(2-minutes to read, lots you can do)
Although working from home limits your in-person interactions, it doesn’t mean that your presentation skills should suffer. Looking ahead, once this nightmare ends, the importance of presenting your case, explaining complex concepts, listening, and persuading others will be more critical than ever when it comes to career advancement.
Sure, the delivery platforms have changed from conference rooms to video/audio conferences, but there are things you can practice to keep your presentation skills sharp.
Using these techniques will certainly make your meetings more efficient, and maybe even a bit shorter!
1) Make Your Case
In the office, we often found ‘white space’ while walking from meeting to meeting. Now we’re going from videoconference to videoconference with potentially no break in between. Build a few minutes into your schedule between calls to reset and prepare.
Identify the result you want from the meeting and prepare your supporting talking points or questions. Begin the call by stating the outcome. With everyone on the same page, the meeting will be less likely to veer off-topic.
2) Stand and deliver
When communicating over a screen, there is limited ability to “read the room.” You can, however, direct the tone of a discussion with your eye contact and body language.
Position your screen on an even level with your head and shoulders. Practice your breathing using a technique called 4-7-8. Breathe in for 4 beats, hold for 7 beats, and exhale for 8 beats. Getting more oxygen to your brain is both calming and energizing. When you’re calm, it’s easier to organize your thoughts.
Be aware of your eye contact. Focus on the people speaking, not your phone or another part of the screen. If you are taking notes, let your audience know at the beginning and mute the audio while typing.
Body language becomes more pronounced over video. Stand up straight, and on two feet, so you’re not tempted to shift from side to side. Use one hand at a time to emphasize the points you are making. Encouraging your team to do the same has two benefits; practicing these techniques boosts confidence, and standing meetings take less time.
Finally, modulate the tone of your voice and speak slowly enough for people to absorb what you’re saying.
3) Engage your audience
Connect at the beginning with a check-in “How is everyone doing and feeling today?” Talk about what you want to achieve on the call, “At the end of this call, let’s have two ideas for…” Be clear about the length of the meeting. When there is a definite end time, people are more focused.
4) Invite Conversation
Here’s your chance to exercise your natural curiosity. When working from home, it’s easy to get distracted. By asking questions, you force yourself to stay in the moment. Asking questions helps you listen carefully and invite conversation. Strengthen your facilitation skills by giving everyone on the call the opportunity to speak.
5) Practice Q and A
The unpredictability of a question/answer period can be nerve-wracking. Improve these skills by listening very carefully to the questions asked. Reframing a question with, “What I heard was…” gives the questioner a moment to confirm, deny, or add to their thought before you answer. This buffer gives you a few seconds to organize your thoughts.
These days, there will almost certainly be questions for which you don’t know the answer. Here’s your chance to get comfortable with “I don’t know.” This statement can be challenging for many, but it opens the door to conversation and signals humility, especially when followed with “…and I’m interested in figuring this out.”
One last piece of advice is to SMILE. It’s more engaging than any question or answer, and it sets a positive tone for the meeting.
Practicing these skills builds confidence in yourself and others’ confidence in you as a leader. Your video/audio conferences will become more productive and fun, preparing you well for future in-person presentations, meetings, and interviews.
Be well and stay safe
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I’m writing about communicating with and motivating teams.