Lyn Roseaman, public speaking expert, joined us at June's #AskFutureNet session to share her top tips for making an impact when speaking online. Here are a few highlights…
1. Prepare and practise
Don't leave your set up to chance on the day. Lyn says: "Before the talk or presentation think: is my setting right for the purpose? And check in advance what your camera can see on the screen. You might be surrounded by mess, but it mustn't be on camera!
"Think about what your mic might pick up. Again, test before so you know what to expect on the day. And check your own appearance. How do you appear on the small screen? Get the lighting right so you're not plunged into shadow or alternatively squinting into the camera."
2. Always be camera ready
Whether you're on camera or not, prepare as if you will be, and then act as if you are. Same with your microphone – you might think that you're muted when in fact everyone can hear you munching through your mid-morning snack.
"Think of everything as live," Lyn adds.
3. Confirm the ground rules
If you're organising or part of a larger online event, with multiple speakers, make sure you confirm the ground rules before the 'big day'. For example, are you going to have the audience unmuted and applauding, or ask them to do silent 'jazz hands'?
And if you can, have a run-through beforehand – particularly if lots of different screenshares are involved!
"Don't leave your running order to chance," says Lyn. "Have a host running the event. They can introduce each speaker, so everyone knows when it's their turn. And it also gives you a bit of breathing room between presentations."
4. Don't panic – it's a gift
Most of us could confess to feeling nervous about public speaking – both in person and online.
"It's our primal brain giving us a rush of adrenaline to protect us from something we perceive as 'threatening'," explains Lyn. "But we need to bring a sense of proportion to it and work on reprogramming the brain.
"Instead of thinking 'This is TERRIFYING', celebrate what you're doing. 'By presenting I'm giving something to my audience, I'm giving a gift.' And who doesn't love a gift?"
5. Maintain eye contact… with your camera
It can feel hard to build engagement with an audience when they're on the other side of a screen. Lyn explains that eye contact is as integral in online situations as it is in-person.
"Eye contact is integral when speaking online – and so difficult to do. Our temptation is to look at the screen, either at ourselves or at the people we're speaking to. But actually you need to look straight into your camera, so that the people watching will feel you're looking – and therefore speaking – directly at them."