By the time 2021 arrived, I turned 50 – not 50. Since the start of the Covid, I had delivered 50 virtual keynotes, webinars and interviews. When my public speaking gigs came to a screeching halt, I found myself doing a lot of virtual presentations for my clients. I’ve also assisted lots of webinars. With all those hours I was saving now that my constant air travel was grounded, I decided to take it up a notch by signing up for a variety of virtual sessions. After delivering over 50 online presentations and attending over 25 online presentations, I distilled what I learned by being on both sides of the screen. I’ve also met Broadway producers, studied Netflix’s most foodie series, talked to marketing geniuses, and spent hours criticizing what I saw on YouTube. Here I’m sharing what I’ve gleaned to help you strengthen your personal brand as you create and host webinars and online presentations in the new world of work.
GET IT STARTED
Sizzling from the start. Even after returning to the office, you will still be spending a lot of time on Zoom. To counter Zoom’s contempt, make the initial interaction with your presentation unexpected, provocative, intriguing, calming, exciting (add your adjective here). I experienced various funny videos, TV commercials (yes, TV commercials, I’m a collector of them and some can really set the mood), countdowns and personal welcome messages to attendees. Thanks to a cognitive bias called primacy, first impressions last. So kick it off and your audience will be ready to participate.
Know your role. You are not a participant, so do not act as one. Giving your presentation seated may be fine for a one-on-one meeting with a colleague or client, but not for your online presentation, where your goal is to inspire, educate, and compel. Stand up to stand out. Your location signals that you are about to offer something different.
Ban the bullets. If your slides are boring bulleted lists, you’re doomed. Replace the 26 letters of the alphabet with rich media to create visual appeal and offer magnetic communication. If you must use words, use a font size of 36 point or larger so people can actually read them on their mobile device. It will also help you stay within 12 words per slide (try to use less!).
MAKE IT STICKY
Don’t fight the wrong fight. Everyone is so focused on shortening attention span that they make their presentations short but inadvertently make them boring. Banal. Bland. Of course, the attention span is decreasing, but you still take the time to watch an entire season of “Bridgerton” in one sitting, right? When you create for short attention spans, what you remove is the gorilla glue from online presentations – the nonessential things that are really fun. Instead, fight your real enemy, the false ‘I’m good at multitasking’ mindset. Only 2.5% of us have brains that are hardwired to multitask. When your audience is sitting on the sofa in their living room or in their makeshift home office, the temptation to multitask may be too great to ignore. To counter this, focus on amplifying the pleasure, without going straight to the point.
Seek to surprise. Surprises can take many forms: an unexpected guest, the switch from live video to recorded video, or the return of an escape dressed in a different shirt or standing in front of a different setting. Use the element of surprise to keep your attendees on their toes and away from all the other tempting apps running on their devices.
Inject a pattern break. According to NLP Mentor, âAutopilot means that our brains have become so efficient at doing something that we can turn off our conscious mind. To keep your audience tuned in, you need to do something to break up the monotony: a model disruption. One of the easiest ways to add a pattern break is to use an interstitial like an animated gif between two topics or thoughts.
Create a chasm of curiosity. Netflix knows that you will continue to binge on their shows when they create enough intrigue. A chasm of curiosity is the space between what you know and what you want to know. When you create anticipation, you keep people glued because they are eager to hear what’s going on.
MAKE IT MEMORABLE
Don’t pontificate. Give your audience questions to ponder, exercises to complete, and polls to contribute so they stay connected. And when you include workshops where audience members can work together, you not only keep their attention, but you help them connect with each other. Even a 30 minute presentation has room for some interaction.
Tell stories. Enough with the facts, statistics, lists and data. Replace them with stories to engage your audience and keep them connected. It will also make your message unforgettable. Dan Pink says, âStories are easier to remember because they are the way we remember. Â»Stories engage both halves of the brain, creating synapses between them, which makes what you say meaningful and memorable. Nested stories (stories within stories) reinforce the plot, increasing rigidity.
Repeat to yourself. Hermann Ebbinghaus and his work on the forgetting curve have taught us that without repetition, most of what we learn, we forget. Repetition is the key. One simple way to use repetition is thousands of years old: Aristotle’s triptych. Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.
Even in a post-Covid world, many of your presentations will be delivered online. It’s time to spread your skills and stand out from the crowd so that you can showcase your strong and enviable personal brand in the digital world.
Guillaume Arruda is one of the founders of CareerBlast and co-creator of MakeBoost – a video-based personal brand talent development experience.