The pandemic has presented several hurdles, one of which is the challenge of holding your audience’s attention during a virtual presentation. Between distractions associated with working from home, children who may still be attending school virtually and the ability of attendees to more easily “check out” unnoticed and multitask, there are a lot of things that could lure the focus of your audience away from your message. All things considered, it’s no surprise that a recent study conducted by Lloyd’s TSB found that the average adult attention span has dropped from 12 minutes in 2010 to only five minutes in 2020.
Even with their drawbacks, the likelihood of virtual presentations remaining commonplace even after the pandemic is high. Between the high probability of more people working from home and the sheer convenience factor, you’re much better off learning how to deliver impactful virtual presentations versus wishing them away.
Over the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to give a number of virtual presentations (here’s one of my favorites with the Print Media Centr on the topic of Crafting a New Narrative for Your Business) and have actually come to embrace the nuances of this medium.
Here are my top four tips for making your next virtual presentation memorable:
1 – Practice Makes Perfect
Never underestimate the importance of practice, even if you’re not physically standing in front of an audience. Here are two steps you should have on your virtual presentation practice to-do list:
- Test Your Technology – Even if it’s a platform you’re familiar with, practicing with a friend prior to the presentation is a must. This is because technology manufacturers are constantly making updates to their software. Not being aware of an update during a key moment can lead to stress for the presenter and cause the audience to lose focus.
When practicing, make sure the audio and video are working correctly. If you’re incorporating PowerPoint slides or other mediums, make sure they’re able to function as intended.
- Fine Tune Your Plan – While no one wants to attend a virtual meeting where the presenter is reading from a script, it’s important to create an outline that keeps your message in mind and highlights key points you want to convey. I recommend printing this out and practicing your presentation with a friend during your technology test. Additionally, I would record your practice and watching it afterward to see where you can improve. I know, I know – watching yourself give a presentation is a painful experience. That being said, you will uncover little things you are doing, such as body language or facial expressions, that could make a big difference to your audience.
Once everything is fine-tuned, print out the final outline for reference during the presentation.
Additionally, it’s also worth creating a list of expected questions and planning your answers. Have this on-hand as a printed reference during the presentation as well. You may need to create several versions of each of these documents before you get to the final versions, so I recommend having a reliable paper like Xerox® Vitality® on hand. Made with ColorLok® Technology, Xerox® Vitality® runs reliably and won’t jam your printer, so you can remain focused on acing your presentation instead of dividing your attention to clear paper jams.
2 – Set the Stage – With any sort of presentation, knowing your audience is key. When it comes to virtual presentations, all aspects of the visual — from your environment to your clothing, to your body language and facial expressions — should be considered with your audience in mind. For example, if your presenting to senior-level stakeholders at your company, your dress and body language should be more formal and the background should be minimal. If you’re presenting to long-time customers that you have a close relationship with or a professional organization that likes to keep the mood “light,” it makes sense to be more casual and feature more items in the background to look more relatable. If it fits in your personality, you may even consider donning a costume or presenting in character. This route is sure to retain the attention of your audience!
3 – Embrace the Media Mix – In the presentations I’ve given, I’ve had the most engagement from audiences when I’ve utilized on more than one medium.
For example, in this presentation I gave the Advertising Production Club (APC) of NYC, I used PowerPoint slides (created with engaging visuals) combined with print samples (sent to attendees prior to the meeting) to keep the audience engaged. The printed samples work particularly well — they not only add a physical element for the audience, but they also function as something they can reference after the presentation. And, if the organization you’re presenting with experiences technical difficulties (like APC did in the video above), you can always speak to the printed sample until the problem gets fixed. If you don’t already have printed marketing materials on hand, you can always send slightly modified versions of your presentation. For maximum impact, I recommend using Xerox® Bold Professional® Premium Quality Printer Paper. This paper is whiter, brighter and smoother than average copy paper, so the visuals and colors will print vividly and details will come to life. This paper is also thicker, giving your audience the subliminal impression that your message carries an elevated level of importance.
4 – Don’t Forget the Follow-up – Although the follow-up to your presentation is crucial in keeping your message top of mind with your audience, all too often follow-ups are treated like afterthoughts or not done at all. An easy yet still impressive thing to do is to prewrite a thank you email and send it to attendees immediately after the presentation. If something more elaborate is required, never forget that everyone loves the mail moment. What package could you put together that could arrive on everyone’s doorstep?
One crucial factor to consider with your follow-up is the Call To Action (CTA). In most cases when you give a presentation, the goal is to build awareness and/or loyalty for either the company you work for or your personal brand. The CTA is simply an offer or next step that prompts the recipient to take some sort of action to push them further along the journey. Additionally, the percentage of people who responded to your CTA could be a good indication of how well your message resonated with your audience.
A CTA can be as simple as “Connect with me on LinkedIn” or something more elaborate, such as “go to this landing page and fill out the information for a chance to win.” On the other hand, not doing the CTA is a missed opportunity to further connect with your audience and demonstrate the return of your presentation.
Acing a virtual presentation isn’t an easy skill to master, but practice, setting the stage, embracing the media mix and adding a follow-up will have you well on your way. In no time, you’ll conquer the 5-minute attention span of your audience and leave a memorable impression. And, whether you need a reliable paper for refining your presentation plan or are looking for a premium sheet to create a memorable leave behind, look to the options in the Xerox Paper brand to deliver hassle-free printing that will help you look your best.