January 15

Virtual Presentation Fails: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid!


Every time I read an article about virtual presentation mistakes, I roll my eyes. Yes, it’s important not to talk too much, fidget or overload your slides. But those are the same mistakes sellers make with in-person presentations. What is rarely discussed are those surprising virtual presentation fails exclusive to presenting in an online world. These 5 mistakes can cause you to lose attention, credibility and influence with prospects. And they’re hiding in plain sight!

1. Matching Your Audience’s Energy

Talk about a snooze fest! Virtual audiences are notoriously passive and trying to match that energy will have your audience dosing off in no time. Sales is all about transferring energy, but the camera already saps half of your energy before you even open your mouth. And sitting at home in your comfy chair can quickly take away the other half. Using your audience as a “guide” a proven recipe for a boring and passion-free presentation. As a presenter, it’s vital that you learn how to get into your “peak virtual energy state” – independent of your audience’s mood or energy - to grab and hold onto their attention!

2. Rushing into Slides too Quickly

One of the biggest challenges with virtual presentations is establishing a connection with your audience. Which presenter do you think is easier to connect with: A) a title slide with a tiny postage-sized image of the presenter up in the corner, or B) a full camera view of the presenter talking directly to you on your screen? If you’re like most people, you picked B, the full view. That’s because there is nothing more compelling to a human than another human’s face. It’s why you are on camera – to be seen!

Yet, the majority of presenters jump right into their PowerPoint to kick things off, missing a valuable opportunity to connect and engage with their audience.

To truly leverage the power of video, it’s important to make yourself as visible as possible to your audience for as long as possible. And the most visible view is your image full screen. This allows your audience to see your eyes, your expressions, and your body language. And it makes your audience feel like they're meeting with a live person, as opposed to a little SIM character in the corner of their screen.

3. Reading from Notes or Slides

Reading from your slides or notes is a very poor experience for your customer, whether in-person or virtual, but it proves even riskier in virtual meetings where audiences can easily tune out without being detected. And while many presenters have learned to rely less heavily on their slides when presenting face-to-face, staring at one’s slides rather than their audience is the norm, rather than the exception.


Because they’re there.

After all, the slides are literally right smack in front of your face. It doesn’t even require turning your back on your virtual audience! But it does cause you to break eye contact with your audience, which is a big fail as it diminishes your authenticity and credibility.

Does this mean you can’t look at your slides or use notes? No! But I’ve discovered (after many years of presentation coaching) that unfamiliarity with the content is rarely the primary reason a presenter reads from their slides. Because most presenters who read from their slides will read from them whether they contain two words or two-hundred.

If you need to look at slides or notes, learn how to do it without appearing shifty to your audience in this article.

4. Not Using Your Hands 

There is a lot of bad advice about virtual presenting, and recommending that people who are natural gesturers to refrain from using their hands on camera always tops the list. Stifling someone’s natural inclination to gesture can turn otherwise dynamic, engaging people into watered down, anemic versions of themselves.

Are there gestures that work on screen and gestures that don’t? Absolutely. But the general guidance to quite literally “sit on your hands” is bad advice across the board. Presenters who have followed this well-meaning, but sadly ill-informed advice find that once they allow themselves to use their hands in a video-friendly way – it is like receiving a shot of adrenaline. Their personality reappears, their voice and face become more animated and they are able to bring their words to life.

5. Approaching the Camera Too Aggressively 

In virtual meetings, even small movements towards the camera can be distracting as anything you place close to the camera lens will appear disproportionately large. Whether that’s your hands, your face, or your pen. Abrupt movements, or lunges toward the camera are especially jarring, appearing aggressive, especially to new audiences!

You may not even realize you’re moving too close to your camera as it’s a natural (and effective) way to engage with live audiences. However in the tight frame of a virtual meeting, rapid movements toward the camera put you into an “extreme close-up” which crosses into your audience’s perceived personal space. In virtual meetings you want to stay in a ”medium close-up” (head and some of torso and a consistent distance of about 15-20 inches from our camera to avoid distracting your audience or making them uncomfortable.

Summary: Virtual presentations have many unique challenges, and thus, their own set of mistakes and best practices. Throwing them together is the biggest fail of all and wastes an opportunity to connect, engage and wow your virtual prospect. To stay on-top of these and all virtual selling best practices, subscribe to my blog.

Interested in Virtual Presentation Training for your team?

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