How to Build a Good Virtual Presentation

July 14, 2021

Practically gone are the days where attending a presentation meant a frenzied dash to the kitchen to grab a brew before scurrying into a meeting room to secure your favourite seat (the one that doesn’t creak and wobble).

No. These days working from home is not an envious perk for the few, it’s part and parcel of working life for the many. We have had to adjust our homes into fully functioning office spaces but deliver and perform on par as if we were in the actual office. So if you’re part of the business on top, pyjamas on bottom crew, and virtual presentations are part of your remit, this is the blog for you.

There are a number of factors to contemplate when delivering an interactive presentation, but probably the most important is to make it interesting. One of the biggest challenges in presenting online is your audience being far more easily distracted than if you were presenting in person. A wise and clever virtual presenter would certainly utilise the more modern gadgetry available when creating their presentations in order to razzle, dazzle their spectators, and would be unlikely to go down the gloomy road of death-by-PowerPoint.

Once you have the tools in place, consider that the most memorable and successful presentations all have this one key element in common; they tell a story. Storytelling has existed and thrived for thousands of years because the brain is more naturally wired to engage with a relatable story than just data alone. Great stories instruct and communicate meaning, make us feel involved, and inspire. And to do this all stories need structure.

Aristotle coined this back sometime in the 300 BCs - the three-part story structure; beginning, middle and end. A classic right?! Your interactive presentation should follow this story pattern starting with a carefully crafted beginning that hooks the audience in by describing life as they know it, then BANG! You hit them with the “what could be”. This sequence of “what is” verses “what could be” should rise and fall like waves throughout the presentation until you reach your powerful ending; the call to action which in turn leads to utopia, paradise or the promised land! Whatever the new bliss is that you’re aiming to sell in however you deem fit for the cause.

Now I don’t know about you, but I feel a story with pictures just has that edge on ones without, and with technology as advanced as it is today, and attention spans so short, why wouldn’t you want to draw in the eye with the addition of images, sound and video?Using these forms of media when presenting online has numerous benefits. First and foremost, it can give you the presenter a little respite to regroup whilst engaging your audience on a new level and (hopefully) preventing them becoming distracted or worse still, completely switching off.

Using sound effects can inject a bit of humour into what might otherwise be a dry subject and who doesn’t love to laugh?! Or you may decide a little voice narration is required, for a particularly tricky piece of speech, or just so you can crack a joke or two whilst it plays out perhaps, appealing and connecting with your audience in an informal and fun level (the laughter thing again, but it does really work!).

Music is another medium of mass appeal of course, and if used correctly, could really boost your presenting success. Just make sure what you choose is royalty-free or else you could end feeling like a royal-ass further down the line!

With images and video you can immediately grab their attention and bring them back into the room, if they left, figuratively speaking, which of course they wouldn’t have, as you’re following these instructions to the letter 😉. Video in particular has the ability to capture the focus of a variety of different types of audience and can often lead to thought provoking discussion, drawing them in even further, thus making it a truly interactive presentation, on a plethora of levels.

Don’t overdo it though! The number of videos you use should be low and each one should be short and to the point. Sticking a video of a baby monkey riding backwards on a pig during the middle of a presentation on projections and forecasts for Q1 and Q2 might be randomly funny (which we’ve covered, can help), but is obviously completely irrelevant and you too could become a laughingstock (which would be not so funny).

Finally do a little leg work and research before you take the video leap. Watch good presentations containing videos to magpie some ideas and, for the love of all that is holy, check the sound and video actually works and transmits before you begin.

With all the aforementioned to think about you may find yourself getting a bit carried away and wind up with slides upon slides upon videos upon sound clips.The final point to factor in is length; do not go on for too long. If you break this cardinal presenting sin, you may as well throw the structure, story and multimedia out of the window! After all, this isn’t War and Peace you’re creating, it’s a presentation, and research suggests that the magic number is somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes.

Steve Jobs delivered one of the most famous commencement addresses ever in a mere 15 minutes. David Christian narrated the complete history of our world in a modest 18 minutes. And the late, great Dr Martin Luther King gave his iconic speech “I Have a Dream” in just 17 mins. If these legends can convey such powerful messages in that relatively short amount of time so can (and should) you. Any longer than that, and you’ll notice the chap in the top right corner sneakily checking his phone (probably to watch that baby monkey clip again) and a sea of eyes with enough glaze to give Mirror Cake Week on Bake Off a run for its money.

So there you have it: build and follow a strong structure with a clear message and storyline that makes it interesting. Add rich media like images, sound and video to further compel your audience to remain attentive and encourage interaction. And keep it short, snappy and relevant. Follow and keep to these simple steps and presenting online will no longer be a daunting, potentially thankless task. Grip your virtual audience, make them laugh (optional, but a must in my book), communicate the message, drop the laptop mic and leave. BOOM.

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