Public-speaking is often a stressful experience for many. So much so that it has been ranked second amongst our most common fears. In our current context, public-speaking during a videoconference entails having an audience that ranges from twenty participants to possibly a hundred. The advantage of this is that we are all facing the same learning curve at the same time. On the flip side, public-speaking is unavoidable, whether it be virtually or in person, and it’s always beneficial to learn a few tricks to master it!
1) Shifting your focus to your audience
When we are meeting someone face to face, we see ourselves through the reflection of others. Oftentimes, this can leave us feeling judged. Virtually, we not only see ourselves through the eyes of others but also of our own, with the camera pointing at us from under our nose. Because we tend to be our own harshest critic, seeing ourselves in the camera can increase our levels of anxiety.
In the article To Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking, Stop Thinking About Yourself, published by the Harvest Business Review, the author suggests that generosity could be an effective way of countering anxiety. Indeed, generosity often triggers the zone in our brain responsible for altruism, which in turn soothes our tonsils, the culprits of our anxiety.
Therefore, to counter our jitters, we must shift our attention to ourselves towards others. Instead, focus on what you bring to those listening, what you wish to teach them and how you can keep them engaged.
2) Preparation is key
Preparing for a virtual meeting is vastly different than an in-person meeting. Before your meeting, take the time to familiarize yourself with your meeting platform. Test out the functionalities and make sure you are comfortable using them.
Then, make sure to create an optimal surrounding: check that the background which appears in the frame is tidy and minimal so as to not distract your audience. Position yourself in front of a neutral background and avoid using virtual backgrounds offered by softwares as these can cause some distortion. If possible, sit facing a window for optimal brightness and make sure your audience can see your face properly. Keep the noise around you to a minimum and grab a comfortable chair. Finally, make sure your internet connexion is stable.
To start off your call, take the time to introduce yourself as an animator and speak at a slower pace than you would usually do. If you are multiple animators, determine an order of speech so as to not interrupt each other during introductions and avoid confusion amongst attendees.
Virtually, the same rules apply to your presentations: less is more. Simplify your presentation and leave some content open-ended to encourage your audience to ask questions. This will also ensure that interactions throughout your presentation aren’t one-sided and will ignite dialogue amongst your attendees. Another tip: avoid using the “share screen” functionality too often. This could diminish the interactivity of your presentation and hinder discussions.
3) Visualize and practise
Just like an athlete before a competition, visualize yourself being in control and comfortable in your virtual meeting, conference or other activity. This will condition your mind to associate the experience to a positive emotion, rather than a stressful reaction.
Another useful trick could be to practise to content just like you would a theatre play! Repeat your presentation out loud at home and practice in front of friends or family. Their feedback is very valuable as it will help you fine-tune your content and master your presentation.
One thing to note here: you don’t need to know your presentation by heart. As a matter of fact, we encourage you to avoid this practice and use a storytelling model instead. Know the outlines of your content and add your own personal experiences and anecdotes. This will make your presentation a lot more engaging and memorable. Your audience will also be less tempted to step away from their screen or be distracted by their environment.
4) What about non-verbal communication?
We often hear that virtual settings affect our ability to truthfully express our emotions. This statement isn’t entirely accurate: non-verbal communication is present both virtually and in person. In fact, 92% of our communication methods are non-verbal. Even virtually, non-verbal communication is important, whether it manifests itself in the tone or pace of your voice, or even in the movement of your hands and facial expressions.
One of the most common mistakes is to address your audience as a group. The best way to catch the attention of a participant is to look him or her in the eyes, even virtually! By doing so you are letting them know they have your full attention. Lastly, remain alert to the non-verbal cues of your audience: some participants may even nod in approval to encourage you.
With many of our experiences now being online, we must adapt to this new event format. Our team at OPC Events is here to accompany you and support you while you plan your next virtual event. For any questions, quotes or if you wish to get to know our team better, call us or write us!