Amplifiers, speedometers and online presentations

2012

Presenting online is different than presenting in a normal face to face venue like a meeting or classroom. But here's the thing, it's not THAT different, just different enough to make us uncomfortable and that throws us off our game. Specifically, some of the basic components of good speech—rate and energy tend to suffer.

Here are two items to remember to help you be more effective whether it's on a video conference, webmeeting or simple conference call. I think of them as your amplifier and your speedometer.

The AMPLIFIER is essentially the volume at which you present. I am not talking about the volume on the audience's speakers, I'm talking about the volume at which you speak. Many people speak too quietly when on the phone, which makes your voice flatter, less interesting, and doesn't convey the passion and energy you have (or should be able to convince the audience you have) for your topic.

When you lower the volume on your voice, you often also lower the register and range. Your highs are lower and your lows just sit there, making you sound unenergized and flat. Why does this happen?

First of all, you're generally by yourself when your present online, and who wants to be thought of as a crazy person? Secondly, we tend to be more worried about the person at the next desk than we do the people we are actually presenting too.

Imagine your volume as an old fashioned rock and roll amplifier. Whatever number you have it set at, mentally crank it up one notch. Let the equipment modulate your voice on the other end (and if you wear a headset, just move the mouthpiece a bit up or down until it's comfortable for the listener. Down is better so it doesn't pick up your breathing). Let the volume fly, and increase the energy by using your hands to gesture. Heck, stand up if you have to.

Secondly, you need to think about your rate of speed, and that's where your SPEEDOMETER comes in. Imagine how fast your speaking is measured on a speedometer. Whatever speed you're speaking at is probably a bit too quickly. After all you're not getting the visual cues that tell you to slow down, wait for a laugh or give them a chance to ponder what you've just told them. You're probably just barreling right through.

Step one is to realize that time is relative, and pauses feel about twice as long to you as a speaker than they do to your audience. Pause twice as long as you think you should.

And your speed? Bring it down a bit. Five mph (about 8-10 kmh) should be about right. If it feels slightly unnatural, you're probably speaking at about the right speed for online understanding.

By focusing on your amplifier and your speedometer, you will be understood better and people will be more engaged in your presentation.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

Wayne Turmel is a speaker, writer and co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute. He’s passionate about helping people present, sell and lead people and projects using today’s virtual communication technology. His books include Meet Like You Mean It - a Leader’s Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings. Wayne is based in Chicago, IL.