Human Resources

How to Present When You’re Not in the Room

Modern communications technology combined with organizations that have multiple locations have made remote presentations commonplace. Have you ever had to present training materials to an audience that isn’t physically in the same room as you? It can be a challenge. Here are strategies for success from Brad Karsh, CEO and founder of JB Training Solutions.

Karsh shared his presentation tips at the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) Annual Conference and Exposition, held this past summer in Washington, D.C. It all started with Karsh’s voice on a speakerphone, explaining that he had to leave the SHRM Conference early due to inclement weather in Chicago and would have to make his presentation remotely, ironically enough.

As the attendees groaned at this turn of events, they then heard Karsh’s voice again, loud and clear—from the back of the room. No, he would not actually be presenting remotely, but his ruse revealed the unique challenge of doing so. “How many of you reached for your phones and stopped paying attention when you thought I actually wouldn’t be here?” he asked.

However, despite common negative reactions to them, remote presentations are happening more and more because of slashed budgets, an uptick in remote workforces, and more companies with a truly global presence, says Karsh.

Karsh then asked the audience, “What are your pet peeves when it comes to remote presentations, and what do you like about them?” Here were some of their responses:

Pet peeves:

  • Dead air
  • “Ums” (verbal tics)
  • Presenters clearly just reading the presentation
  • Background noise
  • Technical difficulties

 

Likes:

  • Engaging the audience with interactivity
  • Efficiency of presentation
  • Good pacing
  • The fact that the presenter can’t actually see you

 

With these in mind, Karsh provided three general tips for success with remote presentation.

1. Plan

Logistics you must consider include such things as who, when, and what, says Karsh.

  • Keep in mind that the “who” of the presentation goes beyond the individual people in the audience and extends to their mindset—what are their feelings toward you and the subject of the presentation?
  • The “when” is also important. The worst time to present is right after lunch, says Karsh, briefly noting with a laugh that his SHRM session took place at exactly this time. If you have a presentation at that time, you need to ramp up the energy. “8 A.M. is always way better than 1:30 P.M.,” notes Karsh.
  • The “what” is fairly straightforward—what do you want them to remember? Don’t be afraid to pull everything out of your presentation that isn’t relevant to the top three things you want them to remember, says Karsh.

 

“Start with a bang!” advises Karsh. It always helps to start with a poll, a story, or a quote—something nontraditional. Of course, this applies to any presentation whether in person or remote, Karsh admits, but it’s especially important remotely because people tend to become disengaged or multitask with a remote presentation.

As you’re planning out your presentation, keep it simple. “When was the last time you wanted more words on those PowerPoint® slides? Make it powerful and insightful,” says Karsh.

2. Use Stories and Anecdotes

We all like to use jargon, says Karsh, but it’s important to keep from dumbing the presentation down. You want to make your material relevant, relatable, and powerful, and a great way to accomplish this is through stories.

Why do they work? Because they’re everything you’re looking for, says Karsh—stories and anecdotes are relatable, memorable, and powerful, and the use of them can be even more impactful when presenting remotely.

3. Deliver It!

The fact is, you’re doing more heavy lifting when presenting remotely. Karsh notes that you need to have more energy, interaction, and animation. Consider these three important elements and what percentage they play in communication as a whole:

  1. Body language: 55%
  2. Tone: 38%
  3. The actual words you use: 7%

 

This is a huge problem when presenting remotely, notes Karsh—55% of the puzzle is gone! You lose movements, gestures, and eye contact; and while planning your session, you probably spend most of your time thinking about the words, not the tone.

“When presenting remotely, you need to be the best possible you,” says Karsh, but based on these percentages, “9 times out of 10, you’re putting forward the worst possible you (not even the average you). And over the phone, it’s the worst of the worst.”

So what’s the best possible you that can come out during remote presentations? The person you are over dinner telling stories, eating (maybe drinking …), and smiling. Karsh clarified, this is not to suggest that you have a couple glasses of wine before presenting remotely.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, we present specific tips from Karsh for conference calls, webinars, and video conferencing.