Breathe deeply. Get organized. Know your topic. And practice, practice, practice.
That’s the advice from the Mayo Clinic on how to confront your fear of public speaking. The fact that a world-renowned medical research facility like Mayo would even offer advice on public speaking underlines how much anxiety the prospect of talking to a large group can instill in people. Of course, if you count yourself among that group you already know the panic it can cause.
Take a look into that Mayo advice though, and perhaps seek out an online public speaking class, because the advance of video conferencing has opened up new forms of communication that will become more popular in the near future. With webcams and a free app like Skype, anyone anywhere can speak face-to-face in real time. Combined with multimedia, like video and audio, these meetings have the potential to be more impressive, more effective, and more engaging than any podium speech, conference call, or taped presentation.
You’ll want to be a part of this world. So, here’s some advice on how to improve your video conference presentation skills. And taking control of the technology could even boost your confidence in delivering a speech online.
The New Speech by Video Conference
A video conference is more than a meeting, more than a speech. It can turn a report presentation to a handful of people in your office boardroom into an interactive broadcast to several different locations, involving potentially hundreds of people. If you’re the type to get nervous in front of crowds this is the technology that makes it worthwhile to confront your fear.
Video conferencing company BlueJeans, for example, recently teamed up with Facebook Live to stitch together several in-room discussions via video call and create a virtual town hall meeting involving hundreds of people. Similarly, Warren Buffet has begun opening up his annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meetings by broadcasting the in-room Q&A sessions to a live audience online. Finally, the powers behind the TED Talks series have turned their convention into a global event by simultaneously broadcasting their presenters across the internet.
In each of these examples, the presenter is able to address two (or more) distinct audiences, in-room and online, using readily available technology that’s relatively easy to use.
Your Video Conferencing Setup
It’s unlikely you’ll have to speak before an audience of hundreds as in the examples above, but the underlying technology used to simultaneously reach people you share a room with and those at the other end of a video conference is the same no matter how many people are involved.
If, for example, you get the opportunity to link the team you work with day-to-day with colleagues in a distant office, you’ll be staring down the same type of webcam and using the same multimedia presentations. You’ll likely end up with an arrangement in which you, as the presenter, speak from in front of a laptop that also connects to a webcam and an in-room display with which you can present media to those in-room, and on a video call.
Those following along in the room will see both you and your videos simultaneously on the in-room display, while those watching from afar will get to see one, then the other. You could open an additional video chat window to display your visual component online at all times, but that could leave your audience focusing exclusively on the video component, and not on what you’re saying.
It’s a tricky balance to negotiate at first, so, as the Mayo Clinic suggests, practice, practice, practice until you feel comfortable enough with the technology to forget you’re even using it. Here’s some advice on how.
Honing Your Video Conference Presentation Skills
To simplify things, don’t consider how many people are in each room, just imagine you have one person in the room with you and one watching via Skype–a technology so common even children now use it.
As was mentioned earlier, understanding the tech will help with your confidence, so here are some tips:
Know where to look: Your in-room audience can follow your natural movements, but your online audience is contained within your webcam’s range, so shift your focus regularly between the webcam and those seated before you. Practice moving between the two before the meeting starts until it feels natural.
Use a remote: Handheld devices, such as Logitech’s Spotlight or the Barco Clickshare, make it easier to control your presentation. With a little preparation, you can skip between slides, start and stop videos, and highlight selected portions of images. With the right tool you can also switch between your webcam and your desktop screen. A simple click from your speaking position gives you a lot less to think and worry about than having to bend over and contend with a keyboard or mouse.
Be prepared: The easiest way to switch between yourself and any multimedia is to share your screen. Every reputable VC platform has a shared screen function, and activating it will broadcast whatever’s playing on there over your video call. Have your material queued up in a media player ready to go, so you can just move through it in order.
Keep still: Body language is important in any face-to-face situation, but when you’re communicating by webcam you must know your limitations. Hand gestures and a big smile are great, walking around the room is not because you’ll disappear out of view. So if you have a remote audience, it’s a matter of stand and deliver.
Use multimedia to enhance: The videos, audio, and images you project during your presentation should enhance and explain your ideas. Don’t go for generic, clipart images or visual puns just to fill space, think in terms of real-world examples and pieces specific to your talk that will add to what you’re saying.
Breathe deeply: Calm yourself the best way you know how. Breathe, relax, and trust you’ve rehearsed your material and you know all there is to know about your topic. Video conferencing can become a powerful tool to communicate ideas in a natural, visual way, and to reach remote and intimate audiences simultaneously. It’s well worth the plunge into the world of public speaking.