How important are presentation skills if I’m working on a remote platform like Zoom?
Other participants don’t expect a polished presentation on Zoom — or do they?
Can’t I just read my script on Zoom as if I were presenting in person?
Some of the concerns my clients have raised over the years have changed somewhat now that they’re using Zoom, but not as much as you might expect. For some individuals the discomfort — let’s be honest, the fear of public speaking — has lessened since they don’t have to present in front of a group gathered in a room. But for others, the computer screen has proven just as intimidating. In fact, the idea of many more attendees on a remote platform has become an even greater worry for some speakers.
Have the best practices for public speaking changed now that we are not physically present for presentations? Not at all. If anything, the stakes have been raised. The need to speak clearly, at a rate that allows for others to absorb the speaker’s message — simply translated, to speak slowly— using rhythm and melody for a natural voice and maintain eye contact are still critical elements for a great presentation.
How do you maintain eye contact if you’re looking into a computer screen? Quite simply by keeping your eyes focused on the computer’s camera: not off to the side or down at your notes. You still want to maintain “dialogue” even if you can’t see people in person — or you’re seeing little squares on the computer screen. In fact, there’s even more competition for your audience’s attention when they’re on Zoom — dogs barking, children wandering into the room, phones ringing — all the distractions that wouldn’t exist in a conference room. So you have to be a polished speaker to keep their attention and deliver your message.
What about speaking from notes or reading a script? The same principles work: if you prefer speaking spontaneously — which doesn’t mean you make a presentation “without rehearsing” — you can certainly use your notes and look down or off to the side briefly to cue yourself. If a prepared text works better for you, it’s even more important on Zoom that you don’t keep your eyes glued to the paper.
My recommendation about reading from text is to minimize Zoom, center it at the top of your computer screen and open your document so your eyes are always facing forward. You can also download a teleprompter app and set the speed for a comfortable rate so you can read from the text. But this all takes practice. Finally, if you prefer to read from printed text, look up frequently and speak to your audience — just as you would if you were standing in front of them — or sitting at a conference table.
You’ll find many more helpful tips in past articles I’ve written: Capture Your Audience By Creating a Dialogue, The Two “P’s” for Effective Speaking, Capturing the Authentic Voice, and many others you can find on my Blog under the “Public Speaking” category.
Check back soon for more articles on public speaking, communication, writing, speech pathology and executive function skills.