Roger Courville: How to Present in a Virtual World


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Roger Courville

Have we got a treat in store for our blog readers this week! We managed to track down Roger Courville, author of The Virtual Presenter’s Handbook and a highly sought-after speaker on virtual communications, to share some of his top tips and tricks on how to present in a virtual world.

Here, he shares with us some of his words of wisdom and explains how to make a killer impression when conducting virtual presentations. You can find more on his website at www.TheVirtualPresenter.com.

Roger, welcome to Alliance Virtual Offices. Please introduce yourself – and tell us how you help businesses (and virtual office users!)?

I’m an old timer in the web conferencing industry and completely backed into it in 1999.

I fell in love with the fact that there was a genuinely powerful business value in real time collaboration. The challenge for many people is that the change of medium creates a sense of disconnect or discomfort… until you figure out that the change of medium not only means you lose something, but you gain something, too.

Our crew helps organizations transform meeting, training, holding seminars and the like to take full advantage of what the virtual “room” can add to their model.

For many virtual office users, there is no ‘physical’ office and team members work remotely. So video communications are popular.

That makes total sense. Video conferencing quality is better than it’s ever been, and it’s easier to use than ever. I hope they don’t stop there, though. The other collaboration tools that go with video round out the collaborative experience.

What are the key tips you would give to virtual office workers on how to communicate ‘virtually’ with higher management – such as board members?

Most problems are being prepared and concise, which has nothing to do with video conferencing… except that part of preparedness should include understanding what your audience needs to be successful. Usually this is a function of setting expectations (e.g., “we’ll meet virtually so we can review the document visually”) and providing appropriate instructions.

I imagine it feels quite unnatural for some people, especially those who are used to face-to-face meetings, to start communicating over video. How can workers overcome this, and gain confidence speaking ‘virtually’?

You’re right. Last year I did a 1200-person survey of video conferencing users and found virtual meeting attendees don’t rate video conferencing presenters as highly as presenters rate themselves. In other words, there is something to be learned.

The top three complaints were “distracting mannerisms or gestures,” “cluttered and distracting backgrounds,” and “does not make eye contact with the camera.”

Each of these is easily addressed with situational awareness and a little practice. Presenting virtually isn’t hard… it’s just different. For instance, you might practice looking at the camera for your presentation opening or closing or a key point you want to make in-between.

For a virtual office user wishing to conduct a virtual presentation to a client, for instance as part of a pitch, what key hints and tips could you offer to help them make a killer impression?

Be professional by guiding the client’s experience. You don’t have to be a technical wizard to help them be successful as an attendee.

Besides making sure they can find the video conferencing facility or log into their browser, use verbal clues to guide them such as, “In the lower right hand portion of the screen you will notice…”

Remember that online participants are a little closer to distractibility (such as email). Pause the pitch frequently and dialogue instead. Turn your gaze from your slides or proposal and watch them for their reactions.

Last but not least. If a business wants to set up a webinar, what tips can you offer to help the speaker plan for the webinar and ensure they communicate as effectively as possible with their recipients?

Besides those I’ve already noted, I’d add three things.

One, depending on which webinar technology you use, it’s likely that the change in the audience’s sensory perceptions will increase the importance of how well you use your voice.

Two, remember that brains start tuning out “sameness.” It’s why voice inflection is good, why ‘seen’ body language in video is good, and it’s why you should challenge how you provide visual change with your PowerPoint. Instead of one slide for three minutes, try three slides for one minute each.

Three, figure out your “at a glance” tools. In other words, what webinar tools do you want to have “at a glance” instead of having to hunt for them. For example, maybe you open up the Questions pane so you can respond to questions more quickly.

Roger Courville is author of The Virtual Presenter’s Handbook and an internationally sought-after speaker on virtual communication. He’s Principal at 1080 Group, a training and coaching firm helping executives design and deliver interactive webinar presentations and programs. He can be reached at www.TheVirtualPresenter.com.



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