Natalie Butler (pictured), UK Manager, WebEx, and Karen Moyse, MD, KineticFuture, explain why digital presentation skills are more important than ever… and why businesses need to adapt to compete.
The balance between face-to-face and remote communication is changing, with more and more employees conducting business via digital channels. Now the challenge is to ensure that any form of virtual communication remains as effective as the in-person alternative, and that the art of face-to-face communication and charisma can be transferred to the digital world.
Virtual presentation skills are a relatively new phenomenon. It is now commonplace for businesses to use digital media to communicate – for example web conferences, social networks, podcasts and blogs.
The reasons for this shift are threefold: concerns about the environment, the need to reduce the time and costs associated with meetings, and the changing nature of technology within the workplace.
The green factor has been especially prominent in recent years as global efforts to fight climate change increase, encouraging businesses to consider their own carbon footprint and demonstrate corporate responsibility. Now more and more businesses are considering the environmental cost of air travel and specific targets on organisations’ emissions are likely to be a key business consideration in the near future.
The current economic climate also brings travel into question, on a basis of cost. The credit crunch means corporate belts are being tightened across the world to maintain margins, efficiency and competitiveness - and business-class travel is one expense that can be trimmed in an instant.
At the same time, the meteoric rise of consumer Web 2.0 applications, social networking tools and user-generated content is changing the way employees interact with each other and is fuelling the rise of digital communication even further.
With these factors in mind, businesses are reducing business travel knowing that they can save money and cut their carbon output by replacing it where possible with technological alternatives.
These include highly advanced web conferences with the ability to share any document, high-definition ‘Telepresence’ systems which give remote colleagues the sensation of sitting around the same table, or live sales and marketing events streamed over the internet.
Using these tools, remote colleagues, partners or customers can collaborate efficiently on practically any issue without leaving their desks.
Using such technology, organisations can bring practically any face-to-face meeting into the digital domain. Blanket broadband coverage and the ease-of-use of this type of application means getting into an online meeting is simple – the difficult part is making sure nothing is lost in the transition from face-to-face to online.
Karen Moyse, Managing Director of specialist communications training agency KineticFuture, outlines some of best practices for online presentation below.
1. Understand the technology.
Make sure you’re familiar with all the different features so you can use them to maximum effect. Check whether you can use visual aids, such as images or video content, and have them ready. Practice with the tool of your choice is essential.
2. Get into a dialogue.
If using a webcam, try to see through the camera and talk to the audience normally. With or without a camera, never rush - take time to receive information and react to it. But at all times keep your language precise and clear.
3. Use relaxation techniques.
Stress or tension can be detected in your voice so even if you won’t be on screen you should always take time to compose yourself properly before joining a conference.
4. Learn film star skills.
Don’t look directly into the camera. Use a point slightly above it and to the right. Vocally, use a normal volume - don’t shout or project too much.
5. Maintain your energy and stay alert.
On camera, your eyes are critical. If you lose the passion or switch off for a moment, you’ll lose the audience.
6. Use more interaction and variety.
Just like a TV programme, you need a way to hook the audience back in every five minutes. Make the message and format as exciting as possible. The advanced features of web conferencing can really help here. If you can detect the audience flagging, you could launch an instant poll or quiz to gauge opinion on a particular point of interest.
7. Be honest.
How good are you? These new skills are important. Get yourself filmed and take specialist advice.
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