The Same But Different
This simple equation, 1+1=2, does not always prove to be true when placed in a virtual environment. Presenters who are good in the face-to-face environment may or may not have the same level of expertise in the virtual environment. One great face-to-face presenter plus one virtual environment does not always equal one great virtual presenter. The same holds true for experienced instructors.
In our experience over the past twenty years of working with both face-to-face and virtual presenters and instructors, many make the assumption that both of these require the same skill set. Let me describe it with a few metaphors. Some horses race better on turf than on a dirt track. Some even excel on a muddy dirt track thus the nickname "mudders". Many of us drive an automatic transmission vehicle and some drive manual transmission vehicles with a stick shift. In each instance, both are technically either running or driving but they are using very different skill sets. In our experience, presenting face-to-face and presenting virtually follows this same thought process.
In Person Skills vs. Virtual Skills
You are probably asking yourself, what's the key difference between presenting in face-to-face versus virtual environments that can transform the listener's experience so radically? After coaching hundreds of presenters, here is what we've noticed. When presenting in-person, the presenter owns the room. His or her energy envelops each person from the front row to the back. Their voice rises and falls depending on where the emphasis needs to be which creates the proper tone for the conversation. Wide and purposeful gestures make points clear as they make full use of the presentation space in the front of the room. Their words are clear, phrases concise and their stories and metaphors enable their audience to retain core messages. This is the playbook of any successful presenter in the face-to-face environment.
So how is presenting in the virtual environment different? Conventional thinking has presenters preparing less. They think it will be easier because they have their notes with them. Here is the shocker: presenting virtually is not easier. It’s harder! The challenge with presenting virtually is that you need to consistently blend the face-to-face behaviors and the platform tools in order to radically increase the engagement of your virtual audience. It's as if they were asked to drive a manual vehicle with a stick shift when they have only ever driven automatic vehicles. Presenting virtually has it's own mindset.
Multiplexing vs. Multitasking
I'm going to introduce a term taken from the technology world to describe the virtual presenter's mindset. The term is multiplexing which differs from multitasking. Multitasking has both positive and negative contexts of late. What we do know about multitasking is that you are doing many things at the same time and none of them has your full attention. In the technology world, multiplexing is a popular networking technique that integrates multiple signals into one signal. Simply, multitasking has you doing many things to achieve different goals. Multiplexing has you combining many things to achieve a singular goal.
A Virtual Presenter Mindset
Multiplexing would describe the mindset of the virtual presenter. To be successful, the virtual presenter must own their virtual audience by concurrently visually, verbally and vocally engaging them. Depending on the audience size, they must determine how they will allow for two-way communication with the audience. This multiplexing of activities creates an environment where the audience is in a rhythmic give and take of ideas. For the virtual presenter, multiplexing is all consuming because this mindset is outwardly focused. The virtual presenter is consistently focused on what the audience is doing (or not doing). They understand that their audience has other focus options when attending a virtual presentation/meeting. Just think about all the things that you do when participating on a virtual call. With that information as a foundation, virtual presenters think of themselves only to the extent that it informs how their behaviors consistently seek to drive engagement in every moment. It's not only about the content they want to put out there. It's about how the content is taken in and processed during the meeting by the audience. Keeping the focus on the audience is key.
As you look at how you and your team present virtually, don't make the mistake that a person good at one thing will be just as good at another. To do this puts you and that person at risk of failure. At evoke virtual, we've written a lot about the specific behaviors that are critical when presenting or leading meetings in the virtual environment. We've captured these behaviors in many of our posts on our "Insights" blog. You can also find our eBooks and white papers at our virtual presenter site. Finally, to radically improve your virtual presenter skills, we offer a two-hour dose of Virtual Confidence. Virtual Confidence is our latest web class focused on helping presenter drive engagement. The ultimate multiplexing workshop!
The bottom line is that the tools for success are out there. There is no excuse for poor presenting!