Rich Mulholland, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Cape Town, South Africa, is the founder of Missing Link, which transforms people into presentation powerhouses by teaching the art of delivering engaging presentations with conviction. A recent EO 360 podcast guest, Rich became an entrepreneur after years of working as a roadie for bands including Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, and Bon Jovi. We asked Rich for his tips on maximizing presentation skills on virtual platforms. Here's what he shared:
Great leaders aren't afraid to stand up and be heard. It's been true throughout history and is even more true today.
Given the forced march toward online presentation platforms including Zoom, Crowdcast, and Hopin, there are more stages available to aspiring thought-leaders than ever before. The problem then becomes not finding an audience but holding their attention.
Here are five tips to make sure that they hang on your every word:
1. Tame Your Tech
Fortunately, we are spoiled for choice in tech options available for presenting online. Personally, I like to keep it simple and slick. I focus on the CLAPS: camera, lighting, audio, presentation, and set. If the audience can see me and my slides, hear me clearly, and I have a professional and tidy background, then the main boxes are ticked.
2. Change Their Job
The role of audiences has changed. Once passive observers, audiences are now active participants -- at least they will be if you give them permission. The first thing I do when hitting an online stage is to ask my audience a question. It could be as simple as, "Where is everyone joining from?" Then, I encourage them by telling them that I love their chatter. This keeps your audience engaged and helps you feel like you're not alone.
3. Buy Their Attention
This is true in all presentations, but even more so in virtual ones where distraction is high. It amazes me how often presenters get on stage and try to administer a miracle cure for a disease that nobody in the audience is aware that they have yet. Your first must-do when you start presenting is to give your audience a reason to care.
Create an itch, and they will stay focused to find the scratch. Too often, we dive straight into the details but don't understand that detail takes effort. You need to get your audience invested in the problem before they will do that heavy lifting. Explain to them the problem they have, poke that pain point, then promise to help them solve it. Do this, and their attention is yours.
4. Interrupt Their Distraction
Presentations were once about holding an audience's attention. That ship has sailed. As a virtual presenter, you are relegated to the role of background voice within minutes. Your task isn't to stop your audience from wandering (that's futile). It's to bring them back when they do.
There are a few ways I do this. As mentioned above, get them involved by asking questions and using polls. Most online meeting tools have these capabilities built-in. Use them. Another technique I recommend is to reference what's on the slide. Use phrases like, "This next slide highlights the crux of the problem," or "As you can see on your screen." You'll create curiosity and FOMO in equal measures to bring their attention back. As a rule, assume that you have lost someone every minute or two and act accordingly.
5. Stand and Deliver
If you want your audience to care, show them that you care, too. Whenever I'm presenting, I get on my feet and stand -- and if you're able, you should, too. In almost no other scenario would you deliver a presentation from a chair (and if you do, you should stop). For some reason, seated presentations have become the norm online, though. Get on your feet. People will notice, and most importantly, you will notice. You're telling your brain that you are showing up to work. Just the act of tilting my camera and getting on my feet triggers me into "speaker mode." It activates that best-version-of-self that I need when presenting.
Presenting virtually can feel intimidating and even lonely, but it doesn't need to be either. With a small amount of preparation and the willingness to embrace this virtual medium as something to be excited by, as opposed to afraid of, you'll see just how fun and effective presenting online can be.