A boss unwittingly disguised as a potato during Zoom meetings, cries of "you're on mute!" and guest appearances by kids and pets, are among the hilarious anecdotes attached to this hugely popular app.
However, it becomes serious when you need to make a good impression in a virtual meeting, job interview or presentation.
Zoom became a massively popular communications tool for business, education and social meetings during the Pandemic. In 2020, there were 485 million Zoom downloads, which is 30 times more than the year before!
Of course, some of the top Zoom presentations tips apply equally well to in-person or online delivery. Such as establishing your end goals, preparing a flowing framework and strong content, then practising your speech more than once. However, there are particular advantages and disadvantages to Zoom, to get the right results for presenting online.
These Zoom presentation tips will help grow your competence, confidence and success.
One of the great things about Zoom presentations is there is a degree of informality and comfort.
You can dress just your top half smartly, have a hot beverage just off-screen, and do your best public speaking in familiar surroundings.
One of the worst things about Zoom presentations is …there is a degree of informality and comfort!
You can find yourself easily distracted, lacking in focus and slower in your responses.
The best way to present well on Zoom – when the stakes are high - is to create a wholly business-like environment and attitude. Use a space in your home or field location that's as bland and clinical as possible, with no potential noise disturbance. Dress smartly from head to toe to create the best mindset.
Site your technology in front of you and imagine it's a lectern and a set of multi-media tools in a meeting room or lecture theatre.
While you're using technology to communicate or collaborate, it's common sense to optimise ways to enhance your presentations.
As part of your extensive preparation for important Zoom meetings, consider what documents, images and graphics to share, to add credibility and professionalism to your pitch. Or, simply to hold the attention of a Zoom audience from start to finish.
Familiarise yourself with the Share Screen option on Zoom, and the best ways of displaying videos during a Zoom call, including advanced share methods for online presentations.
There are good Zoom share screen tips here, including how to add a video to presentations on Zoom.
Zoom presentations with visual content are 43% more persuasive. Also, 90% of the information we process comes from visual input. So your Zoom presentation materials could be what gets you that job, funding or agreement.
Don't assume that online presentations release you from many of the body language pitfalls and best practices. The opposite is true, as you need to focus on non-verbal cues even more.
If you deliver your Zoom presentation in a rigid, static and clinical way, you are missing out on some of the best ways to be successful in communications.
People respond to people. Effective communication requires warmth, authenticity and establishing a strong personal connection with your audience. Being robotic when presenting online won't help you to succeed.
If this is an intense online meeting, then showing empathy can also increase the engagement and openness you achieve.
How do you communicate non-verbally on Zoom?
Without going over the top, be purposeful and slightly exaggerated in your body language. Sit straight and lean subtly towards the screen. Never away from it and certainly no slumping, crossed arms or chin/elbow leaning!
Smile, nod and keep strong eye contact, including showing your attention passing from person to person across a split-screen. Use hand gestures and show subtle movement in your upper body to add emphasis to key points.
Zoom presentations also make it too easy to slip into a monotone voice or race through a presentation. You may even find the process of talking to technology – not live people – causes you to ramble, or get lost in your ad-libs or Q&A responses.
Make sure you articulate clearly, add emphasis when needed, and generally modify your tone regularly but logically.
Don't be afraid to leave small pauses to drive a point home, or to take a deep breath while you construct your next point. If you look directly at the screen and hold eye contact, this 'white space' is perfectly acceptable.
One of the most important presentation skills, in general, is reading the room. Is your potential boss or buyer looking bored? Are the panel of decision-makers getting confused? In contentious presentations, being able to spot your biggest dissenter from their non-verbal communication can help you shift your focus to winning them over.
It's challenging to gain that sort of body language intel from online meetings. So, the best Zoom presentations compensate for that.
It can be as simple as adding more direct questions to your content and literally pausing regularly to ask your audience about queries or concerns. Make your questions open-ended, not a yes or no response.
"Let's take a minute. What else do you need to know about that part of my presentation?"
Also, keep Zoom presentations succinct, flowing and animated. Your audience will drift away subconsciously if your delivery is pedestrian or you talk for too long without involving them.
Remember, attention spans are even shorter on technology!
No, this doesn't refer to grabbing your audience's attention with a juggling trick or wearing your most colourful or glamourous finery.
How you start a Zoom presentation sets the tone. If you instantly engage their interest with a compelling opening, the attention and engagement last.
This should primarily be 100% clarity on the purpose of your presentation and the desired outcome. As well as establishing your credibility and methods to achieve the end goal.
Vague introductions and slowly revealing your key points drains your time and your audience's attention.
What makes a good opening for Zoom presentations?
You can't shake their hand, but you can issue a quick, warm greeting and a short, relevant fact about yourself that helps them to warm to you.
These work for a myriad of business communication tasks. Give a short (that word again) anecdote or illustration, to give context to your Zoom presentation. That could be about you, your product or the outcome you are requesting, for example.
"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." - George Bernard Shaw.
Good quotes can work!
Another great opening for Zoom presentations is a little known fact or 'behind the scenes' secret that grabs attention. Did you know, one-third of adults still sleep with a 'comforter' like a soft toy or blanket? (Not relevant to many presentations but it's a memorable statistic that caught OUR attention.)
Wake your audience up with something they want to remember – and share with others – and they will be alert and ready to listen.
One last piece of advice on Zoom presentations. Don't get so relieved when you get to the end, that you forget your call to action.
All communication should include an invitation of some kind, in clear language. What would you like your audience to do, now your Zoom time is over? Tell them that and thank them for your attention, with one last warm smile.