BE V-O-C-A-L: Characteristics of Successful Online Presenting

HRDQ-U Blog | Be Vocal in Online Presenting

It’s not second nature to any of us. Giving a presentation to an audience face-to-face is challenging enough. Going virtual presents a new set of rules. The following 5 points (following the acronym VOCAL) help you know what to keep in mind when going virtual.

  • Visible: Rather than look like you’re in the witness protection program, remember that humans look best when they’re lit from the front. Use a light and shine it in front of you. Remember how you got your picture taken by a photographer? Same idea. Dress professionally, wear make-up (ladies), use gestures, and adjust your camera to include not just your head, but your head and shoulders.
  • Organized: Have a non-distracting background. Virtual backgrounds might be fun, but they are not always professional and appropriate. Take down distracting pictures on the wall behind you, put a stack of books on your bed to make it look like it’s a credenza if there’s where you need to be when presenting, and add a plant behind you to show depth. Organized also means that you give your listeners any virtual meeting protocols (I call them “ground rules”). That might be to unmute your video (I tell my audiences, “If I can’t see you, you’re not here”), tell them to be prepared to participate in breakout rooms, polls, and use the chat feature if you’re building that into your presentation.


>> Learn more at the webinar: Virtual Exposure – The Power of Presenting Cybernetically.


  • Compassionate: Use eye contact; treat the camera like a person. But don’t stare – it will creep out your viewers. Establish and maintain eye contact, look away at times, but always go back to the camera. And remember – any amount of emotion you have will be evident in your voice.  Speak with 10-20% more energy than you would face-to-face. Consider reaching out to your viewers (or audience) early on. For example, send everyone an email to introduce yourself, ask them to give you short feedback about the topic you’re presenting, ask about their experience with the topic, etc. By doing so, you’re already communicating care, concern, and compassion.
  • Analytical: There’s a time and place for charts and graphs, but in the virtual classroom, your viewers want to see you and your personality. Include data in your presentation, but don’t let it BE the presentation. Rather, give viewers links or videos to watch or read on their own.
  • Lead by Example: It’s hard to show leadership when you don’t have a face-to-face event or an audience, but you need to show your viewers that you’re the person behind your position. You always need to communicate, but in changing times and situations, more frequently. Find ways to give hope to your viewers that this virtual platform will work for them. Encourage them to look forward, not back. English Prime Minister Gordon Brown had it right on point when, instead of saying “I’ll do what I can”, he said, “I will do what it takes”.


Written by: Lynne Breil

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