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8 Ways to Stop Presenting and Start Connecting

8 Ways to Stop Presenting and Start Connecting
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If you are a professional presenting in business today, it’s likely that you will focus on delivering facts, knowledge, insights, and information. That sounds perfectly reasonable, of course; after all, isn’t that the point of business and all we need to present to succeed?

Ordinarily that would be fine, but the world we live in today is extraordinary, so it’s not enough. We have all spent the last 20 years living in the information age where it’s never been easy to get the facts, knowledge, insights, and information for ourselves. As the relentless drive to share information continues, we are entering a whole new age.

I call it the connectivity age.

Every week, I speak with professionals who tell me that they are overwhelmed with information. That information is coming from endless meetings, presentations, and emails which absorb so much of their time that they can’t do what they are paid to do: work. As bad as that may sound, what is far worse is the fact that many end each day feeling numb. They used to feel stressed, frustrated, and tired, but now they leave worked just dazed.

When it comes to presenting and communicating with each other in meetings, professionals in businesses all over the world are crying out for a revolution.

Yes, they want the information.

Yes, they want the facts.

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Yes, they want knowledge.

Yes, they want insights.

That will never change, but the time has come when they want all of that wrapped up in something very few presenters are currently offering.

They want you to help them to feel something. They want to connect with you on a human, emotional, and personal level.

Dumping data on colleagues and clients has become the organisational plague of the 21st Century, and it has to stop now.

If you want to play your part in leading the revolution, then the process begins by focusing on connecting instead of presenting.

The journey begins here.

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1. Start with the end in mind

Whether you are presenting a quarterly update in your management meeting, giving a team briefing, or making a sales pitch, the very first question you need to ask and answer is, “What do I want my audience to feel?”

2. Lighten up

Being professional doesn’t mean you have to be deadly serious all the time. Lose the “corporate spokesperson” and lighten up a little. No one likes a “slick” presenter who is so polished they have memorized and acted out every word. Take your message seriously, but focus on relaxing too by using a little humor and crafting a conversation instead of a lecture.

3. Change the way you look at things

I once heard one of my favourite speakers, the late Dr. Wayne Dyer, say, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” I believe that when many professionals are presenting, they often see:

  • Their audience as predators and themselves as prey
  • Fellow employees from the marketing, finance, IT department, etc.
  • The boss and senior management
  • Clients

The best way to connect with your audience is to see beyond their roles and positions and see them as:

  • Someone’s son or daughter
  • Someone’s brother or sister
  • A mother or father
  • Someone with hopes and dreams
  • Someone with fears and anxieties
  • Someone who wants you to help them
  • Someone you care about and want to help

4. Imagine this

Before you open your mouth to speak, take a deep breath, pause for a moment, and imagine every single person in the audience wearing a big bright neon badge.

The badge holds the letters PPPMMFS.

Those letters stand for: Please, Please, Please Make Me Feel Something.

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5. Put yourself in their shoes

Empathy is the key to connecting with your audience emotionally as well as intellectually. The route to making that connection is through stepping in their shoes for a while.

Spend some time thinking about:

  • What it could be like to be in their roles
  • The challenges, pressures, and difficulties they face
  • What they worry about the most
  • What working in an industry and business like theirs must feel like
  • What they are desperate for to make their lives easier or better
  • If they could ask you for one huge favour what would it be

6. Give them the gold

Instead of trying to show your audience how clever you are, how much you know, and how hard you’ve worked, just give them the gold.

In other words, don’t make them dig through the data and bullet points to find the little nuggets of gold that will make a real difference to them. Do the digging for them and just give them the valuable nuggets they came for.

7. Make it personal

There is nothing worse than a generic presentation which basically offers a plethora of information that could apply to anyone or any business. Make sure that everything you say and every slide you choose to show is personal, relevant, and of value to your audience. The sanity check is asking the question, “So what?”

Whatever you choose to share with your audience, keep in mind that if anyone stops you to ask “Thank you, but so what? Why should I care about that?” you have a good answer.

8. Lose the “head stuff”

When it’s not the content, the message, or the purpose of the presentation which numbs the audience, it’s the speaker’s very own “head stuff.”

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Here is what I mean by “head stuff”:

  • What if they don’t like me?
  • What if they ask me a question I can’t answer?
  • I’m so nervous and such a terrible speaker.
  • I feel like a fraud because I’m sure they know more than I do.
  • What if I freeze?
  • My entire reputation depends on this.

If all the while you are presenting to your audience with some of these thoughts running through your head, you are doing both yourself and your audience a huge disservice.

Do whatever it takes to stop the noise by using breathing techniques, meditating, visualizing, or challenging these thoughts.

The more you focus on yourself, the more you are telling your audience that your presentation is all about you rather than them.

Lose the “head stuff” and make it all about your audience.

The future of high-impact presenting

We’ve had “death by bullet point,” we’ve had the monotone voice and the “data dumps,” and some of the biggest and most successful brands in the world are still seeing them all every week.

The future of high-impact presenting entails making an emotional connection. Those who continue to simply present information without helping their audience to feel something will be left behind.

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Following these 8 tips will go a long way to helping you to make your audience feel something.

Featured photo credit: Elen33 | Dreamstime.com via dreamstime.com

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Published on July 27, 2021

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

Put the Pro in Professional

After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

2. Dress the Part

While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

3. Stage Your Workspace

Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

5. Arrive on Time

In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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6. Turn on Your Video

Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

Attend to the Pesky Details

8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

Talking Has a Time and a Place

11. Chat Appropriately

Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

Manage Yourself

14. Minimize Distractions

While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

15. Save Snacking for Later

Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

Final Thoughts

Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

Reference

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