For many keynote speakers, the transition from live events to virtual presenting has proved pretty challenging. If you are a speaker that thrives on audience participation and the buzz of being on stage, then sitting behind a screen in a home office environment trying to inspire your audience is certainly more of a challenge. Whilst I do believe we will return to live conferences and events, for many companies, the option of running a virtual programme is proving pretty effective and it’s really up to us as speakers to embrace this way of working. Here’s what I’ve learnt over the last 9 months…

Speaking on screen
It’s time to really turn up the dial on your expressiveness, don’t hold back – if you are making a point put some extra oomf in your delivery. It does feel strange in a room on your own, but make sure you speak like you’re in a crowded room, otherwise your virtual delivery will be pretty flat and you’ll soon loose your audience to their emails.

Make eye contact
If you can confidently deliver straight down the barrel of the lens, then it definitely has greater impact, but don’t feel it’s necessary all of the time. Pick a spot that you are comfortable looking at, ideally close to the camera line and imagine that you are talking directly to someone rather than a screen. Be expressive with your eyes, they are the link to your audience believing what you are saying.

Practice with the software
Any on screen performance requires practice, this includes running through using the technology, so that you’re super confident with the tools. Make sure you join the meeting early and run through the set up with your client. If you’re not familiar with the software the client is using, download a trial and practice using it. I use EcammLive as my preferred presentation software, as it allows me to pre-configure cameras and content into scenes which I can easily switch between to give my presentation maximum impact. Ecamm works with most external presentation software (MS Teams, Zoom, Google Meet, WebEx)

Camera, mics and lighting
Don’t use your computer’s default camera and microphone. The quality is just not good enough. I would really recommend investing in a good quality camera and microphone. Ideally, have a camera where you can control the focal length as your main camera. This enables you to have a shallow depth of field and a nice natural blur on the background. Maybe have a second camera with a slightly wider angle, so that you can switch between the two – this makes the presentation feel more dynamic. Position your camera so that you are facing a window with good natural light. This makes such a difference, particularly if you don’t have extra lighting to hand, but also be aware that as the sun goes behind a cloud, your camera will adjust, so it’s a good idea to invest in some additional lighting to give some consistency to your presentation, particularly if you are presenting at different times of the day.

Green Screen or not?
There is nothing worse than using the default green screen settings on Zoom or Microsoft teams and only use a green screen if you have a good camera and lighting. Some software, like EcammLive allows you to control the camera settings making a green screen a really useful feature, particularly if you are presenting in a home office that is full of clutter and distractions. The ideal set up is to clear the office of distractions and create a nice neutral backdrop.

Dealing with Isolation
Last week I did a Team Booster which was a virtual event over Webex to 250 employees. I used EcammLive to control the show and included a presentation that I dropped onto a Green Screen behind me. Hopefully this gives an illustration of the quality of the final production.

“Thanks ever so much for taking us through your journey and the terrific stories and experiences that made the presentation so compelling. It was also really helpful how you introduced your models to provide stimulus to support our colleagues’ thinking.”


My Kit List

Camera 1: Canon 5D (connected to iMac via USB)

Camera 2: GoPro (wider angle)

Mic: Shure SM7 (USB)

Elgato Green Screen (on roller from ceiling)

Neewer Lighting (Kit)