Is “You’re on mute” on your Zoom bingo card?
It’s a phrase you’ve likely heard over the past few months, as presentations via Zoom and Microsoft Teams have become the new normal. While many major meetings and pitches went on hold at the beginning of the pandemic, companies have embraced the use of video technology as employees transitioned to working remotely. As such, a new set of virtual meeting etiquette has come into play.
North Pier’s Senior Search Consultants Gregory Metzger and Freeman Wood are no strangers to Zoom meetings, having facilitated and moderated a number of RFP finalist presentations for clients over the past few months. They’ve seen what works, what doesn’t, and what’s most important to consider. “Part of the reason finalist meetings or pitches are held is to get a feel for the people and personalities the buyer will potentially be working with,” says Wood. “We’ve’ seen a couple examples where someone does this really well.”
Whether you’re planning a pitch or a presentation, here are the top tips to remember when presenting virtually.
1. Test Your Tech
The last thing you want is a technology snafu. Test your tech prior to the meeting to ensure you’re comfortable with the controls and that your application is running smoothly.
Learn how to use mute, the chat function, and share your screen. If you’re hosting the meeting, familiarize yourself with Zoom’s various functions. You have the ability to enable the waiting room, require a password, invite alternative hosts, and record the meeting, among others. Change default settings as you see fit.
Ensure your camera is working, and be aware of where you’re facing. If you’re using two screens, position what you’re looking at (the audience or your materials) to be under the screen with the camera so your eyes aren’t darting away.
Since your team will most likely be calling in from multiple locations, test how video feeds work together. “During a recent presentation, we had a group with one person at home and three people together in a conference room. Their camera was positioned too far away, and we had trouble seeing them when they were talking, which was a problem,” says Metzger. Problem solve potential video issues prior to the meeting to avoid similar complications.
2. Rehearse With Your Team
Before you present, run a dress rehearsal. “During an in-person meeting, you and your team can communicate in a lot of ways without words – visual cues, eye contact – but you can’t do that on Zoom. You have to rehearse in order to show you’re comfortable with one another virtually,” says Wood. Remember, the audience is analyzing how your group works together as much as what you’re saying.
Go through your deck slide by slide to ensure everyone on your team knows the order in which they’re speaking. Acknowledge one another using first names often and practice handoffs so they run smoothly. Don’t read straight from your slides, and be aware of timing.
3. Back to Basics
Follow these basic tips during your presentation:
- Maintain eye contact by looking directly into the camera. It may feel awkward, and you can look away to check on the audience periodically, but direct eye contact will remind the audience that you’re fully engaged.
- If you talk with your body, be sure your body is in the shot. Consider standing if you’re most comfortable presenting this way.
- Turn your phone ringer and desktop notifications off, especially if you’re sharing your screen.
- Change your Zoom name to begin with your company name, for example “North Pier – Gregory Metzger”
- Set up your surroundings – a reasonable office background without people walking in and out of the shot is recommended. Sometimes a green screen with your company logo can work if, but this can glitch unless you have the proper technology.
- Arrive early as you would for an in-person meeting. “You should be ‘in their lobby’ at least 5 minutes early,” says Metzger.
4. It’s All About Engagement
“At a finalist meeting, when the finalists ‘walk in’ they are deemed to be capable of doing the work or they wouldn’t have been invited. So the presentation is really about being able to engage,” says Metzger.
You’re more likely to drone on when you can’t read the expressions on everyone’s faces, so take the opportunity to engage the audience by asking questions. Even if there aren’t any, the uncomfortable silence can help recapture attention.
Wood adds that, “In-person, you’re constantly reading the room and the facial expressions of the people you’re presenting to and adjusting your pitch and body language based on what you see. That’s almost impossible to do via Zoom because you can’t look at individual videos effectively.” To compensate, “read the virtual room” when you’re not talking. Switch to gallery view to gauge who is paying attention, who may look bored, and try to adjust and engage appropriately when it’s your turn to speak.
Additionally, use non-verbal cues when who you’re presenting to is talking – look interested, nod your head, and practice this with your team as well. When you’re taking notes, make it obvious that you’re not just looking down.
5. And Finally, Address the Elephant in the Room
“Acknowledge the virtual meeting up front,” suggests Wood. “Say, ‘We understand Zoom calls can make it difficult to gauge questions or understand if the information is sinking in. We’re going to stop along the way a number of times to ask for questions or clarification.’” Let who you’re presenting to know that it’s their meeting and that you’re there to inform, answer questions, and give them exactly what they need.