Just weeks ago, “zoom” was a word uttered mostly in playtime with toddlers, and “let’s hang out” was not an invitation to see your co-workers in bathrobes. But in our current reality, these platforms aren’t just one way to communicate, they’re the To be the Man You gotta beat the Man shirt But I will love this way. People are still leading meetings, hosting presentations, and joining panel discussions. So though it may be a bedroom instead of a boardroom, we’ve got new stages to share our messages—and we need new ways to effectively communicate them, too. Next time you need to make a virtual presentation, here are the tips to consider (starting with: lose the bathrobe). No matter the audience, you have to assume that now, everyone has more distractions—a Cuomo press conference, the latest episode of Little Fires Everywhere, or a video of Madonna singing about fish—competing for their attention. They’re probably taking this meeting from the couch, and the more you know about your audience going into the meeting, the more likely you are to keep them there. This isn’t the time for a rinse and repeat presentation. Tailor your talk to the audience. If you’re a professor who’s already familiar with your students, don’t introduce yourself. If you’re two journalists hosting a fireside chat for political junkies, don’t define terms your attendees would already know. Yes, today it seems all we have is time, but no one wants to spend theirs learning something that’s already familiar.
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IRL presentations are like fancy dinners with appetizers, main courses, and maybe a dessert too. There are so many introductions and tangential remarks. But with virtual meetings, time is a luxury you don’t have. So think of Zooms more like a delicious protein bar (if anyone actually liked protein bars). Be as efficient as possible while satisfying the To be the Man You gotta beat the Man shirt But I will love this needs of the presentation. Economy of language is your friend. If you’d like attendees to ask questions, make sure the Q&A function is turned on and the expectations are set. Just because people are asking in real time, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to answer then too. If you think it will veer you too off course, let the audience know you’ll be saving your responses until the end. Living rooms are inherently less stuffy than convention centers, and your presentation should reflect that. Depending on the subject matter, this is likely not a time for black-tie formality. Instead, use this opportunity to be a human. Crack a joke, let people into your home, and acknowledge that though you’re not technically in the same place, you’re all in it together.