Photo by Jason Rosewell

Online events – how to present like a pro

By Becky De Laurenzy

You might be super confident and capable presenting on a stage, but when it comes to presenting a webcast, livestream or virtual event, you may find your nerves start creeping in.

The key to being natural when presenting on camera comes down to how you approach the task. Don’t go thinking the same techniques that engage an audience in a crowd will work on a webcast or livestream. A different format requires a different way of thinking…

Imagine you’re presenting to someone you know

You need to think of the camera as being your audience, so it’s important to have in mind who you’re addressing. You could have a specific colleague or friend you could pretend is in the online audience. Try to imagine that specific person when you talk to the camera and speak as if they were in the room with you.

Straight down the lens

Let’s face it, talking directly into a lens (if you’re not used to it) can feel really uncomfortable. It feels odd.  You might feel a bit awkward and there’s no energy coming from an audience that you can bounce off and work with, which makes it harder to stay focused. It’s really important to look straight down the camera lens when presenting because it shows that you’re engaged with what you’re saying, the message you’re delivering and it helps to build a connection with the viewer.

Focus your eyeline, but keep it natural

Another common mistake when presenting a webcast is not resisting the temptation to check how you’re looking whilst filming. As a viewer, seeing the eyes of the presenter flick away from the lens even momentarily can be really distracting. Make sure that you’re in frame and in focus before recording – then keep your eyeline fixed on the lens and avoid the temptation to glance away.

Remember, it’s not a staring contest and you want to appear relaxed when presenting, so feel free to look away for a second or two if it feels natural – but keep the lens as the resting gaze target that you always return to. To help, you could put an arrow on a sticky note above where you need to look as a constant reminder.

Prepare yourself

Sounds like common sense this one, but make sure you are physically prepared to present. Have a snack 10 minutes before you start recording to ensure that your energy levels are boosted (nothing worse than that ‘hangry’ feeling sneaking in when you’re trying to be bubbly and engaging!). Have a glass of water on-hand to stay hydrated and keep your voice clear. You could even prepare your voice with a couple of vocal warmups before you start so that you sound more natural on camera.

Pace yourself

If you’re a little bit nervous on camera, you may find yourself speeding up when you’re speaking. This may not even be apparent to you at the time, but it will certainly be apparent to viewers who are trying to take in what you’re saying.

So it’s important to make a conscious effort to slow down and take a few deep breaths before filming and between your different key points. Allowing for your messages to air for a second after you say them will help make sure your points land properly and are able to be digested by the audience.

Stay interested

If you don’t appear interested in what you’re saying, your audience definitely won’t be! A perceived lack of interest will affect your delivery and therefore impact the connection with viewers in the messages you are trying to deliver. Try to find a clear narrative in your presentation and deliver it in an engaging way that keeps viewers interested.

This is where thorough planning of your presentation can really help. The pressure of having to read a script word-perfectly could make you come across as rigid or monotonous, so to sound more natural on camera, it’s better  to find some quiet time to memorise what you want to say and use an outline of the key points as your prompt.

And don’t forget to smile a little! It will make your delivery sound much more friendly and genuine.

Use visuals

Whatever you do, don’t make the cardinal mistake of using your slides as your prompt. Working this way means the audience just reads ahead of you and they end up simply waiting for you to deliver the things they can see you’re planning to say instead of listening to you.

Your slides should support what you’re saying but not spell it out. Use images and metaphors to keep the audience engaged and listening.

Learn from your favourite on screen personalities

This could be a news presenter or even a particular YouTuber or internet personality. Watch their segments on TV or videos online and take notes on how they present to camera. Ask yourself what it is that they’re doing to make you feel engaged and connected? It’s this connection that you’re aiming to replicate with your audience. Try and incorporate these same things into your own performance.

Professional public speaker coach Naomi Venables says:

“As presenters move from stage to screen there are new rules in play.  While the story is still king, bringing that to life is different. The camera is much closer to the action than an audience in the room, so presentation skills need to focus on being even more present to your story, your words and how you bring them to life.  Crafting the best words and rehearsing has never been more important.”

Practise

This really is the biggest tip we can give – practise, practise, practise! Make a trial video of your presentation and film it in one long continuous take, then watch it back again – you’ll probably notice a lot of ‘ums’ and ‘errs’ along with other filler words or nervous movements. It’s important to be aware of them because they can become distracting. Being mindful of these behaviours will help you avoid overdoing them on camera.

Get used to hearing yourself and seeing yourself on camera – the more you do it and the more normal it becomes to you, the more you’ll be able to truly relax on camera and come across as a true natural performer!

The WHY Agency are creative communications specialists, creating engaging live & online events. We help companies & individuals tell their stories by creating inspiring, engaging content: video, animation, presentations, design & technical event production.