Written by Spencer Cowley, Copywriter at DeckLinks
For most people, public speaking has always been an activity that can stir up anxiety. The difficulty of presenting in public lies not only in the need to know your message and speak well, but in the perceived judgment of your audience if you even mildly fail at doing those two things.
However, not all public speaking is truly public — especially not in our increasingly virtual world. While video chatting services like Skype and Zoom have existed since long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the last 2 years have proven how incompetent many of us can feel when it comes to presenting ourselves to others on camera. Though popular YouTubers might make speaking into the blank, staring eye of a camera lens look easy in their videos, most would admit that getting the best takes requires a lot of time and practice.
How to Present Well on Camera
It’s clear that being prepared to present using video is becoming an absolutely essential skill in business. But even those who feel more comfortable speaking in public may struggle to address a virtual Zoom gallery of their colleagues with as much warmth and eloquence as they’re used to having. Confidence goes a long way, and the ability to feel confident on camera can be developed similarly to how confidence in front of a major client can be developed. (Hint: It takes a lot of practice!)
In this article, we’ll review some of the key skills and tips you need to practice presenting yourself better on camera. Whether you’re chatting with your boss on Teams or recording a message to pitch your startup to an investor, these 10 things can set you apart and make your audience feel like you’re right there in the room connecting with them.
1. Understand your space
The first tip on this list is first because it’s so important to recognize what the camera sees — this is what your audience will see! Take a few moments before you start your video presentation to check out what your little video box looks like. How is your camera positioned? Is it a webcam at the top of your laptop screen? An external camera you have strategically placed on another part of your desk for a more interesting angle?
The best thing to strive for in terms of “cinematography” for your presentation is simplicity. If you know you’ll be presenting alongside a deck, it’s even more important to not draw too much focus towards the space around your body on screen. Keep your head and shoulders clearly in view. Make sure the lighting is sufficient to keep you visible, without awkward shadows or bright spots. Consider blurring your background if the tool allows for it, or making sure your background is clean and presentable.
2. Be aware of your posture, your hands and your body language
Once you’ve understood the space you have to work with, you should then remember to check your body language as you practice and execute your presentation.
Since you will typically remain seated during a virtual presentation, be sure to comfortably sit up straight and try to maintain this posture through the entire presentation. As you speak, avoid any negative or constricting body language like crossed arms, slouching and turning your head away from the camera often. Two small things that many presenters forget to do as they get caught up in speaking are breathing evenly and blinking. Try not to over-stare into the camera, and remember to breathe through your nose during any pauses.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to use your hands! Hands help show emphasis, make your speech look natural and help engage the audience more deeply in your presentation. Keep your hands lower in the camera view and below your face. Just remember not to overuse hand gestures, as it can be distracting.
3. Talk to the camera
Remember to look into the camera as if it was the eyes of your audience member(s). This is much easier said than done! To make it a little easier, try imagining a face in place of the camera. There’s really no secret to doing this, it just takes practice (see #10).
4. Be conversational
In almost any context, even in most business, it’s useful to keep your presentation speech conversational. If you’re too formal or stick too closely to your slides, it can come off as dry and dull. Even though you’re speaking to a camera, you’re really speaking to another human. Try to remember what sort of tone and speed would keep you engaged as a listener. Treat it like any other conversation you would have in person. Stay enthusiastic and involved in your message — smile as much as you can but keep your tone in line with your words.
5. Know your message
A major part of this tip is founded in #10. However, another major part of knowing your message is to know how to rely on your notes when you need them. It’s very difficult to get through an entire video presentation by heart while keeping it natural, engaging and free of stumbles.
If you have written your notes the right way, you should be able to peek at it for a second and be able to continue your presentation on track. This will be even more important when presenting live, but presenting from a script while filming yourself ahead of time can be just as difficult. To avoid looking like you’re reading, having the words just below your camera can make it look like you’re maintaining eye contact (with the lens) as you take cues from your script. Video presentation tools like DeckLinks make this easy with a teleprompter at the top of your screen so you can present to the camera like a pro.
6. Allow your visuals to resonate
When presenting a deck of any kind, it’s important to remember that your audience will not exclusively focus on your face and your speech. Much of the time, your words will simply be helping to direct their eyes and explain the key words and images that are present on the current slide.
As you’re progressing through the information, remember to pause occasionally, ask if any questions have been raised (if you’re presenting live) and let the visuals sink in. This goes for prepared video presentations too — try to find the right flow for your presentation.
While transitioning can often be made more effective and natural through writing and practice ahead of time, figuring out how to transition in a premade video presentation can be tricky. When you’re doing multiple takes, try to think ahead about what your next statement will be and then hit the ground running on the next take with a quick mention of how the last item of business may bleed into the next.
This won’t always be applicable, and it’s often defined by how your visual presentation is organized. Still, transitions can make a big difference in how well your audience receives each new piece of information. For example, throwing out a random statistic that touches on a new topic after providing a lengthy anecdote previously can lead to some confusion. Try to make your transitions between topics seamless. An invisible transition is usually a good transition.
8. Dress for the occasion (all the way)
This is pretty common advice at this point in our Zoom-based work lives, but it’s important to reiterate. Even if you’re not going to be physically in the room with your audience, you still want to look presentable both on camera and off.
Skipping the sweatpants in favor of dress pants that match the button down shirt you put on for the camera can provide a major boost to your confidence and set your mentality squarely in the professional place it needs to be. Plus, in the case of live virtual presentations, you never know if something will unexpectedly require you to stand up or move your camera around — it’s unlikely, but you’ll be glad your lower half is business-ready too!
9. Roll with the mistakes
As mentioned earlier, it’s unlikely you’ll make it through your whole presentation without a few missteps — don’t worry, that is very normal and very fixable. If you’re live and you stumble, just take a pause, take a breath, take a peak at your notes if needed and try again. If you’re filming ahead of time, the same advice applies. The beauty of filming presentations in advance is that you can always stop the recording and tape over it (digitally, of course).
Okay, you’ve finally made it to #10 on the list! This is easily the most important piece of advice when it comes to presenting — practice, practice, practice. The more you practice a presentation, the better chance you will have at succeeding in everything else. You will come to know your message front to back. You will be able to roll through any mistakes with ease and grace. You’ll be conversational and have your body language in check. Best of all, with much practice comes greater confidence — you’ve done this before and you can do it again.
Try Sharing a Video Presentation to Feel More Confident Than Ever
There are many reasons why virtual presentations are important assets for businesses in all industries — it allows any company to scale their audience across the globe, earn new funding from remote investors, and connect with customers and partners anywhere. But sharing a screen to present a slide deck live to clients is not always the most ideal or even most realistic method for presenting your company’s big messages.
That’s why we created DeckLinks — the powerful presentation sharing tool built to let your messages shine. Narrate your slide decks using high-quality video and a built-in teleprompter that you can automate by each slide. Share your sales decks as convenient links that you can quickly send to anyone anywhere. See useful analytics that show you how your audience is engaging with each presentation so you can continue to improve future decks.
Interested? You can try DeckLinks today for free! Sign up to get started.