Online meetings and presentations are becoming the new norm in today’s workplace, especially amid COVID-19, but beyond these pandemic times, they can also be our most frequent and necessary method of sharing plans and ideas. While those who aren’t accustomed to gathering online may find it daunting to plan and coordinate remotely, all it takes is a bit of planning and preparation to lead an efficient and collaborative remote meeting or presentation that rivals the everyone-in-one-room experience. Here are a few tips to set your meeting up for success, create an engaging space for attendees and confidently run an effective remote presentation.
As with many things in life, preparation is key. Planning ahead can not only decrease the chances of preventable complications, but it will make room for more productivity and collaboration among attendees.
Be Smart About Scheduling: Even a meeting invitation is an opportunity to set the stage for success. Most people are pressed for time, so it’s helpful to include a clear and direct subject line that’s easy for attendees to digest at a glance. In the location section of an invite, provide directions on how people will be joining—g., the link to the meeting portal and the dial-in and PIN number or access code. The invitation notes are also a great space to duplicate meeting instructions or even share an agenda.
Prep Your Tech the Day Before:Even the most confident, well-prepared remote folks can get tripped up by wayward technology. While not all electronic issues can be anticipated, you can catch most of them the day before. If this is the first time that you’ll be doing a remote meeting with a client or coworker, check in to make sure they’re comfortable with your preferred portal—be it Zoom, GoToMeeting, etc. If you’ll be running the presentation from your computer, make sure your software is up to date to avoid interruptions—and then, the morning of, go ahead and turn off notifications prior to your meeting and quit all programs except for the ones you need.
Create a Plan B: It’s wise to have a backup in place for every element of your presentation or meeting. For example, have conference line info handy and ready to send in case your Zoom or Skype audio isn’t ideal—and have a PDF version or downloadable link cued up to send via email in case your presentation isn’t advancing smoothly via the screen share. Having a backup plan handy will eliminate the need for real-time problem-solving, allowing your virtual gathering to maintain momentum.
Handle Hiccups With Grace:Even the best-laid plans can go awry. If you encounter tech issues in the moment, take a deep breath, make a joke and gracefully proceed with your Plan B.
Be the Meeting Host With the Most
In a virtual setting, it’s up to the facilitator to bring the energy and create a positive and informative space for attendees. Without face-to-face interaction, it’s important to stay intentional with making a meeting efficient, effective and pleasant for participants.
Say Hello: Carve out a couple minutes at the start of the meeting to welcome everyone and exchange pleasantries. This will warm up “the room” and make it easier for remote attendees to connect voices to people who may be talking later in the meeting or presentation. If you’re establishing a standing meeting, sprinkle in a little something to cultivate connection on an ongoing basis—build in industry-related trivia, share recent and relevant professional learnings and inspiration or ask a “question of the week” so the weather and busy schedules aren’t the only go-to’s.
Diminish Distractions: You’ll want to ensure that all attendees can focus on the discussion at hand and not be thrown off by distractions like loud typing, mic feedback or computer notifications. So, before you get down to business, kindly ask participants to mute their mic when not speaking and to turn off computer notifications.
Walk Through the Agenda: Take control of your virtual space by drafting and distributing an agenda—either beforehand via email or the notes in the meeting invite or verbally at the start. This will put everyone on the same page, literally and figuratively, so that they’re clear on the expectations and goals right off the bat.
Address Opportunities for Feedback: Between the screens and audio delays, it may be hard for participants to share thoughts, comments and questions. At the top of the meeting, let the group know if there are designated times for discussion along the way—or if there’s plenty of time for questions at the end.
Assign Roles to Your Team: As appropriate, designate parts of your meeting to call upon certain attendees. This will break up the meeting, prevent zone-outs and help create a more cohesive conversation. If you’re presenting to a client and you need to take notes, assign that task to a coordinator (and have them sit away from the microphone so they can type freely). Also, if it makes sense, consider doing a screen share to showcase notetaking in real time—this is an effective way to align everyone on what was said, make clarifications quickly and outline next steps in an immediate way.
Be Confident and Engaging
Sitting through a remote presentation with limited face-to-face interaction can be a hit to your enthusiasm. Here are some ways to keep things interesting—and maintain a high level of energy when there’s no physical room to read.
Practice: Practicing will not only give you confidence, it will allow your presentation to sound more energetic since you won’t need to rely on notes.
Stand Up: It may feel silly but standing while presenting is proven to boost your energy and fine-tune your focus. If you stand, just make sure that you’re close enough to the speaker and don’t wander around the room.
Make a Note: If you’re using presenter’s mode and can see notes or referring to an outline or printout to guide your presentation, add little cues throughout to remind yourself to remain excited. Simple GIFs, emojis and directions like “Smile!” or “Energy!” will go a long way to changing your delivery for the better.
Play off a Peer: This is another reason why it’s so important for all presenters to be dialed in to all points of the plan. Identify key points when you might want another member of the team to add color commentary to your section. If so, connect with a member or two of the audience in advance to see if they might be willing to chime in at certain points—seed them with questions and provide them with cues on when to share.
Involve Your Attendees
We’ve all been there—you’re in the middle of presenting and realize the audience hasn’t made a peep. Or, you ask if they have any questions and get a chorus of incomprehensible voices. Ensuring that your audience is engaged during a remote gathering is one of the biggest challenges for presenters. Try these tips on your next call to keep the conversation flowing.
Be Specific: Instead of asking if the audience has questions, be direct when requesting feedback, using names to address participants as needed. For example: “John, you were interested in seeing what a native ad buy could look like—what are your thoughts on this approach?” If you do feel a need to go with a general “Any questions?” it’s best to think through breaks in advance and have a Q&A to spur conversation while reinforcing your recommendations. For example: “One question that many in the industry are wrestling with is what is the ROI for influencers? Our plan includes measurement of the number of impressions and social shares associated with influencer content, which will show us XYZ.”
Use the Chat Function: If you have a sidebar for chat, have people submit questions along the way that you can either address as you go or when you’re done.
Give Them Think Time: For some attendees and clients, giving feedback on the spot isn’t a comfortable proposition. If you have a more introspective client, schedule a feedback reconnect for a day or two after your presentation. That way, they will have the space they need to collect their thoughts and regroup with their team, and you won’t feel like the meeting is stalled. Close your presentation by highlighting the key initiatives you’d like their thoughts on and next steps coming out of the planning phase.
Interested in mastering remote presentations or building communication skills to partner more effectively with remote teams, partners and vendors? Email Ted at email@example.com to set up a call.