Monday, 25 January 2021

Platform Presence on Zoom

Computer screen showing a lectern and microphone with Zoom controls underneath.

What is good platform presence and why is it important on Zoom? Good platform presence helps to command and hold the attention of your audience, whether you are physically in front of an audience in a meeting room or appearing on a screen on the wall or even on a screen in your own home. You may not be too worried if you are simply making social contact on Zoom, but if you are in a business meeting you may need to impress and you certainly need to get your message over, to make your presence felt.

The following gives you some suggestions to ponder over before you venture onto Zoom.

A Two Step Approach

Preparation

  • Make sure you have practised on Zoom beforehand — you can always try it out with a friend. But remember that there are different levels of Zoom, each providing slightly different facilities.  Search of the internet will give you lots of practical advice on how to use Zoom and how to get the best out of it technically. 

  • If you are using Zoom from your home, decide which room you are going to use and make sure your set-up is as good as it can be. Avoid busy and untidy rooms in your house. Alternatively, Zoom offers you the ability to change the transmitted background using a selected wallpaper. However, be careful what sort of background you pick. If it is too busy it will distract from your presentation. Also be aware of how any movement you make may affect the apparent focus of the background. This is definitely something to try out beforehand.

  • Make sure that your lighting is suitable, you cannot impress if your audience cannot see you clearly. The best source of light is one that you are looking towards. Light from one side can be adequate but will highlight your pores and blemishes, so it depends on how vain you are!

  • Make sure that you are in focus and that you can clearly hear and be heard. Again a  practice with a friend beforehand can be useful. If using a PC then a separate webcam and speakers may be required – make sure they are of adequate quality.

  • Have visual aids which can be brought into play without difficulty. Zoom facilities for displaying documents or slides are available. There is also a Whiteboard option. But do make sure you have tried and mastered these facilities beforehand.

  • Have your notes in order and easy to handle – cards or A4 sized documents are still best for talking from but remember that it will be possible to display key data using the facilities described in the paragraph above.

  • Be appropriately dressed. Your appearance is still important and although casual outfits may be appropriate, you do need to look as if you care.

  • Be sure you know how to get into Zoom in a timely manner and how to mute your voice when others are talking so that no extraneous noises disturb the meeting. Not everyone wants to hear your dog barking or your children quarrelling!

  • Don’t forget to close all unnecessary files or tabs that can slow down your software and connection. Make sure you have done a test run to ensure there are no unexpected technical obstacles for your presentation.

  • Place your seat so that your audience can see your head and shoulders. If using a laptop, have it on a solid surface and use a box or books to raise it up if necessary.

The Presentation

  • Greet your audience and introduce yourself if necessary. Make sure your name is appropriately displayed on the screen. If you press the “record” facility at the start, then you can review your presentation and all the audience interaction to it, afterwards. Your next presentation can then be even better.

  • Sit comfortably and try not to move around as this can be distracting and may affect the focus of your picture or the clarity of your sound for the audience.

  • Indicate when you are starting and speak clearly.

  • Maintain eye contact by looking at the screen. Avoid looking at the walls and the ceiling of your room, and never out of a window.

  • Be aware of any distracting mannerisms you may have as these can be exaggerated by the concentration of your presence on a small screen and annoy your audience:
    • Make sure your hairstyle is tidy even if you haven’t had a hair cut for a while. Untidy hair can be a distraction especially if you find yourself “fiddling” with it.

    • Spectacles that do not fit and have to be pushed up the nose all the time should be avoided if possible.

    • Gestures may not be of much use on Zoom but do not to fiddle with paper or other things on your desk / table.


  • Make sure it is obvious when your presentation has come to an end.

  • Wait for the host to close the meeting before you disconnect.

Platform presence is as important on Zoom as in any other situation. Do not be put off by the technology. With thorough preparation, your presentations can take off on Zoom and achieve the high standards you are used to. No presenter is ever perfect and nobody expects you to be. If you slip-up during the presentation, simply acknowledge it, and pick up from where you erred. Always remember to keep your audience engaged with a SMILE.

Yvonne Baker

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