By Catherine Iszard, associate business development and marketing coordinator at NERA Economic Consulting
Delivering an engaging online presentation with the right camera angle and fruitful discussion, but without awkward pauses, technical difficulties or interruptions, may seem impossible. From business development initiatives and client pitches to department meetings, virtual presentations are the “new normal” and ensuring we and our lawyers are representing our best selves is critical.
On August 11, the Capital Local Group of the LMA Mid-Atlantic Region hosted a webinar with Marsha Redmon to assess and improve one’s virtual persona, focusing on managing the environment, communicating with confidence, and engaging your virtual audience. Redmon is a former practicing attorney, award-winning journalist, and long-time LMA member. She now advises lawyers on communicating effectively with their colleagues, clients, prospects, and the media.
Redmon’s five steps to becoming a better virtual presenter include:
- Better audio
- Avoiding technical problems
- Using the right camera angle
- Arranging flattering lighting and a professional background
- Having an engaging virtual delivery
Steps one through four are all critical for managing your virtual environment. First impressions still matter, even in the virtual world. Among the many tips Redmon shared for achieving a memorable virtual presentation, she advised:
- If you wear glasses and want to get rid of a reflection, move your lamp further away from the camera or shine the lamp directly at the wall behind the camera instead of at your face.
- If you don’t have natural light, turn down the brightness of your second monitor, or display a PowerPoint slide on your second monitor that is filled with the color peach or tan. Doing so will cool down any florescent lighting in the room.
- Call in to the conference line from your mobile phone as a back-up in case of any technical difficulties.
Communicating with Confidence
Speaking to a camera can feel awkward. Some people feel like they are talking to themselves. However, virtual presentation skills should mirror in-person tactics. Eye contact, or camera contact, is important to show you are in tune with attendees and have authority.
Redmon recommended imagining you are talking to one friendly person. On Zoom and Webex, you can pin your video to the top of your screen right under your webcam so you will make eye contact with the audience while looking at yourself. You also can put a sticky note with an arrow or a smiley face right next to your webcam reminding you to look there.
Engaging Virtual Delivery
“How do I engage with the audience on a virtual presentation? What if no one asks questions or reacts?” Redmon noted she is frequently asked this question. Instead of starting a presentation with a long introduction about who you are, consider engaging with the audience by asking a poll question on who they are.
Redmon added that one her favorite tactics is to plant audience participants to ask a specific question. If no one else asks a question, you can still provide an engaging conversation by stating, “I get this question a lot…” Or consider addressing individuals by name: “Who has thoughts on this? John, can you start?”
The introduction of a virtual meeting can be an indicator of how engaging the presentation will be. Stating your conclusion first and counting your arguments or main points will guide your attendees throughout the presentation.
Hosting a webinar and presenting information can be challenging to manage. Redmon cautioned to set the stage at the beginning of a webinar by directing audience members where to go if they have questions for you or if they need technical help. To avoid interruptions during an open discussion forum, agree on a visual cue to signal that someone wants to talk next.
Lastly, Redmon advised that legal marketers relay these tips to their partners, but cautioned they’re unlikely to become perfect presenters overnight. So with these tips in mind, she recommended first focusing on elements such as the introduction, closing, and sharing examples or stories in 10- to 15-minute segments. And of course, practice, practice, practice.