5 Steps to Becoming a Flawless Virtual Speaker

December 23, 2020
By iQ Staff
Illustration of a woman presenting to an audience on a virtual conference call with multiple screens.

Back by popular demand, here is the top iQ 360 blog post of 2020 (originally published on July 8). As we all become more adept virtual presenters, it never hurts to brush up on some valuable basics.

Virtual presenting is quickly becoming its own art form, with a unique set of challenges and considerations. Perfecting your technical set-up is only half the battle. Whether you’ve been booked for a live on-camera interview, webinar or virtual conference, use these tips to hone your presentation skills and ensure you’re polished and prepared for any virtual speaking opportunity that comes your way.


Look at the camera, not yourself

It is extremely tempting to watch your own video feed as you are talking, but making eye contact with the camera makes you look more engaged and engaging to your audience. If necessary, place a post-it note next to the small webcam at the top of your laptop screen to remind yourself to “Look here!”

If you tend to get distracted by your own image, Zoom allows you to hide your video from your own display while remaining visible to everyone else. Simply right click your video while in your meeting to display the menu, then select “Hide Myself.”


“Making eye contact with the camera makes you look more engaged and engaging to your audience.”


Dress the part — fully

Your work-from-home wardrobe may not include pants, but your virtual presentation outfit should. Even if you thought you had framed yourself correctly, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Just ask Good Morning America correspondent Will Reeve, who was caught with his bare legs showing on a live broadcast.

Choose something professional but comfortable that won’t require constant adjusting. Avoid thin stripes or small prints, which can look too busy or pixelated on camera. You may want to pick one or two “Zoom shirts” that you know make you look polished and professional so you can feel confident whenever you’re on camera.


Embrace the awkward pause

The two- or three-second pause that comes after you finish speaking on a video feed can seem like an eternity. Try to avoid filling the gap by chiming in with another sentence, or you might end up talking over someone else. Likewise, be careful not to answer too quickly and interrupt your interviewer or other participating speakers. There is always a slight delay with virtual communications, so be patient and rely on the visual cues of other speakers to avoid awkward interruptions.

When your interview or presentation is over, don’t let your guard down just yet. There are always a few seconds of delay between switching video feeds or visuals. The focus may be on you longer than expected, so smile and remain attentive until you are sure you’re in the clear.


Re-introduce yourself

If you’re speaking at a long-form virtual event, it’s not uncommon for viewers to join your session late. If you can see that many new people are joining, take some time to re-introduce yourself and your topic a few minutes after you’ve already begun. This will help orient new viewers to the discussion and makes them more likely to stay for the rest of the session.


Adapt to the virtual medium

When adapting your in-person speech to a virtual presentation, it’s important to consider how the medium will affect the content of your speech. Are there moments that require audience participation? Will the humor/sentiment translate well through a screen?

Successful public speaking or interviewing depends a great deal on audience feedback. If you see people nodding, it gives you confidence — if they’re nodding off, you might feel compelled to insert more energy into your presentation. It may feel unnatural to speak to a screen for an extended period of time without any feedback, so be aware that you can also ask for audience participation through Zoom’s chat, hand raise, or poll features. Just make sure the webinar host has provided these capabilities to its participants.


Want more? Be sure to check out our previous blog posts on virtual events:

Part 1: Virtual events 101 — overview and ideas

Part 2: How to plan your next virtual event

Part 3: Technical tips for virtual presenting