Can public speaking be fun? How can you conquer public speaking fear? Should you use a green screen when presenting on Zoom? What role does storytelling play in public speaking? What are common mistakes to avoid? These and other questions are answered in the lively podcast interview I did with Book Marketing Mentors recently.
Book Marketing Mentors is a first-rate podcast and I am very thankful that Susan Friedman, CSP, asked me to join as this week’s guest expert. I’ve been a huge fan of Susan and her podcast since it began about four years ago. I always get a few actionable tips off of every episode. So, this time, I was was the one giving tips.
Lights, camera, action! If you’re going to present frequently in a virtual world, you need to look and sound your best to be an engaging speaker. That may require an equipment upgrade to get the right look and sound.
When the COVID-19 virus hit and the lockdowns began, like most everyone, I had to pivot quickly. I had been a public speaking coach on the move. With my rolling computer bag and MacBook Pro laptop, I went from client to client, from Starbucks to Starbucks. When my home office suddenly became my sole place of business, I tried several “do it yourself” solutions to look and sound professional. I experimented with lighting, green screens, and the built-in equipment, but I just couldn’t get the quality I needed to be an effective presenter.
Eventually, I decided to make the investment to upgrade my equipment. I wanted high-quality but budget-friendly equipment. And once I made the switch, it became one of those decisions where I thought, “Why didn’t I do this before?”
The following are the equipment choices I made for a total of $347. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, no one is compensating me in any way for these endorsements.
> Lighting: After consulting with my professional photographer friend, Patrick Rapps, I chose the Neewer Ring Light. It has a dimmer control that adjusts from 1% to 100% and it puts off very little heat. It does not come with a stand, but as a speaker and musician, I had an extra mic stand. It is now mounted so that it is shining head-on at me. My Neewer also has come in handy for casual family photos elsewhere in the house. Cost: $66.
> Camera: The built-in FaceTime HD camera on my iMac just wasn’t cutting it. I chose the highly recommended C922x Pro Stream Webcam, a full 1080p HR camera. It clips on top of my iMac and also can be mounted in a wide variety of places. It has built-in light correction and a 5-foot cable, so it’s versatile. It also has built-in microphones that are better than the iMac built-in microphones, but not as good as my next choice. Cost: $151.
> Microphone: The webcam mic was better than the iMac built-in, but not nearly as good as my Blue Yeti. You can hear the difference between the built-in mic and the Blue Yeti. The Blue Yeti has settings for cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional, and stereo. That makes it good for Zoom meetings, podcasts, and even recording my guitar for those random “public speaking blues” songs I post on my Instagram occasionally. The Blue Yeti also has a volume control, a mute button, and zero-latency headphone output. Cost: $130.
So, those are the equipment choices I made. I encourage you to shop around and discover what works best for you. And when you find the right fit, you’ll be well on your way to being a virtual business presenter that can turn heads, win hearts, and get results.
The great Zoom meeting debate is on – green screen vs. real background. What say you? Which do you prefer? If you’re not sure, here are some things to consider that will lead you to the answer that’s best suited for your presentation.
Green Screen Do’s and Don’ts
My $7 “green screen”
Green screens can provide a layer of privacy if you don’t have an attractive home office and they can be professional looking when done correctly. But if you want to look professional, ditch the unrealistic and distracting views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the fun but silly palm trees blowing in the wind. Instead, go with a simple background, such as a solid color with your company logo or an uncluttered photo.
I know some folks who painted an entire wall green or purchased green screen backdrops. These solutions work well and are a good choices if you’re using them enough to warrant the time and expense. However, there are less expensive options. I set up a simple green screen in my home office using an appropriately colored green blanket I bought at Walmart for $7. Then I created a solid-colored Zoom background with my company logo for meetings I was hosting and a solid colored non-logo background for meetings where I was a participant.
Although I was able to get my green screen to look good, I prefer my actual bookshelf background for most business situations.
Actual Background Do’s and Don’ts
Note empty space for head
A natural background allows you to show your audience a bit of your personality. And, of course, it’s also more authentic and less pretentious.
If you go with a real background, make sure it is framed correctly on your webcam, free from clutter, and lit properly. A well-placed book and a houseplant can add a nice touch to the ambiance of your presentation. However, make sure the area behind your head is empty so you don’t have knickknacks or plants appearing to grow out of your head.
In addition to my bookshelf, I also had a large foam board logo printed at OfficeMax and hung it on a blank wall for presentations that I deliver from a standing position. This is what I use to record my online courses and marketing videos.
The Bottom Line on Zoom Backgrounds
As Zoom meetings continue to be the way we do business meetings, conferences and even networking events, we’ll continue to weigh the pros and cons of virtual backgrounds and the actual backgrounds. Whichever option you choose, make sure your background isn’t distracting. As always, you are the star of your presentation, not your background or technology.
The bottom line is this: Choose the background option that will best connect with your audience. A virtual conference audience with hundreds of participants may respond best to a presenter that stands out with a professional-looking green screen background. However, a 1-on-1 coaching client or a small group may engage more with a presenter that has a more personal background.
As with all effective communication strategies, let the audience guide you to success.
If you’re like most people, you’ve been in a lot of Zoom meetings lately and you’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of virtual presentations. In addition to the tips we’ve offered in previous posts, here are a few more we’ve picked up along the way.
Thumbs Up. Ask for the audience to give you a thumbs up if you have a question for the group and don’t want participants talking over one another. Like polls and chatbox questions, it also helps to engage the audience. “If you can hear me OK, give me a thumbs up.”
Short and Snappy. It’s expected that virtual meetings will be conducted in less time than traditional meetings so keep them short and snappy. This is not the time for long-winded stories.
Circle Back Often. If people are joining late or coming and going, be sure to circle back and recap often to catch everyone up. Also, if you’re recording the session, point out how participants can access the replay. I post mine to YouTube with an unlisted URL and then send them out via email.
Look Through the Camera. I’ve been coaching folks to look at the webcam and not at the faces on the screen but my colleague, Michele Trent, takes it even a step further. She coaches virtual presenters to look “through the camera” to visualize their audience. That extra subtle touch can make a big difference in how you engage your audience.
Be Upbeat. It’s difficult to project enthusiasm in a virtual environment so be sure to engage your audience with smiles and an upbeat tone. Avoid sarcasm, dry humor, and cynicism because it doesn’t carry well virtually.
Talk to Only One Person. Public speaking coach Joel Weldon, a legend in the business if there ever was one, advises virtual speakers to talk to just one person in their presentations to help engage each audience member. Say “you should try this” not “you guys should try this.”
Keep Backgrounds Simple. Virtual backgrounds can be fun and add a layer of privacy, but some are just too distracting. Another tip from Joel Weldon is to keep your virtual backgrounds simple. Joel’s is a solid color with just his logo in one corner. Find the right background answer for you.
Combined with the tips we provided in earlier posts, these ideas will help you stand out from the crowd and make a great impression on your next Zoom meeting. As always, we’d love to hear your do’s and don’ts. What have you seen that works? What have you seen that is downright awful? Please share your ideas in the comments field below.
It’s the end of the office as we know it. Yep, with so many of us working safe and sound from home these days, virtual business meetings are the way collaboration is getting done. But it’s not as simple as flipping a switch and carrying on like a typical in-person meeting. If you want to have a successful virtual meeting, you need to compensate for the inability to fully perceive visual cues and you need to adapt to technology challenges.
So, get out of those pajamas, sit up straight in that kitchen chair, and listen up. Here are five steps to help ensure your work-from-home virtual meetings are productive.
1) Be Ready. Wear a headset. Test the sound quality before you start. Eliminate distracting noises. If you’re leading the meeting, encourage participants to go on mute when not speaking.
2) Understand the Technology. Moderators and participants need to understand how to use the available technology and all of its appropriate features. Everyone should know how to mute their phone and ask questions via chat box. Moderators should know how to conduct polls and record the meeting for playback later. Participants should make eye contact by looking into their webcam and not at the faces of other participants. Remember that fast hand gestures will likely blur, so slow down. Consider using a virtual background for added home privacy (and a little fun).
3) Have a Moderator. Having a designated moderator to facilitate the session is key to the success of the meeting. The moderator should follow an agenda to keep everyone on track. When asking for comments, the moderator should avoid open-ended questions and instead call on individual people one-by-one to respond. This will keep participants from talking over each other. Participants should identify themselves and, if appropriate, state their location each time they begin to speak. If the meeting is held on a regular basis, consider rotating the moderator responsibilities to broaden ownership and engagement.
4) Be Interactive and Engaging. Use real-time polls, chat box features, and Q&As to gather useful information and keep participants engaged. Send agendas and handouts before the meeting so participants can be prepared and follow along during the meeting. If appropriate, use fill-in-the-blanks worksheets. If you’re not using video, include photos of participants on the agenda so attendees can put a face with the various voices. If you’re using PowerPoint, make sure you are using large photos and well-designed graphics. However, don’t overuse animation because it often has a lagging effect and doesn’t display well in a virtual environment.
5) Understand Virtual Etiquette. Talk in a positive tone. Be careful with humor, especially sarcasm and dry humor that doesn’t translate well in a virtual environment. Avoid interjections to show you’re listening, such as “I see,” because they don’t work well virtually. Instead, listen fully and only comment when the speaker has finished. If you typically speak fast, speak slower than you would before an in-person audience. Speak clearly and use simple words. Oh, and even if you’re not on camera, dress appropriately and sit up straight. It will put you in the right frame of mind.
When handled well, virtual meetings can be a successful way to collaborate and get work done. And, because they save travel time and money, they are likely going to continue for many of us long after COVID-19 has subsided. Yes, it’s the end of the office as we know it — and I feel fine.
Keeping a virtual audience engaged can seem like a daunting task. They can see you, but for the most part, you won’t be able to see who you are presenting or talking to. So how do you keep an audience like that engaged beyond having an entertaining presentation? In this post, we’ll review some simple tactics on how you can keep a virtual audience engaged.
1) Demand Undivided Attention
The simplest way to get a virtual audience to engage with you and your presentation is to ask for their undivided attention from the beginning of the presentation. As them to put away their phones, close out of all the other tabs they might have open in their browser windows and dedicate the next block of time to the presentation and what they will learn.
2) Ask questions/Polls/Quizzes
To keep a virtual audience engaged include questions throughout your presentation. You can ask questions in the form of polls or quizzes as well. If there is a chat functionality enabled, you can ask participants to leave their response in the chatbox. For example, you can say “If this makes you feel frustrated type 1 in the chatbox”, or you can present different scenarios and ask your audience to type in the scenario they identify with.
3) Include Interactive Elements In Your Video
Interactive videos are a great way to keep a virtual audience engaged. Interactive videos can include click-throughs to landing pages, quizzes, or play certain sections based on the viewer’s choices. There are some great tools out there to help you create these types of videos like Vizio, or you can check out YouTube, as it allows for simple video interaction cards that can lead your viewer to subscribe to your channel or watch a related video or playlist.
A simple way to keep a virtual audience engaged is to host a Q&A based on the subject of your presentation. The whole presentation can be a Q&A session or you can present and leave time at the end for some questions.
5) Include Your Audience In The Broadcast
Live videos are a great way to increase reach for your social media channels, and what better way engage an audience than to give them a chance to be included in the broadcast. On Facebook Live (on mobile), Hangouts On Air via YouTubeLive and Instagram Live Stories, you can have someone broadcast with you in real time! Give your participants a chance to be on air with you to keep everyone engaged.
6) Offer Bonuses
Offering a bonus for those who stay through the end of your presentation can be a quick tactic to keep a virtual audience engaged. Some software will let you know who stayed until the end, or you can simply offer a link, or coupon code at the very end of your presentation to keep things simple.
7) Conduct Chats
One final way you can keep a virtual audience engaged is to conduct chats after a presentation. Perhaps you’ve interviewed someone and the second part of that is for your audience to continue the conversation in a chat or even a live stream session with the interviewee.
I hope these seven tactics to engage a virtual audience come in handy for your next presentation!
ABOUT THE GUEST BLOGGER
Dhariana Lozano has been in the social media and digital marketing world for over seven years. She is the co-founder of Supremacy Marketing, a boutique social media marketing firm based in New York City. Her experience includes creating social media strategies and consulting for both B2C and B2B brands to help them stand out and break through digital walls for ongoing success. She blogs at DhariLo.com where she provides social media tips, resources, and courses. You can see her work published in Social Media Week, Social Media Today, and the AgoraPulse blog. You can connect with Dhariana by sending her a tweet @Dharilo.