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How to present effectively to an in-person and virtual audience

Christine Adam, RADA business tutor, gives her top tips on how to present effectively to both an in-person and virtual audience.

The working world has changed drastically over the past 18 months. The pandemic forced offices to close, and employees adapted to working from home for prolonged periods of time.

The New Art of Business, a report by RADA Business, revealed that although 30% of leaders in the workplace have concerns about communicating effectively in a virtual setting, 80% of workers want the option to work from home on a flexible basis. Therefore, a hybrid working environment is expected to be commonplace for offices across the UK for the foreseeable future.

This hybrid approach to working may be welcomed by many, but it does present new challenges for workers of all experience levels, particularly when trying to engage with, or present to, a work force that is physically separated.

Here are some techniques to help workers deliver presentations and speeches effectively:

1. Warm up your voice

Warming up your voice before a presentation elevates your vocal presence. Improving the clarity and increasing the volume of your voice will help to engage both those in front of you and the workers tuning in from home.

A simple way to do this is by yawning loudly, using your entire body to do so, and allowing the sound to continue even after the yawn has finished. 

To improve the clarity of your voice, focus on saying simple phrases in an exaggerated manner, such as 'good afternoon'. Really focus on each syllable and allow your face to move with the sound. This will help to warm up the lips and tongue, so you are ready to speak, and, more importantly, ready to be heard.

2. Project your voice

There are various ways to improve the projection of your voice by utilising your body and breath so that you can find vocal power organically and without strain. Stand with open yet relaxed shoulders so that you can breathe with more ease. Then, place your hand on your stomach and focus on breathing from your diaphragm, with each inhale you should feel your stomach expand outwards, as opposed to your chest.

This will allow you to have more available breath to deliver your message with impact. When breathing deeply like this, from your diaphragm, you will start to experience greater physical and mental ease, which in turn will help to calm the nerves.

3. Make eye contact with your audience and your camera

When delivering an impactful presentation, it is not only important for the audience to be engaged with the speaker, but for the speaker to be engaged with the audience too.

Making eye contact is a simple and effective way to maintain a connection with an audience. Not only can it help you land your message with impact, but it also shows colleagues that you care about how they are receiving your words. 

It’s important to remember your virtual audience too. Set up your camera so that colleagues joining virtually can clearly see your face and body and, when possible and natural, look directly into the camera. Although this combination of eye and camera contact may seem challenging at first, it is a great way to show your virtual audience that they are equally as important as those attending in-person.

4. Utilise your space

When presenting at home to a computer, our movement is often limited due to the smaller space we are confined to. As we return to presenting in an in-person environment, it’s important to make the most of the space that is available.

Before you present, stand straight and place your feet firmly on the floor, hip-width apart with your knees unlocked, so that you feel grounded and strong in your position. As you present, use your hands to gesticulate. This will help you to maintain an open posture, emphasise key points with your body, and show your enthusiasm for the topics being discussed.

Take time to set up your camera or computer so that the frame is large enough to capture the full space that you will be presenting from. This will allow your virtual audience to enjoy the engaging and enthusiastic presentation, without feeling that their viewing experience has been compromised if you do change your position throughout.

5. Practice and prepare

Preparation for a presentation is key to ensure you are communicating your ideas with ease and clarity.

Rather than simply reading the presentation to yourself, take time to practise delivering it out loud, whether that’s to an audience of friends and family. This will allow you to practise the structure of your talking points and identify any parts of the presentation that could be improved upon.

When presenting to an audience which is both in-person and virtual, try not to read from your notes like it is a script. Instead practise your presentation with brief, key points.