14 Tips for Giving Engaging Virtual Presentations

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

Illustration of a woman giving a virtual presentation and seven other people participating through a video conference

As more and more organisations implement remote working, virtual presentations are becoming increasingly common. But with this new digital workplace also come several new challenges.  

For example, people are more likely to tune out of a virtual presentation than they are when attending one in-person. Professionals, therefore, have to work extra hard to keep participants engaged through their screens. 

So, how do you make your visual presentation interesting, and what ways can you keep your audience engaged? Here are 14 useful tips that will help you deliver a compelling virtual presentation.

1. Practise, practise, practise 

As with any presentation or form of public speaking, it’s essential that you practice beforehand. Run through your virtual delivery in front of friends or family and let them offer feedback on your work. 

If you’re not accustomed to online presentations or video conferences, rehearse by looking into your camera as you speak. You can record yourself practising so you can look back at it later and work on where you can improve. 

2. Check your tech 

Make sure you avoid any tech blunders during your presentation by checking your conferencing tools and connection ahead of time. You don’t want a computer crash or inaudible microphone while presenting to your team, right? Nor do you want to be fidgeting with wires and programmes and cutting your talk short. 

Do a sound check, get comfortable with your technology and make sure everything functions properly in the lead-up. Always have a plan B in case something does go wrong. 

3. Be on time 

Punctuality is crucial for any professional endeavour, as it reflects professionalism and commitment. Make sure you are on time for your virtual presentation and don’t keep your audience waiting. 

Whether it’s a tech fault, your needy child, or forgetfulness, there’s no excuse for late attendance. In fact, you should make extra effort to be early, so there’s enough room for preparation. Log in at least half an hour early to avoid letting attendees down. 

4. Dress to impress 

Dressing down is one of the benefits of working from home. When standing in front of a virtual professional audience, however, it’s wise to dress in formal work attire. Ditch the jeans and tank tops (and those pyjamas!) and dress to impress. 

Forget the fact that you’re presenting from home and choose an outfit you would wear if it were an in-person presentation – a suit, formal dress, or a shirt. It’s also advised that you wear colours that neither clash nor blend in with your background. 

5. Enhance your lighting 

When you do not have the benefit of a well-lit office or conference room, it’s vital that you check and adjust your lighting for your presentation. Let natural light in the room so you can be visibly seen on camera, too. 

You can also invest in professional lighting to enhance your image. Aim for a soft spotlight on your face, and if there’s a window behind you, close the shutters. Sufficient light will also boost your energy and productivity for the show! 

6. Fix your background 

When you work from home, it can be challenging to find an appropriate location for your virtual meeting or presentation. Too many plants, photos or décor can be distracting for your audience. 

Choose a setting that reflects professionalism and aligns with your message. Ideally, it should be a plain background with little clutter. You don’t want to sit in front of your retro patterned wallpaper, nor do you want your shelf lined with Star Wars figurines behind you. You can even use the virtual backgrounds on Zoom or blur your backdrop with Microsoft Teams.   

7. Minimise distractions 

When giving a virtual presentation, eliminate any distractions and pay attention to your audience. Prepare your setting by avoiding noisy environments that can potentially deviate participants’ attention. If attendees are wearing headphones, these noises can be even more distracting – especially things like rustling papers and ringing cell phones. To avoid this, mute your devices, have your notes ready, and chose a setting that will shut out noise from your surroundings. 

8. Remember the camera 

When presenting, remain focused on the camera rather than the screen. Maintaining eye contact helps you concentrate and connect with your audience. Inc. recommends looking someone in the eye for three to five seconds, as this will naturally slow down your speech and make you sound more ‘presidential’. 

Meanwhile, turn off self-view to avoid checking yourself, try not to rely excessively on your notes and make sure that you are at eye-level with the camera for sufficient eye-contact. 

9. Stand up and move around

Even though you are conducting your presentation from home, avoid sitting down. By giving a presentation while standing up, you can ensure professional delivery and achieve authority as a presenter. Public speaking coach Lisa Braithwaite told Convene that moving around with a wired headset mic will help you ‘breathe deeper and access more energy for your audience.’ So, ensure that you are standing while speaking and use hand motions and vocal variety to keep your audience engaged. 

When not moving around, make sure the camera frames your face, neck, and shoulders as this achieves more connection.  

10. Communicate clearly 

The trick to a successful presentation is communicating clearly and coherently. Other than investing in a high-quality microphone for optimal sound, you need to hone your presentation skills to nail professional communication. 

With video calls, it’s easier to miss what someone said, so make sure to speak slowly and clearly. Vary your pitch and volume and maintain your energy to keep people engaged. A monotone voice and constant rambling will only cause your audience to switch off. 

11. Interest the audience 

Keeping attendees engaged during a virtual presentation isn’t as easy as it is in-person. In fact, according to the molecular biologist, John Medina, you have 10 minutes to keep someone’s attention before they lose interest entirely. 

Make your presentation brief engaging through enticing visuals like charts, animations, images and video. Pay special attention to font size and colour as well, as they can make your text more readable, while easy-to-read and brief slides will sustain your audience’s attention. You can even incorporate props, music or a guest speaker into your presentation to make it all the more enjoyable.  

12. Engage with participants 

In a virtual presentation, you must rely on technology to interact with your participants. Schedule time for interactive activities within your delivery but also encourage your audience to chat and provide feedback. 

Make sure to engage with questions by reading and discussing them aloud so other participants can follow the discussion, too. You can also invite individual participants to turn on their microphones or cameras for a virtual Q&A time. You can also keep everyone entertained by providing polls, quizzes or contests.  

13. Get some help 

Teamwork makes the dreamwork. Ask a friend or family member to be your assistant during the presentation so you can focus on your delivery. Have them prepare your notes, take care of tech errors, and manage any slides or videos. An assistant can also be responsible for fielding incoming messages and questions, so you don’t get side-tracked from the main subject.  

14. Be yourself 

While you are putting on a performance, you don’t have to be Chris Rock to be entertaining, or Steve Jobs to sound convincing. Just be yourself. Your audience will appreciate your authenticity during your presentation. Let your personality shine through as you make your delivery and remember to relax, smile and enjoy the presentation.  

If you’re accustomed to presenting explicitly in-person, conducting virtual presentations can be terrifying. But with our list of best practices, you can master your delivery and make your speech one to remember. 

What other tips do you have for giving virtual presentations? Let us know in the comments section below!