Adapting Your Presentation Style to Help Your Online Audience

Apr 29 2020

by Laura Mixon Camacho

The Southern Coterie blog: "Adapting Your Presentation Style to Help Your Online Audience" by Laura Camacho (photo: Kelli Boyd Photography of WOM Workshop 2019)
Photo: Kelli Boyd Photography

Being an engaging speaker at the front of the room does not automatically translate into being an engaging online presentation. The effective messenger (that’s YOU) adapts to each communication channel, similar to how a restaurant adapts to its vegan client minority.

You wouldn’t deliver a message in a phone conversation the exact same way you would in a group presentation. Because so many people are new to online meetings and presentations, it’s taking time for everyone to make helpful adjustments. Lucky you, here’s your engaging online cheat sheet.

Why You Need to Adapt Your Style

It is tiresome to spend so much time in online meetings. They’re calling it online meeting fatigue, and I’m hearing about it from clients across the country. Even if the material is personally interesting to you, it can be painful to focus on the screen for such a long time.

At the risk of sounding like Countess Obvious, let’s take a peek at the many factors driving the need for you and me to level-up our online communication game.

Everyone is stressed. Maybe it’s their finances, their job, their health or their ability to stay sane— we are more nervous than usual about a number of things. Stress impairs communication quality, as it causes cognitive brain function to decline. (That’s a nice way of saying stress makes people act like half-wits.)

Many people in your audience may be uncomfortable with the online meeting context. It’s up to YOU to help others adapt. Some leaders do this with a mini-tutorial at the beginning of a meeting or presentation; others give instructions on a handout. The handout might also include an outline or other learning aid.

It’s a Different Experience

Our homes have become whirligigs of distraction, making it even more challenging to focus. Trying to be productive at home, with family members twirling in here and there, out and about, requires scientist-level concentration. Turns out, we are not scientists!

In the olden days, back when we would be in the same meeting room, the audience would be sharing the same space, temperature and ambiance. Online presentations are less of a shared experience. Unless the presenter adapts, the people in an audience may not retain as much from the experience, as it is taking place on a screen, not “in real life.”

Appearances Matter

Given that you only see the person’s face and shoulders on the screen, you want that part to look great. Good lighting goes a very long way in helping you look fabulous on screen. Expensive lighting experts exist for this very reason. Make sure you are as well-lit as you possibly can (in all senses of the word).

Also check the background that shows in the video frame. The view changes from one device to another, so run a technology check before show time. You look better when the camera is placed at eye level, or just a tad above. You may want to use books or boxes to raise the level of your laptop or phone camera.

The Main Thing You Need to Know

As far as structuring your message is concerned, the main thing is to deliver your message in small bites and ask more questions than you normally would. Keeping the fingers of the audience busy with your questions helps keep their brains in sync with what you are saying.

Keep it short. Keep it snappy.

I created an Engaging Online Presentation Template (HERE) to keep your audience engaged as it keeps YOU on track and focused. You will see how to break up your message into smaller bites, which questions to ask and when. The text in italics is for a sample 55-minute online presentation. This sample is for a 4-point message with very little time for questions at the end. Alternatively, you can deliver a more conventional 3-point message and use the last 15 minutes to recap and ask questions.

Pro tip! For online presentations, use the chat box. The more often you ask easy questions that people can quickly type in a response, the easier it is for them to engage. Then you read (out loud) some of the answers and comments, with attribution, to the larger group.

Regardless of when your neck of the woods gets back to business, the skill of engaging an audience online will serve you well. Help your audience by adapting to this next normal.

Make sure you get this Engaging Online Presentation Template. Share it!


Laura Mixon Camacho View More Blog Posts from this Author

Laura Mixon Camacho, PhD, is obsessed with communication as a tool for building bridges and careers. She believes all conversations should be carried out with style and imagination. And public speaking is just a special sort of conversation. Laura creates quirky communication workshops and she does private one-to-one coaching. She is the go-to coach if you want to improve your communication skills to move your business or career forward with more confidence, more impact and less stress. Read more at

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