5 Virtual Meetings Best Practices for Zoom and Other Social Platforms

Amid a global pandemic, we are striving to get results without being able to meet face-to-face.  We need to lead our teams, but we need to do it screen-to-screen.  There are several platforms available, all which do a great job at enabling the screen-to-screen experience.  Granted, but why is it so much more difficult than running a face-to-face meeting? 

At the best of times, most of us are anxious speakers. 

Our shyness, nerves and anxiety revolve around what to say and how to say it.  Those feelings do not just go away when we meet with others virtually.  Our discomfort grows when we add to that the ‘newness’ of these virtual platforms, the limitations of internet bandwidth and the discomfort with always being on screen. 

A few months ago, we were used to letting our mind wander while watching TV.  Now, it’s watching us!  A further complication is interpreting facial expressions when participating in a screen-to-screen meeting. 

Micro-facial expressions are essential to our understanding of one another.

On screen, facial expressions all but disappear, are distorted or frozen for a moment due to internet connectivity.  Eye contact, so critical in face-to-face communication is difficult to achieve on screen.  It is hard to know where to look. 

As a default, we tend to look at ourselves (yikes).   

Some of us are exhausted with screen-to-screen meetings.  It seems that all our social interaction is on screen.  Our job, family, club, church, and even our doctor all occurs at home, on screen. 

What has not changed for leaders, is the need to plan, manage and facilitate our team meetings. 

Importantly, we need to engage our meeting participants.  That said, many of us were not always successful engaging our teams when we met face-to-face.  Screen-to-screen meetings just exacerbates the problem.  

Here are 5 important virtual meetings best practices for zoom and other social platforms:

Clothing

Dressing appropriately, contributes to your presence, where dressing inappropriately takes away from it. 

The rule is to dress for your audience.  If your office dress code is business casual, then dress that way for your virtual meetings.  

Here are some additional guidelines to keep in mind when on camera:

  • Avoid bright coloured clothing and accessories; they tend to reflect light and are too vivid on camera.  Instead, wear a blue, gray, pink, or beige shirt/blouse
  • Avoid black suits/jackets which tend to diminish your appearance because they absorb too much light.  Instead, wear a medium colored suit, best bets are blue/dark blue, gray, and brown
  • Avoid fabrics with complicated patterns such as checks, tight/close stripes, herringbones, tweeds, and loud plaids. Fabrics of this design tend to strobe and or flutter on camera which can be distracting
  • Wear clothes made of natural fabrics that tend to breathe easily under the warm studio lights. This allows you to remain feeling cool and comfortable
  • Avoid shiny jewelry that may sparkle, or any jewelry that rattles and may cause a distracting noise
  • Style your hair off your face to avoid shadows. A clearer view of your face allows the audience to see your expressions and connect with you more when you speak

Lighting

Merriam Webster dictionary defines “in the best light” as – “in a way that makes someone, or something appear in the best way.”  This is especially true when you participate in a screen-to-screen meeting.  Many people do not consider proper lighting at all, and it shows.  Regrettably, it reflects on their ‘presence’ as well.

The good news is you don’t have to invest $100’s in Hollywood lighting to show up “in the best light.”  Ambient light can do the trick.  Face a window if you have one in your workspace.  If that does not produce the desired effect, consider augmenting your space with additional lighting. 

Sound

It always makes great sense to procure a USB microphone or a USB computer headset with microphone for your virtual meetings to eliminate echo and reduce sound distortion.

Background

If you are going to use your natural environment for background, ensure it is neat and any distracting objects are removed.  Some web-based meeting platforms like ZOOM provide virtual backgrounds that you can substitute for your natural background.  If you choose a virtual background, you should consider using a green screen.  It provides stability to the background and eliminates jumpy images.

Your best angle and maintaining eye contact

You want to look your best when you are on camera.  The first step is to locate your web cam and raise your laptop so that your web cam is at your eye level or slightly above.  A virtual meeting needs human connection, and if your video is not relatable, it will be a distraction. Angles that are too low or too high will be distracting. Humanize your meeting by literally leveling with and looking in the eye of the people you’re talking to.  You may have to raise your laptop using boxes or their equivalent.  One more thing: IF you are using two screens, make sure you move the platform screen below your camera otherwise it will look like you are looking at something else in the room.

Finally, establish your on-camera position.  The safest composition for all devices is upper chest level.  Mimic how close you will get in an actual in-person meeting. When you are meeting someone in person, face to face, you don’t get too close or too far away – you just keep enough distance that you can hear each other.   Frame your position using the ‘Rule of Thirds’, a mechanism that photographers use to frame their shots. 

Barry Kuntz
Senior Associate, Corporate Class Inc.

Top 5 Presentation Tips from a Public Speaking Coach in Toronto

Your upcoming presentation is an important initiative. No doubt, you have an exciting message to convey to a sophisticated audience. Since your audience will be listening with great anticipation, it’s important to deliver opening remarks that lend credibility and sets the tone for the day. The content needs to be clear, brief/to the point, and impactful. Although the content is critical, it is not what will convince your audience — you will. As a public speaking coach in Toronto, I’ve helped many clients polish their presentation skills, and in this post, we will work on some of those key principles together. Truly powerful communication inspires audiences to action. As a speaker, your job is to persuade. Whether you seek to change beliefs, perspectives, or actions, all communication is geared towards changing something. The only way to change anything is by persuading the audience with ideas. The goal is to communicate clear, concise and convincing ideas. Let’s make sure your remarks convey your ideas and that your audience is prepared to commit to them at the end of your speech. The courage to speak with conviction elevates the definition of communication. As an expert, you want to focus on the ideas you believe your audience needs to hear.  At the onset, the audience may be skeptical or not agree with you. That’s why it’s so important to engage them from the start and be sure to persuade them in the end to commit to your idea. The presentation tips outlined below will help structure your speech in a way that is engaging to the audience right from the start.

1. Speak with Conviction

To speak from a point of belief and conviction, it must be clear in your mind, as to the reason why you are speaking to this audience. You can ask yourself: a) why are you speaking to this audience of senior executives? and b) why should they listen to you? Once this is clear in your mind, it will trigger your mindset and support you to speak from a point of belief and conviction.

2. Get to the Point in One Sentence

Build a relationship with your audience instantly by starting with a strong introduction.  Frame your introduction as a headline: Ex: “I believe THAT new finance will be the major driver of global economic growth. So much so, we at Company XYZ have invested $9B in R&D towards that.” Tell us in one sentence (7 words or less) what you want to talk about. Get to the point immediately, audiences will wander away if you don’t. Most speakers start from creating a context for their content in order to help the audience understand how they came to their conclusion. The problem is that the audience doesn’t know what the speaker is trying to prove or defend. So, they get lost, confused, and sleepy, and we hope they wake up for the big reveal and the call to action. People’s attention span is about 3-5 seconds. If the speaker is interesting, people will go in, out, in, out…if the speaker is not engaging from the start, people go in, out and stay out. The word THAT is useful in ensuring that the sentence is an active idea rather than a passive statement of fact.

  • The one idea I have is THAT…
  • The message I want to share is THAT…
  • My argument is THAT…

a) What do you want your audience to feel and think at the conclusion of your talk? b) What do you want your audience to do at the conclusion of your talk? It is not easy to ask. Although, whatever your ask is, it stands to reason that your chances of success skyrocket when you actually ask for what you want.

3. Identify Your Main Points

Answer the WHY Example: a) Every social advance has resulted from technological progress b) Industry 4.0 means huge opportunities and challenges for the financial sector Show the HOW Example: a) The global financial information platform will be based on cloud services and Big Data, and everyone will be more and more able to access the platform via apps on their mobile phones, anytime, anywhere. Prove your conclusion up front, it engages the audience.

4. Prove Your Point

Identify the evidence that support your main points: Use only details that support your conclusion. If you need to discuss a list, call out all items first before discussing each.

5. State Your Call to Action

What do you want your audience to do at the conclusion of your talk?  Again, your request has to be concrete. By leveraging our strengths, we will contribute to social development and help create a better future.”  This is not concrete enough… This conclusion will invite smiles and nods and allow the audience to leave without demonstrating their commitment to your message/ideas. This message will soon be forgotten.  Presentation Tips Recap:

  • What is your goal in delivering these opening remarks?
  • How do you want to set the tone for the day?
  • What is the main topic you want to discuss?
  • What idea/s do you need to convince them of?
  • What arguments will you use to convince them?
  • Come full circle in the end … “So now you can see/understand why I said at the beginning THAT…”
  • What do you want them to do now?

I trust answering all of these presentation tips will move you closer to the end goal of delivering a polished speech with poise and command. If you’d like to work with a public speaking coach in Toronto or virtually online, get in touch with us. We can help take your presentation skills to the next level!

When presenting to senior leaders – start with the answer first.

pyramid principle

An invitation to present to C-Suite leaders typically prompts excitement. It’s sometimes even a wow moment. “Hurrah, here’s my chance to show what I can do!” Yet all too often, enthusiasm spirals downward into an abyss of fear as the impact of the invitation sinks in.

Whether it was extended to a senior executive or new professional – anxiety is common. The solution to managing the stress is twofold:

a) The Pyramid Principle
b) Practice and more practice

To the uninitiated, The Pyramid Principle is a powerful presentation management system. It actually was “invented” by Harvard Business School professor Barbara Minto. The core of the concept is to start with the ending. The conclusion comes first! Supporting data follows and is logically organized in a specific and easy-to-follow manner.

At Corporate Class, we actively encourage adopting The Minto Pyramid Principle for three reasons:

  • Presenters are forced to construct materials in an orderly manner
  • Audiences learn about the substance of content immediately
  • Back-up data is more understandable when applied to already stated objectives

The rule of three

Coincidentally, this offers an interesting example of a writing principle widely used for structuring presentations with the Pyramid system: the rule of three.

At its essence, the rule of three combines brevity and rhythm to encourage audiences to retain the information.

“The Latin phrase “omne trium perfectum” (everything that comes in threes is perfect, or, every set of three is complete) conveys the same idea as the rule of three.” – Wikipedia

Many stories, slogans and movie titles are structured in threes; consider for example, The Three Musketeers, Faster, Higher, Stronger – the Olympic motto or the movie, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Why The Pyramid Principle?

For many people, the idea is contrary to what seems natural. They want to build up to their big idea and are sometimes resistant to this technique. We remind people that a business presentation is not a movie script or a Broadway show. The audience is not looking for a surprise ending. Busy executives appreciate an introduction that cuts right to the chase. McKinsey & Company, the global management and consulting company to many of the world’s most influential businesses strongly advocates, “start with the answer first.”

Practice and more practice

There is no substitute for rehearsal. The most carefully written presentations fall on deaf ears when presenters fumble. The audience stops listening and paying attention. Even if the presenter manages to get back on track, it’s often too late. This is not to suggest that every presentation should be memorized in its entirety, notes are absolutely acceptable. It’s the presenter’s ability to use the notes as cues that counts – and that only comes with practice. This process also provides a profoundly calming effect. As presenters become more comfortable with their material, their delivery improves and they feel a new sense of confidence.

Ideally, toward the end of the rehearsal process, a non-threatening third party can play an instrumental role as coach.

Learn more about our Presentation Skills Training

Public Speaking and Presentation Skills 101

presentation-skills-torontoFor many people, presenting in front of a group of peers, clients or superiors can be seriously intimidating! However, nailing presentations of any kind is one sure-fire way to increase your Executive Presence on the spot and seriously impress your boss. But, how to overcome the nerves? How can you make your presentation on numbers or statistics as interesting and engaging as possible? How can you command attention from everyone in the room throughout your whole presentation? There’s a lot that goes into a successful presentation, so we’ve compiled a list of four suggestions that you can follow while preparing for your next presentation to help you get started.

  1. Organize your presentation

    Make sure you’ve put thought into the content of your presentation (i.e. your use of language and your use of jargon and acronyms) as well as the structure of the presentation (i.e. the strategy and order of ideas). Your structure should look something like this: Conclusion, Points supporting the conclusion, Sub-points supporting your main points and finally Conclude your talk.

  2. Manage your stress

    There’s noting more painful to watch than someone on stage who is clearly completely uncomfortable being there and who’s presentation is suffering because of it. Don’t forget that the people in the audience are there to listen to you and welcome you – they are on your side! Whether or not you’re a born speaker, being able to manage stress can make even the most frightful public speaker appear at ease and comfortable on stage. Here are a few ways you can manage your stress both before and during your presentation:- Prepare and rehearse before hand.- Arrive early
    – Power pose (for more on this, check out our blog post on power posing)
    – Drink lots of water
    – Think positively
    – Make eye contact with the audience
    – Speak on the exhale
    – Find friends in the audience

  3. Project and inspire confidence

    One way to ensure a successful presentation is the projection of confidence! That’s the only way the audience will believe what you are saying. One of the easiest ways of doing this is to make eye contact with everyone in the room. A great way to do this is to scan all four corners of the room right when you walk in, so you’ve already acknowledge all the people in the room. When entering the room, enter on the exhale – this will project calmness and confidence.
    Presenting in front of a group of people doesn’t have to be an automatic stress-inducer! Being well-prepared is half the battle; if you take the time and make the necessary preparations, chances are very high that you will go into your next presentation feeling confident, ready and at ease. If you want to learn more about how to increase your presentation skills, check out our Course and Lunch and Learn on presentation skills.

  4. It’s ok to use notes, however…

    Using notes during a presentation is fine, and encouraged, however be sure to have proper notes ready, and not a full script that you will read from. “Proper notes” entails notes that have been shortened and made simple, and which present only main ideas, where each line includes only about 4-5 words. Bullet points are used to indicate the flow of ideas. The idea with proper notes is that they prevent you from “reading,” however still prompt you with your next thought.

Work Efficiently, Not Hastily

Have you ever heard the phrase “haste makes waste”? There is truth to this expression, especially in the workplace – as making decisions and producing work too quickly can have negative effects. However, getting caught up in a rush can be difficult to avoid: the fast-paced environments of many workplaces demand immediate results.

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How, then, do you reconcile the requirement for prompt action and production with high-quality work? There are a few strategies to take so that you can work efficiently but not hastily.

When Making Decisions

Especially for major decisions, a hasty choice made with poor judgement can have repercussions that carry far into the future.

  • Even if a decision requires a fast response, ensure that there is enough time for proper reflection and consideration of possible results. This not only includes your own reflection, but also implies that there is enough time to reach all other individuals who should be consulted in the process.
  • Ensure that everyone involved in the decision-making process agrees on an appropriate timeline to reach a conclusion. This will set expectations and clarify uncertainties. If you do not set a proper timeline, certain individuals may feel more urgency, stress, and anxiety when an answer isn’t reached within their expectations.

When Responding to Emails

The immediate nature of email sets the tone for constant and prompt communication. However, do not be tempted to send messages quickly that may require further contemplation.

  • For simple emails such as meeting requests, it is fine to respond promptly. But if a question or request over email demands a more lengthy response, don’t feel tempted to type as fast as you can to appear efficient to your contact. Under most normal circumstances, a good benchmark for responding to emails is within 24 hours. Use that time to think about how to convey just what you want to say.
  • Never send an angry email in the heat of the moment. If you are in the midst of a confrontation and type an emotional response, do not hit send – instead, save the email to your draft folder and revisit it a few hours later when you are calmer. Chances are, you will revise the email or start over from scratch.

When Producing Work

The quality of your work reflects directly on you as a professional. Ensure that it is a positive representation of your abilities.

  • Proofreading a document, spreadsheet, or report can take as little as 5 to 10 minutes. If a close colleague can spare a few minutes, ask him or her to look over your work as well. Taking even a small amount of time to ensure you have done a good job can make a huge difference. For more on this topic, see our previous post, “How the Little Details Matter for Executive Presence.”

Adding time for proper reflection and review of your work does not have to compromise your promptness and efficiency. Instead, it will prevent you from working in a hasty, thoughtless manner – and your conscientiousness will enhance your presence in and out of the office.

 

New Year’s Resolutions for the Workplace

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Happy New Year! How will you ring in 2013?

Many of us start off a fresh year by making a resolution or two, aiming to better ourselves through small changes to our habits. This year, consider making a professional New Year’s resolution – because even small improvements in your routine in the office or your business interactions can help you to advance your career or make your mark professionally.

Resolve to Make Connections

Are you a shy person who only talks to familiar colleagues at networking events – or just skips the event altogether? In 2013, resolve to break out of your shell by making new professional connections, both inside and outside of your company. Besides participating in networking events, take other steps to build your contact list: set lunch dates with potential partners or clients, or schedule informational interviews with business contacts. Creating and maintaining professional relationships is an important piece of advancing and growing in your field.

Resolve to Be a Leader

Displaying leadership in the workplace is a solid building block for moving up in your company. You can demonstrate leadership in tasks big and small: anything from taking the initiative to assist a new colleague, to planning and executing an important project. Consistently displaying leadership qualities will work to your advantage, especially as management begins to notice your initiative. Practicing leadership can also boost your confidence and comfort level in the workplace.

Resolve to Improve Your Presentation Skills

No matter how impressive the content of your work, your messages simply will not resonate with colleagues or clients if you cannot deliver them in a strong presentation. Giving great presentations is something that many professionals struggle with, whether it is due to stage fright, nervousness or just unfamiliarity with speaking in front of a large group. Awareness of the key elements of an effective presentation – body language, posture, articulation, well-planned slides and talking points, appearance and attire – plus lots of practice can help you to strengthen your presentation skills and effectively deliver your messages.

Resolve to Build Your Executive Presence

Executive Presence
is not a single trait that can be acquired overnight; rather, it is a hybrid of characteristics, which are all critical for a successful professional to have. A recently published study by the Center for Talent Innovation defines the foundations of Executive Presence as gravitas, communication and appearance, and makes no question of the importance of Executive Presence, stating that it “accounts for 26 percent of what it takes to get the next promotion.” You can work on building your own Executive Presence through training programs, Lunch and Learn sessions, customized webinars and individual consultations that focus on skills such as communication, business etiquette, and professional image.

Even through small changes, we can all work toward becoming stronger and more successful professionals. What better time to improve your daily habits for lasting results than at the start of a brand new year!

 

Have Good Manners and “Respect” Disappeared in 2012?

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There’s no doubt that our society today is very different from what it was a few decades ago. But has “respect” disappeared from our society? Watch a recent CBS news report to find out what people are saying about good manners:

Respect and good manners never go out of style. No matter where in the world you might live; we all want to be treated with respect. If you think about it, etiquette is nothing but respect – Respect for others in the way you treat them in business or at the job, while travelling or at the dinner table; and it’s also respect for yourself – how you look and feel, how you dress and how you present yourself in front of the world.

Corporate Class Inc.’s etiquette classes in Toronto teach you that the first step to receiving respect is to give respect.

Find out more about our various etiquette classes in Toronto including:

To get more information about etiquette classes in Toronto and how they can deliver measurable benefit to your organization, contact Diane Craig.

 

How to Give a Winning Presentation – 6 Great Tips

Children in grade school are giving presentations. High school students are doing them with PowerPoint. In every company, organization, social gathering, and team meeting, there are more opportunities and expectations to speak in front of a group. Some fear presentations. Others just need help in how to give a presentation that engages the audience and achieves its goal.

It’s not that hard, but there are many steps. Write a clear key message. Develop the outline. Generate the content of your presentation, create your visuals, carefully consider your conclusion, rehearse your opening, then edit and practice.

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