Please don’t fall asleep!

Giving presentations via video conference is not rocket science – at least technically speaking. The big challenge remains to keep the audience happy.

Zoom conferences are standard in many places today.

Dhe request from the boss makes the heartbeat of many employees: “Why don’t you make a nice presentation for our zoom meeting with the customer.” That is not rocket science, says Dorothea Engel, lawyer and trainer at the Haufe Academy. “Much more important is the question: How do I keep the audience interested?”

The presenter creates the presentation normally in PowerPoint or a comparable program. If he receives the link to the Zoom meeting, he starts Zoom and clicks on “Share screen” in the menu below. It works in a very similar way in most other video conference programs. For the presenter, the slides can usually be seen as usual.

You can switch to presentation mode, view notes and use the arrow keys to switch back and forth. It is practical if the video conference program offers a drawing function. This can be used to underline key words on the slides during the lecture.

“A cow remains a cow, even if you write horse on it.”

“Such tools are great, of course, but are of no use if the audience falls asleep,” says Engel. “In the face-to-face lecture, I can bind the audience to me with eye contact, body language, gestures and facial expressions. I have to think of other tricks virtually. ”First basic rule: don’t overload the slides. Engel recommends the so-called 2-4-8 rule: two minutes of speaking time per slide, a maximum of four bullet points and a maximum of eight words on each slide.

You should work with images even more than in a face-to-face lecture. An example from her own work: In one of her lectures she incorporated a photo that shows a man in a wedding suit, little flowers in his lapel, he is looking at his watch. Clearly: he is expecting his bride. In addition, Engel wrote the catchphrase “Delay – performance is too late”. “Most of the time, the audience laughs and the attention is immediately there,” she says. Anecdotes or jokes are always good.

For example, if she wants to teach her participants that what matters is the content of a contract and not the title, she likes to tell the legal joke: “A cow remains a cow, even if you write a horse on it.” Engel then records a cow in the face-to-face lecture a flipchart. The same goes for video conference programs. As a rule, a whiteboard is released as an additional screen in addition to the presentation. You have to switch back and forth between the presentation and the whiteboard, which is not easy for the inexperienced, says Engel. “But it’s worth practicing.”

Use breakout rooms

There are various other tools for engaging viewers. In surveys – called polls – the participants can express their opinion on an issue by name or anonymously during a presentation. It is advisable to design questions with few options. “It’s about the audience having something to join in.” Closeness can also be established well in a parallel chat. Engel is happy to involve a co-moderator who keeps track of incoming questions. For example, he reads the audience questions from slide three or asks a question himself to animate a shy audience.

The lawyer often also works with the “Raise your hand” function, with which participants can virtually speak up. “With it I not only ask for opinions or get information, but also create a laugh from time to time,” says Engel. For example: “Hands up, who’s in favor of IT contracts being pretty complicated.”

Breakout rooms are suitable for actively attracting large numbers of viewers to participate. The audience is assigned to individual “rooms”, given a task, and later one of the groups should summarize the most important things. Engel also has a simple tip against stage fright: “Practice, practice, practice!”