiccups during the actual presentation. Here are four tips to help you sort out the technical aspects of the presentation.

1. Pick the right software

You need two software applications for your virtual presentation. One to design the presentation and the other to present it. Let’s look at our options:

  • Presentation Software: Microsoft PowerPoint is the go-to software to design presentations. It comes with a built-in template library and the option to import third-party templates. You can also use Google Slides if you're looking for a good free alternative. If you like to dabble in creative presentation designs, Canva and Visme are two solid options.
  • Online Conferencing Software: Skype, Google Meet, Hopin and Zoom are some of the most commonly used tools in this category. We recommend using purpose-built conference tools like Zoom and Hopin because they offer dedicated features for audience engagement.

2. Get the right hardware

A man holds a microphone for his virtual presentation

You need a good external webcam, lighting setup, and mic to deliver an outstanding presentation experience. While you can go with built-in hardware devices, investing in this equipment pays off. And of course, you don’t have to spend an exorbitant amount of money to buy these items.

A 15-megapixel webcam with a video frame rate of up to 30 FPS would work wonders. Similarly, a ring light or LED panel placed in front of you dramatically improves the lighting.

Considering the importance of audio in presentations, you can invest a little more in buying a good condenser microphone. However, a lapel mic will work just as well.

3. Set a Good Background

Your background sets the tone for your presentation. Make sure to keep it distraction-free. Depending on the type of presentation, you can keep it clean or decorate it to add aesthetics.

Most virtual conferencing platforms allow you to customize or blur the background even if you don’t have a green screen. To add entertainment value to your presentation, this is something you should consider — attendees would be thrilled to visit Dunder Mifflin (with a "The Office" themed virtual background) during informal presentations.

4. Perform a dry run

Before starting the presentation, do a quick tech check. Test your internet connection. Close all unnecessary background applications and ensure your computer is compatible with your event platform. Make arrangements for standby equipment such as the built-in webcam or earphones if external hardware gives out.

Learn all the necessary features of the video conferencing software, and keep a PDF version of the presentation handy in case the original presentation file doesn’t display well.

Step 3: Working on the presentation delivery

Storytelling, voice inflection, and eye contact play a key role when it comes to delivering online presentations. Here are a few tips to help you improve the quality of your presentation.

1. Lead With a Story

This is a rule of thumb in ad copywriting. The purpose of the first line in the ad copy is to get the reader to read the second line.

Storytelling works the same way in presentations. Stories are captivating. Facts, stats, and data are good for the analytical side of the brain, but it’s stories that keep the listener engaged.

Beginning your presentation with stories, personal anecdotes, examples, metaphors, or mnemonics hooks the listener from the get-go.

For example, in this TED Talk, Shawn Achor, an American positive psychologist, starts his talk with a funny personal story to establish the central theme.

2. Use voice to project your body language

Body language and hand gestures are crucial parts of communication. As participants can only see your face, your voice is the proxy for your body language and hand gestures.

Speech disfluencies such as mumbling, umms, and strained pauses fail to engage participants. Therefore, it helps to invest some time in prepping your voice for the presentation.

Speech modulation, planned pauses, and energetic speaking can make the presentation more engaging. Record yourself rehearsing the presentation a few times, and look for spots where you can add emphasis or change intonation to hold the audience’s attention. Practice some vocal warm-ups before you present. They will not only improve your vocal quality but protect your voice as well.

Think of yourself as the solo color commentator of your presentation.

3. Maintain eye contact

Eye contact projects confidence and conviction. The attendees will lose interest quickly if they find you reading from a list or staring at the screen.

The best way to hold their attention is to make strong eye contact. Look directly in the webcam when you're presenting. You may have to push yourself back a bit so that you can seamlessly switch your gaze between the screen and webcam without hunching over.

4. Deliver a S.T.A.R. moment

American writer, speaker, and CEO of Duarte Design, Nancy Duarte, has developed a method to deliver memorable presentations. Duarte recommends creating a S.T.A.R. (Something They’ll Always Remember) moment that drives the key point home. Think of the crescendo in a classical music piece.

The premise of the S.T.A.R. moment is to strategically place evocative images or visuals, storytelling attached to a big idea, or shocking statistics in your presentation to drive a point home.

Step 4: Engaging the audience

Zoom fatigue and passive participation are the enemy of engagement. The three points we discussed above will help you grab your attendees’ attention, but this is the section that will help you retain it.

1. Start with an icebreaker

Whether you're presenting a sales pitch to a prospect or conducting a training session for your team, an icebreaker session is a great way to start the presentation.

The first few minutes of the presentation can be filled with awkward silences as participants begin joining in. The icebreaker gets everyone talking and helps you avoid any awkward silences.

If you're delivering the presentation for your team, a simple question such as what they're expecting out of the session can help you understand audience expectations.

For an external presentation, such as a sales pitch, you can simply introduce yourself and ask a formal question about your audience’s work. The purpose is to instill trust and build rapport.

2. Minimize distractions

In online settings, it doesn’t take much to get distracted. A simple ping on the phone is enough. You can use the following tactics to avoid everyone getting distracted.

  • Set ground rules: Basic etiquette such as muting the mic when not speaking and keeping the phone on silent can drastically reduce distractions. Along with this, guidelines on how to ask questions can reduce interruptions (raise a hand, use a dedicated messaging channel, etc.)
  • Get to the point: It’s difficult to know when a question veers off on a tangent, and by the time you notice, the conversation is already off-topic. Whenever you see a question that's not relevant to the topic, request that participants discuss it after the presentation.

3. Schedule Coffee Breaks

The amount of eye gaze on Zoom is eight times higher than a physical conference, according to a recent report. As this leads to increasing weariness, your attendees will get distracted no matter how well-structured your presentation is.

A great way to tackle Zoom weariness is to plan breaks during or after the presentation. Virtual coffee breaks are a great way to de-stress and bring in the in-person experience.

A virtual credit card you can use to incorporate a coffee break into a virtual presentation

Using Hoppier’s virtual credit card, you can send coffee to your participants at their doorstep. Allocate virtual credit cards for each attendee, set the budget, choose the coffee shops where they can order, and you're set! You can also put a time limit on redemption so that any unspent balance is credited back to you.

Vendors event guests can purchase from with their virtual credit card

And why stop at coffee? You can also plan virtual lunches or happy hours to end the session on a fun note.

4. Make it a conversation

Audience engagement skyrockets when you actively involve your attendees. So, rather than inviting questions and comments right at the end of the session, engage them at regular intervals. Reserving some time at the end of each section is a great way to invite questions too.

Questions, polls, or show of (virtual) hands allow you to break the monotony and actively engage the participants. Even asking a rhetorical or simple yes-no question works.

You can onboard another person to moderate Q&As and emcee so that you can focus on honing your presentation delivery skills.

Lights, camera, action!

You’re all set to deliver that memorable virtual presentation.

After your presentation, remember to follow up with participants to gather some feedback. If possible, record the session and watch it later to see what worked and where you can improve.

We hope these tips help you plan and deliver a presentation that doesn’t settle for anything less than a virtual standing ovation.

And if you want to win more fans, give Hoppier a try. Our virtual credit cards deliver the in-person experiences that make presentations memorable.

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