The working world has changed drastically over the past 18 months. The pandemic forced offices to close, and employees adapted to working from home for prolonged periods of time. Whilst many aspects of our lives are beginning to regain a sense of normality, the way we work appears to have changed forever.
The New Art of Business, a report by RADA Business, revealed that although 30% of leaders in the workplace have concerns about communicating effectively in a virtual setting, a staggering 80% of workers want the option to work from home on a flexible basis. Therefore, a hybrid working environment is expected to be commonplace for offices across the UK for the foreseeable future.
This hybrid approach to working may be welcomed by many, but it does present new challenges for workers of all experience levels, particularly when trying to engage with, or present to, a work force that is physically separated.
For those looking to present simultaneously to both virtual and in-person audiences, Christine Adam shares a range of techniques to help workers deliver presentations and speeches effectively.
Warm up your Voice
Warming up your voice before a presentation elevates your vocal presence. Improving the clarity and increasing the volume of your voice will help to engage both those in front of you and the workers tuning in from home.
A simple way to do this is by yawning loudly, using your entire body to do so, and allowing the sound to continue even after the yawn has finished. Location permitting, experiment with the volume of your yawn – often, we don’t practice delivering the presentation with a projected voice until it’s happening, so these tactics will allow your voice to grow more comfortably and become accustomed to using a greater volume in an easy way, without force.
To improve the clarity of your voice, focus on saying simple phrases in an exaggerated manner, such as “good afternoon”. Really focus on each syllable and allow your face to move with the sound. This will help to warm up the lips and tongue, so you are ready to speak, and, more importantly, ready to be heard.
Project your Voice
Over the past year, most presentations have been delivered directly to the webcam and spoken into a computer microphone. When presenting to an in-person audience at the same time, it’s important not to block our faces with a laptop. Project your voice with power so that every audience member can hear you.
There are various ways to improve the projection of your voice by utilising your body and breath so that you can find vocal power organically and without strain. Stand with open yet relaxed shoulders so that you can breathe with more ease. Then, place your hand on your stomach and focus on breathing from your diaphragm – with each inhale you should feel your stomach expand outwards, as opposed to your chest. This will allow you to have more available breath to deliver your message with impact. When breathing deeply like this, from your diaphragm, you’ll start to experience greater physical and mental ease, which in turn will help to calm the nerves.
Make Eye Contact with your Audience and your Camera
When delivering an impactful presentation, it is not only important for the audience to be engaged with the speaker, but for the speaker to be engaged with the audience too.
Making eye contact is a simple and effective way to maintain a connection with an audience. Not only can it help you land your message with impact, but it also shows colleagues that you care about how they are receiving your words. Remember this especially when taking pauses between sentences and when landing key messages – these are great moments to make eye contact.
It’s important to remember your virtual audience too. Set up your camera so that colleagues joining virtually can clearly see your face and body and, when possible and natural, look directly into the camera. Although this combination of eye and camera contact may seem challenging at first, it is a great way to show your virtual audience that they are equally as important as those attending in-person.
Utilise your Space
When presenting at home to a computer, our movement is often limited due to the smaller space we are confined to. As we return to presenting in an in-person environment, it’s important to make the most of the space that is available.
Before you present, stand straight and place your feet firmly on the floor, hip-width apart with your knees unlocked, so that you feel grounded and strong in your position. As you present, use your hands to gesticulate. This will help you to maintain an open posture, emphasise key points with your body, and show your enthusiasm for the topics being discussed.
Take time to set up your camera or computer so that the frame is large enough to capture the full space that you will be presenting from. This will allow your virtual audience to enjoy the engaging and enthusiastic presentation, without feeling that their viewing experience has been compromised if you do change your position throughout.
Practice and Prepare
Preparation for a presentation is key to ensure you are communicating your ideas with ease and clarity.
Rather than simply reading the presentation to yourself, take time to practise delivering it out loud, whether that’s to an audience of friends and family, or simply to objects in your space that can serve as your audience. This will allow you to practise the structure of your talking points and identify any parts of the presentation that could be improved upon.
When presenting to an audience which is both in-person and virtual, try not to read from your notes like it is a script. Instead practise your presentation with brief, key points.
Practicing your presentation not only allows you to work on content but also to work on engaging your audience. Practice projecting your voice, making eye contact and utilising your space, so that, when the time comes, they feel easy and natural.
So, there you have it, 5 techniques to keep in mind when you deliver your next presentation to a hybrid audience.