How to Prep Executives for Presenting from Anywhere

May 20, 2020

Watching this month’s high-profile U.S. Senate hearing on reopening the country, communications pros could not help playing armchair coach. Even as important topics such as the balance between economic recovery and disease prevention played out, we were compelled to ask things such as, “Why isn’t the FDA commissioner looking at the camera?” or, “What is that artwork behind the Senator in her home?”

From state governors to corporate executives to sales teams, part of our current reality is an increased demand for remote presentations or testimony, often on camera. Most industry conferences have been postponed for months and in many cases replaced with shorter virtual meetings. The concept of executive visibility has temporarily moved from physical platforms to virtual ones. Financial communications and employee communications such as town hall meetings are no longer in-person events.

For an executive giving a keynote speech, the transition is not as simple as remembering to look into the camera instead of at the audience. We need to make major and nuanced changes to be effective presenting from anywhere.

  • The power of body language changes tremendously when an audience sees your face filling much of their screen instead of watching you on a stage 20 rows ahead. Perfecting facial expressions and movements has never been more important. The effect of a slight eye roll or a nervous glance off camera will be amplified, meaning that speakers need to be a little like actors, always ready for their close-up.
  • While technological perfection was primarily someone else’s issue, now it is yours. From the right web platform to lighting and sound, presenting from home means working with executives to help troubleshoot things not normally in their job description. If you don’t believe there is increased scrutiny on the background and lighting for your presentations from home, check out the “Rate my Skype Room” Twitter feed.
  • We’re familiar with the power of PowerPoint, but now it comes with a different dynamic. Standing on a stage, slides are a backdrop to complement your in-person presence. On a webinar, you need to make decisions about where and what you want your audience focused on and whether a slide will help or hurt that focus.
  • The traditional Q&A period is no longer enough. With everyone sitting at their computers and multitasking during presentations large and small, engaging audiences means either adapting much different Q&A techniques and processes or using different engagement techniques such as live chat or polling to ensure your audience is with you from start to finish.

The ease of presenting from anywhere is putting many more executives on the spot to perform, and it’s forcing the most experienced executive presenters to rethink their techniques and their slides.

If you would like to know more about this topic, contact me, or, if you would like to schedule a training for your team, please contact Dorothy Carter.

Bill Zucker is an issues and crisis communications specialist and Managing Director of Ketchum’s Food Industry team. A former broadcast journalist, Bill works with clients to ensure their reputation strategies are aligned with public and stakeholder realities.