How to deliver your message most effectively on the small screen

Helena Brewer at Toastmasters International, explains the best way to deliver your message to customers online.

The small screen is where it’s at. On the daily commute, look around:  how many eyes are glued to screens on phones, tablets and laptops? We have in our hands the power of cameraman, producer and publisher in one. If it’s just for fun, shared with friends, hit-or-miss quality doesn’t really matter. In business, it does.

You don’t have to search internet very hard for examples of how you don’t want to appear. In the digital age, with interviews, global meetings and other business activities taking place virtually, can you and your business afford not to handle this well? It’s time to take the bull by the horns and be honest about it.

Video conferencing is popular in the UK
Video conferencing is popular in the UK

Where are you delivering from?

With flexible working arrangements, you’re not always in your office. Let’s say you’re at home. What chair will you be sitting on whilst communicating on screen? If you aren’t comfortable, you’ll fidget, small movements as you adjust your position to begin with. Then you may rock in the chair, moving forward to the camera giving an unexpected close up or moving backwards, looking overly relaxed. These fidgets and others (waving hands in front of your face, fiddling with your hair, beard, etc) are all distracting. They may not be as distracting as presentation coaches suggest, but why do this when you can avoid it?

Check your surroundings, particularly what is behind you. Whenever possible have a simple clear background. If you’re in the office, position yourself so as not to have people walking behind you as this can be very distracting for viewers. First impressions count in any presentation or exchange. Take time to remove clutter. While you’re at it, remove personal photos and the Birth of Venus artwork from the wall. If it’s an interview for TV, secure the room. Remember Robert Kelly, the expert on Korea, who, during TV live interview from home, was joined unexpectedly by his children and wife.

Think about lighting. You need to ensure ample lighting for your face, particularly if your background is dark. Are you near a window with bright sun light shining through?  Does any of the lighting cast shadows on the wall behind you? If it does then change positions.

See more:

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Is your equipment working?

Being comfortable with the software and the equipment may sound obvious so take time to test, test and test again.  You’ll never be sorry you tested the equipment too much. There are free tutorials available for software and kit. Take the time to views these. If you’re using tools that are new to you, consider if this is the right time to use them. All the preparation for the meeting, interview or webinar, can be impacted by equipment failure. As the lead person in control of the set up and event, have your check list.

  • Can everyone hear you and can you hear them? Decide if wearing a headset is the right option for you.
  • If the video feed fails or is switched off, does the audio still work?
  • Use the mute options, they help from any distracting background noises.
  • If you’re sharing your presentation on screen, do you want this on the screen all the time?
  • If you anticipate questions, is there an option for text questions to be received?

Who’s who?  

It is particularly helpful to know audience when you are hosting a webinar. Know as much as possible in advance. If time does not allow all the attendees of the webinar to introduce themselves, make this clear from the start. Give your own brief introduction. Keep it short and sweet, as most of the attendees will have joined to find out about the content of the webinar and not specifically about you.

The who’s who is different for a company business call, mini conference or an interview. This is when you will definitely want to know. A quick name check will help you ensure that the key staff and invited guests have joined the meeting.

Are you ready?

How you look counts online as it does in face to face meetings. Take time to look the part. This will help you focus on the on the meeting and boost your confidence, particularly in an interview situation. Look beyond the clothes: tame the hair, check there’s no food trapped in the beard.

Have you considered make-up? The camera sees everything:  shiny forehead, dark circles under the eyes, redness in the face. Don’t be afraid to use make-up.

Review your presentation or training materials before you start. A webinar on a global industry subject and delivered in English is fairly standard. It will probably contain technical language which the audience should understand. It’s going “off script” which may trip you up. A simple off the cuff phase like “that’s bog standard” is not universal, even within the English speaking world. How much time will it take for you to explain an odd turn of phrase? Can you avoid using such language? It’s better to keep your words clear and avoid distracting your audience.

Practice your presentation in advance so that you know inside out. Why? So that you’ll look natural in delivery. You may require prompt cards to keep your presentation on track.  You can put post-it notes on the side of your screen. You’ll see them but the audience won’t.

Time to record!

  • Start on time.
  • Greet your audience (colleagues, customers or potential employers) with a smile. You have to engage your audience to ensure they receive your message. All the skills that you have developed presenting in person apply on-screen as well.
  • Be aware of your non-verbal communications, your eye contact, body language and facial Keep your hands out of shot, if need be, sit on them.
  • Retain a steady pace when speaking, pausing at transition points.
  • Engage with your audience by checking in with them and addressing their questions.
  • End on time.  

Before you know it, you will gain confidence and become more comfortable delivering this way. You understand how to look your best and deliver you message effectively via the small screen.

Helena Brewer is a conference director at leadership and communication company Toastmasters International

Michael Somerville

Michael Somerville

Michael was senior reporter for from 2018 to 2019.

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