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  • Hannah Ubl

Virtual Presentations: We're Still Funny, Right?


Virtual presentations aren't new to us at GCC. We’ve been in the webinar biz for years. But stepping in front of a camera at home during a pandemic when most attendees are watching from home with babies (fur and human) running around, and we’re hoping our fur babies don’t start running around, and everyone is fighting Zoom fatigue… well, that’s new for us. It’s been a challenging mix of the familiar, the uncertain, and the gee-I-hope-everyone-listens-and-doesn’t-watch-Netflix. Here’s what we’ve learned, what we know, and what keeps our hearts pumping with nerves.


OUR PRESENTATION PROCESS


Everyone goes about this virtual environment in a different way because we’re all individuals. For us, here’s what works:

  • Prep the same amount, if not more, for virtual presentations. You’ve got to put in the same number of hours to customize, write, and research, plus the additional question of: wait, how can we make sure this content works virtually? More interaction? What kind is best? It’s not unusual for us to prep 40-70 hours for a 30-min presentation, virtual is no different.

  • Lots of slides, like LOTS of slides. This is where we feel lucky. Design by Lisa Walden = visually appealing slides. It’s actually one of our differentiators. So much time goes into the design of slides, which we believe to be critical at all times, but especially when the audience has no choice but to look at a slide that’s typically taking up 90% of their screen.

  • Enjoy the micro-moments. Fun is not a word to describe 2020 for us or many others. And while presenting may not have the same kind of thrill we’ve felt in the past, there is joy to be had in the small moments: when passion for our content fuels our fire, when clients respond with “that’s exactly what I needed to hear,” when we can look at each other and say “wow, you were incredible.”


OUR ONGOING ANXIETIES


Ok, so there are a lot of unknowns in this virtual keynote space. Sometimes we think we’ve figured it out and then we pause to reconsider: all we have to go off of is verbal feedback. No in-the-moment physical reactions. No audience members sharing their stories with you within seconds of stepping off the stage. No applause and laughter at our written or improv jokes. So, we question:

  • Are we still funny? Like, actually, are we funny? We’ve written a lot of new content and yes, jokes, for our ever-evolving presentations. Are the things that we find hilarious actually bombing in front of a crowd? No way to know!

  • When do we bore people? Keeping our attention in a virtual format is tough— there’s so much to distract—and we only hope that eyes aren’t glazing over when we can’t see them. To stay focused, we like to assume people are feverishly taking notes and sending insights to their friends or partner in the next room.

  • Does my face betray my own occasional distraction?? A weird thing about presenting virtually is that you often have to stare at your face on the screen the whole time. I can see when a hair is out of place, when the natural light casts a weird shadow, when I blush because I said “ferpect” instead of perfect. It can avert my eyes. Do attendees notice? Are they laughing at my Alfalfa hair?

OUR LEARNINGS AND OPINIONS


As a shock to no one if you know us well, we have opinions about what makes for a great virtual presentation. After sitting through many and leading quite a few of our own, we opine:

  • The chatbox is a fantastic engagement tool. It creates an unmatched space for connection. Rather than distracting people (a common presenter fear), it gives them a space to converse about the content, relate to one another, and offer ideas and suggestions. And it allows us to “hear” what they’re saying in real-time so we can customize as we speak. Agh, it’s just the best. And, sadly, for some reason the higher in production you go, the less likely it is that the chat function will be an option.

  • Embrace the range of production value. Bare minimum, we always have a couple lights, a microphone, and our computer camera. When we can work with a production team that manages the back end… well, let’s just say it’s really nice. When we can’t, that works well too. Doing the best you can with technology and environment during a pandemic is enough for any speaker we watch, and for us too.

  • While we feel less connected, we can argue that the audience is more connected than ever. There is power in getting people together in one room to share an experience. We love being a part of that. When we can’t see faces, we don’t feel the same connection. And maybe that’s ok. Maybe the people watching feel more connected—the introverts share more freely, the overwhelmed and over-scheduled who would stay home from a 3-day conference tune in for the first time, the folks who would never meet in person can start building relationships in a virtual breakout room.