Are You Showing Your Best Side Online?
Pop quiz: What's the scariest thing you can do?
A. Handle a barrel filled with angry rattlesnakes.
B. Make hairpin turns in a tractor-trailer around a twisty mountain pass.
C. Give an online video presentation.
If you answered C, this story is for you. (I can't help with snakes or big rigs). Whether it’s your video debut on YouTube, a job interview on Skype, a meeting on WebEx, or a class online, how can you look and sound engaging while being authentic?
Online presentations take many forms: sitting or standing; one person presenting to one, two, or a crowd who may or may not be visible; half a roundtable in Washington, DC, meeting with the other half in Hong Kong, time-zone considerations and all. Not to mention live versus recorded presentations, and full-body versus talking head. And production values can range from a TED Talk stage to Cousin Joey in his jammies, moaning about the Mets on a Google+ Hangout. Regardless of the format, these 10 tips should help.
10. Just Breathe
Online presentations can bring on the same performance anxiety as presenting in person. To combat that, take real inhales and exhales, as opposed to scared little breaths—before, during, and afterwards.
When you’re nervous, it’s hard to keep track of all the things you need to remember for your online presentation, including your content, delivery, and the demands of the technology. So if you remember just one thing to manage your jitters, conscious breathing works wonders: belly in and belly out will prevent belly up.
9. Find Your Inner Oprah
When I ask my coaching clients their role model for presenting themselves authentically, the name that comes up most often is Oprah Winfrey. Why? She comes across as entirely comfortable in her skin.
Accept who you are. Take stock of each of your strengths as an online presenter—whether it’s your good posture, strong voice, sense of humor, generosity with sharing information, acting skills, time-management skills (extra important online!), or expertise on your subject matter.
8. Prepare for Technological Glitches
Stay calm when (not if!) it happens. A riff on Murphy’s Law: “To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer.” Assume something’s going to go wrong with the technology. So test run it with enough lead time to fi the glitches.x (see what we did there?)
7. Sneak a Peek
Does the flower pot behind you appear to grow from your head? Is spinach lodged between your teeth? How about that milk mustache? Are you chinless or missing the top of your head? And it's probably not a bad idea to clean up that clutter in the background.
Make sure your whole face (or body) is clearly in the frame. Allow time to make adjustments to your positioning and whatever is around you.
6. Say It in Sound Bites
Know what you’re talking about, and make it relevant to those in the “room.” Do your research. But don’t try to deliver a whole dissertation on your topic. Instead, think of the typically short attention span of viewers and mind the length of your sentences, throwing in plenty of pauses.
5. Act the Part, Own the Space, and Lead
If your boss tells you last minute to sub for her at a vital video meeting on a topic you only know peripherally, focus on what you know rather than apologizing for what you don’t know. Call on others for their expertise and, when necessary, say you’ll follow up with additional information.
4. Strike the Right Vocal Chord
Do you know what you really sound like? Listen to the outgoing message on your voice mail for clues.
You may take your voice for granted. Or maybe you hate the sound of it. When you speak online, make every word count rather than trailing off at the ends of sentences. “Punch” key words for emphasis, and vary your tone and pacing. Also, remember these essentials for projecting your best voice: hydrate, stand or sit straight, and enunciate. Not to mention avoiding verbal graffiti: um, er, like, you know what I mean?
3. Put on a Happy Face
Or at the very least don't look sad or upset. Be mindful of your facial expressions which are especially noticeable on video, with close-ups, high definition and all. Remember to smile (or even half-smile).
2. Make Eyes with the Camera
The best way to connect with your viewers and online conversation partners is to appear to look them squarely in the eye. That means looking smack dab into the lens of the videocam.
If it is positioned on top of your screen and you’re using a program such as Skype, then move up the other party’s image as close to the videocam lens as possible. You may have heard to look at the lens as if it’s an old friend; you might even try taping a photo of a friend close to the video lens. But do your best to avoid the temptation of focusing on their image on the screen, because to them it will appear as if you're incapable of looking them in the eye.
1. Don't Fidget
Don’t touch anything—your face, your hair, or your pen, even if it’s dying to be twiddled!
Practice gesturing naturally, and avoid big motions which can make you look like an orchestra conductor if you’re in a small frame (head and shoulders). It takes practice if you tend to get nervous presenting, online or in person.
It's a Changing World
Finally, our world is changing. Speaking online is going from a nice-to-have to a must-have skill in many careers. So if you haven’t already done so, stick a toe in the online waters today. Whether you’re freshening your online skills at a global organization or angling for 15 minutes of fame on YouTube, take a breath, give a talk, and post a link. I’ll be cheering for you.
If You're Negotiating, Know What You're Worth
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