Updated: Jan 10, 2021
The Camera is Your Audience, So Engage It
Yeah baby! Like it or not, because of the pandemic, and the scarcity of live events with live audiences, your computer's/phone's camera is now your audience...so work it!
Easier said than done for some of us. But not everyone is a ham, and being in front of our cameras can feel uneasy, and make our presentations feel superficial. To help you through these potentially awkward moments, and to better prepare you for the virtual reality of presenting to audiences on the other end of your camera, I have listed some Common Issues people have when performing for your lens, and How to address them.
Lack of Eye Contact and Stage Movements: Fact: The In-personal touch is gone (for now). When presenting from your home office or studio you will not be able to roam the stage and make eye contact with audience members at various parts of the room. This could be a detriment to your plan to use your personality to engage your audience.
Remember, the audience is still there. It's now completely a ONE-WAY interaction. Your camera is the audience. Look at it (not at your notes) and talk to it as if it were a friend you hadn't seen in a while. Consider propping up a picture of a loved one, a beloved pet, or a portrait you admire above your camera to help you keep a focal point and speak with ease.
If you wear glasses, consider switching to contact lenses to avoid any computer or camera light glare; remember, you will be making ONE-WAY eye contact with your virtual audience, so give them a chance to peer into your eyes. They're the window to the soul, right Bill?
While schmoozing and captivating an inanimate object might seem awkward, there are a number of familiar and fascinating notions about this virtual scenario that should make you feel right at home and get your creative juices flowing:
Your role as presenter doesn't change; as an Artisan Storyteller you still must rigorously rehearse to deliver a dynamic, engaging, and memorable experience for your audience. Your personality and charisma can still shine through your delivery.
In many live presentation settings, proper lighting and stage arrangements (podium with mic deliveries), while helpful for the audience to see and hear the presenter, can often restrict the presenter from being able to see the whole room or roam the stage.
Welcome to Hollywood! You are now experiencing a reality that all movie and TV stars deal with for their entire professions. Interacting with the audience is never an option for them but performing is always the goal.
The Unease of Having To Look At Yourself While Presenting:
A number of virtual presentation platforms (ZOOM, Go To Meeting, Microsoft Teams) require you to look at yourself while presenting. This is a reality you may never have had to deal with before and it can distract you and cause discomfort.
Adjust the settings on your devices, and of your own proclivities.
COVID 19 is requiring us all to readjust, so start doing it. Virtual platforms have settings you can adjust to hide video. For example, check out ZOOM's option to "Hide Myself." If you can't figure out the technical side of things, get creative and MacGyver a solution. Don't want to look at your own face? Cover up your screen with cardboard paper or turn off your monitor. It may seem funny on your end, but the goal is to create an optimal experience for the audience. So, if it prevents you from feeling distracted, go for it!
Confusion On How To Balance Note-Glancing And Focusing On The Camera:
You may be used to a podium where you can strategically place your notes or visual cues. Now, crammed at your desk, you don't feel like you have a good place to keep notes.
Invest in a Teleprompter:
If you have the budget you may want to splurge on a high end Teleprompter. There are many brands to consider, but self-proclaimed tech nerds CreatorBeat has put together a nice list of options. If you're on a budget, there are many free websites such as https://presentationprompter.com/ and apps like TeleprompterMirror that can turn your PC/MAC or smartphone into a teleprompter.
Such software will allow you to place the text close to your computer's/smartphone's camera, so you appear to be looking at the camera/audience while actually reading your text. This is not a substitute for digesting your content and mastering your delivery, but rather a tool that can help you recall critical points or sections of your presentation.
Hopefully, TIP # 5 as well as 1-4 have given you the tools to put forth a solid virtual presentation. More blogs to come! And please, sign up in my email list for exclusive content at www.myspeakingcoach.com.