By Graham Williams, Chief Strategist at Blink
The shift of March 2020 shouldn’t have come as a surprise; the move to telepresence for presentations was always coming, COVID-19 just pushed up its arrival. Our dependence on face-to-face meetings has been a crutch that we’ve relied on too long; whether it was coronavirus, climate change, or cost savings, communicating our message in an authentic way needed to evolve.
You don’t have to evaluate your presentation readiness alone. As part of what we do Blink offers consultation on audio quality, video quality, and connection types to ensure you’re connecting to your audience in the best way. We can even supply a ready-to-present kit that will take you from middle-of-the-pack to best in class in one easy-to-use package.
Zoom, Teams, Skype: pick your poison – no matter which solution you pick, on their own they’re a half-measure at best.
Let’s break the call down into its constituent parts:
Video is a function of four things in your call: the quality of your camera, the quality of your internet connection, the speed of your computer, and lighting. These pieces are carefully interlocked: a weak link anywhere can mean choppy, low quality video that–whether you like it or not–reflects poorly on you and on your brand or your product.
If your audience will forgive poor video, the won’t forgive poor audio. Poor video can still be understood by your audience, but poor audio is a dealbreaker; it’s the comprehension wall that your audience can’t climb on their own.
When we started off with this “new normal” the vanilla PowerPoint or PDF was good enough but it has become clear that the flat, static, text-filled slides of board room meetings simply won’t cut it any more.
If you’re reading this, that’s probably you. You booked the meeting, you’ve got things you need to say, and you’re running the show.
There are people succeeding in connecting with their clients, investors, or audience online right now. The reason? They’ve already made the shift from thinking of these interactions not as bidirectional calls, but as keynote presentations. Elevating their presence takes strategy, skill, and talent, but the differences are clear: presenters are capturing imaginations, communicating clearly, and getting results.
There are three key elements to a good presentation:
- Production Value
- Presentation Skill
We can break our call from above into these categories: production value encompasses video, audio. Your content is the main event. You as the host are on the line, delivering a memorable presentation that hits the right notes. Let’s look at how to do things properly.
Production Value – Video
We talked earlier about how video is a function of a four things:
- Computer Speed
All of these things are important. Here’s what you need to know:
Most laptop webcams fall short of presentation quality. If you’re relying on a camera from an IT-supplied corporate machine, it may be time to put in for an external camera. Part of the problem is the camera quality, which in most laptops isn’t stellar–but the other element is what your camera sees. If you’re like most, your laptop is on your desk, meaning that your camera is delivering an up-angle shot that highlights the underside of your nose; an external camera mounted on a stand can bring that view to eye level, making it far more comfortable for your audience. You’ll find that external cameras are also typically higher quality.
Can’t find an external camera? Take a look into NDI® apps for your mobile phone; they can provide higher quality video feeds that will give your audience a far better experience.
Your internet speed matters–but it might not be the number you’re used to looking at. Your download speed isn’t the important one here: your upload speed is. If you’re on a basic package from home, spring for an upgrade. At least 20Mbps will give you the bandwidth you need to deliver a higher quality video feed for your audience.
If you’ve ever needed a reason to upgrade: this is it. Basic one-to-one video calls aren’t very demanding, but when we get to calls that push the limits of audiences on Zoom, Teams, or Skype, you’ll hear one thing from seasoned presenters: this is a torture-test for PCs and Macs.
The rule of 3 is simple: if your computer is more than 3 years old, it’s probably time to upgrade. That’s not a hard and fast rule: high-powered computers from 3 years ago can still handle the task–but if you’ve got a mid-range or lower machine from that era it’s time to upgrade.
A better camera is the first step to better lighting: better cameras have better lenses, wider apertures that let in more light, and better processors that can handle bad lighting–but you’ll do your presentation the most good by adding a lighting solution. Lights don’t need to be expensive, a small investment into a lighting solution can take you from “home office” to professional presentation instantly.
That leads us to the quiet fifth element of good video: a good place to present. While Zoom, Teams, and Skype can all insert digital backgrounds or blur the space there’s no replacement for a clean, professional background. That means either a space with minimal distractions, or a green screen setup. Green screens over some interesting opportunities, but the minimalist approach is something we at Blink recommend.
Production Value – Audio
This section is short: the microphone built into most laptops isn’t adequate: they’re a compromise at best and a detriment at worst. So what should you do?
Opting for a headset can seem daunting, especially with the larger models on the market, so while that can be an option, you can choose a bluetooth lavalier microphone (sometimes called a lapel microphone) or a podcasting microphone.
Better quality microphones are simple solutions that are plug-and-play, so there’s no reason to suffer with something sub-par.
The heavy, text-laden PowerPoint is an anchor; it weighs down good brands, good projects, and good teams. I’m going to throw some cliches at you:
Less is more.
Show, don’t tell.
Keep it simple.
Part of the work we do is distilling the core message of your presentation to find out what your audience needs to see and what they need to hear. The text-filled slides of PowerPoints from pre-2020 don’t translate well to the different screens your audience may be using to participate in your keynote, so finding a way to convey information visually in an elegant, minimal way is key.
If this sounds like a pitch: it is. We’ve been working with clients to find that core message, to bring it on-brand, and to elevate it to that keynote level. Here’s what some of our clients have to say about us:
Take a look at your deck. With the above in mind, if you think you need to take your deck to the next level, give us a call.
In-person presentation skills are a good starting point, but the art of presenting online is a unique application of those skills.
As a presentation coach for TEDx Vancouver and the head of marketing for CastingWorkbook.com, my friend Christopher Bennett had this to say about it:
“The online keynote is a hard beast to tame: the things you would usually rely on your audience for–faces, audible reactions, the vibe in the room. If you’re really going to nail it, you need to know your material inside and out. You have to rehearse.”
The truth is that your presentation needs an audience that you can test with before you step into focus with your audience. That’s where we come in (again) to help: a presentation coach can take your time with your audience from good to closed deal with careful analysis and detailed notes.
The Next Step
Great Production Value, a good deck, and great presentation skills put you ahead of most of the pack, but what if you could take it one step further?
If you’re looking to land your message in an unforgettable way it might be time to take your presentation to the next level. When we think about great Keynotes, we think about Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, and the team at Apple: rich, seamless media, flawless execution, and a production that is a step above what you’ll find anywhere else.
That kind of production value is something you can achieve. How?
There’s the pitch again. We can help. Let us know that you’re ready and we’ll show you the way.