This post was originally published by Fast Company
You’ve likely heard the digital presentation basics trumpeted from every social platform for three years now—turn your camera on, make eye contact with your disembodied cam until your eyes dry out, have a professional backdrop that hides the deluge of your daily life knickknacks… the list goes on.
But as video calls become par for the course in white-collar work, what does it mean to actually carry influence through virtual mediums? Beyond simply appearing the right way, how can you present with impact on digital platforms?
This is a topic my team at Transcends Marketing, the digital marketing agency I launched in 2018, was thinking about well before the pandemic. That’s because we are a digital-first company that has embraced remote work as an enabler of personal success and a way for us to build a diverse, global team. We believe that you can and should work from anywhere, as long as you can do a stellar job.
Still, as more and more of our clients embraced virtual meetings in the early weeks and months of the pandemic, we started to consider what it would look like to truly present successfully in this way. While there are plenty of books and talks on this topic, there are surprisingly few people who have focused in on what presentation success looks like in today’s era.
Our team turned to Simon Sinek, whose Ted Talk on how great leaders inspire action has over 63 million views, for advice. Sinek is the modern-day version of “How to Make Friends and Influence People.” When his new course was released, I knew our remote-first team would greatly benefit from the program, and I was keen to hear their reviews. We all learned a ton about presenting, but here are our top takeaways from the course.
FIVE THINGS OUR TEAM HAS LEARNED ABOUT PRESENTING
1. PRESENT WITH A “GIVER’S MINDSET”
We spend so much of our lives from the perspective of “What’s in it for me?” without even realizing it. I’ve built a company based on this principle, and yet what really matters, when we actually feel our best, is when we give.
Some tangible gifts in a virtual setting might include sharing a recent press release on a related topic; coming prepared with intelligent questions on the other attendees’ business operations; templates and tools you find useful; or the simplest gift of all: active listening.
2. START WITH THE END AND BUILD TOWARD IT
Instead of leaving the audience waiting for the outcome, start with the conclusion and then bring everyone along on the journey of how you arrived there. Although there will be no “ta-da” at the end of the presentation, your audience will feel smart—like they are one step ahead by the time you get there.
At Transcends Marketing, we use a “Call Plan” template, which is a preparation tool ahead of a crucial conversation. It includes a section called the “End in Mind” where you write, from the perspective of your audience, what needs to be achieved before the call or presentation ends.
3. ALWAYS SPEAK SLOWER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE
If you think you’re speaking too quickly, clasp your hands together to slow down. Sinek refers to this as “holding hands.” We all tried it, and it works!
In a virtual environment, speaking slowly helps ensure you’ll be understood over the humdrum of internet fuzz and breakages. As a global company, Transcends Marketing also engages with colleagues and clients across cultural borders, which makes the art of slowing down even more important for us.
Speaking slowly adds authority and gravitas by showing confidence, helping listeners understand better, emphasizing important points, and using powerful non-verbal cues.
4. DON’T BE NERVOUS, BE EXCITED!
Your emotional reaction is in your realm of power, so use it! Instead of allowing yourself to expand into nervousness, reinterpret this as a state of excitement. The two feel surprisingly similar, and yet one is infinitely more empowering. If you’re feeling nervous, instead interpret it as excitement.
Both experiences have similar characteristics like sweaty palms, increased heart rate, and projecting about what’s going to happen. Excitement aligns better with a giver’s mentality than nervousness, which is more self-focused. To help yourself relax, try some deep belly breathing before getting in front of your audience.
5. KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON
If you lose your place in the presentation, simply go quiet for a moment until you remember where you left off, and then carry on. This will be much better received than saying “um,” and a moment of quiet will feel much longer for you than for your audience.
It’s been a while since we all took the course, and I can see the difference it has made for my team. Recently, we quadrupled our engagement with a major technology client that said they initially chose us as a partner because of our stellar customer service. I know the way we carry ourselves in our virtual engagements with the client is a major reason why they enjoy working with us.
When it comes to virtual meetings, I suggest going a step further than adding a filter or blurring your cluttered background. Why not consider how you can seize that engagement as an opportunity to put your best self forward and dazzle your audience?
Ashleigh Vogstad is the Founder & CEO of Transcends Marketing.