Although we now associate presenting virtually with working from home, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, they have been around for a long time. Zoom was founded in 2011 and according to the History of Information, virtual presentations go back to 1993 when Alan Saperstein introduced streaming video in a presentation to investors at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York.
However, the events of the last 15 months have accelerated our use of virtual meetings and presentations, as we adapted and turned our home offices into mini TV studios. But as we emerge from lockdowns, with many starting to head back to offices, what will happen to the virtual presentation?
Working from home
According to a new survey for BBC News by Ipsos Mori which looked into public opinion on the coronavirus pandemic, amongst lots of interesting data, almost a third of workers (32%) said they anticipate working from home more. Many would suggest the figure is even higher.
Over the last 15 months, we’ve seen most companies supporting their staff working from home with equipment such as office chairs, improved sound, webcams and lighting. While for many this is expected to continue, working from home isn’t going to be for everyone with many looking forward to coming back to the office. Given this, what will the post covid office look like?
Working at the office
The office may feel quite different with more flexible working, but the return to the office won’t mean that virtual presentations aren’t needed anymore. With costs and concerns over the environment, there is a lot of pressure to reduce the amount of travel which in turn will mean more meetings will take place virtually. If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s shown all of us how effective online meetings and presentations can be.
So how will virtual presentations and meetings work in the modern open office environment? Recently I spoke to Lucy Iles from Kerr Office Group and she told me that as businesses take tentative steps towards re-opening their workplaces, many are faced with overcoming the challenges posed by a hybrid working model.
She added that many organisations are looking at making significant changes to their space in order to accommodate this, including the introduction of acoustic pods or ‘Zoom Rooms’.
By doing so, businesses can provide their staff with an environment that is fit for purpose while minimising disruption to others using the shared space.
According to Lucy, pods like these are proving to be a cost-effective way of modifying open-plan office spaces, with opportunities to collaborate on projects and brainstorm new ideas as well as having a professional location to deliver presentations and undertake remote client meetings.
Will we have to up our game?
Recently I put out a poll on LinkedIn about how important people thought the quality of virtual presentations would be in the future. As you can see, there was overwhelming agreement that we will have to keep improving.
When we were all forced to start presenting from home, we were all in it together, so we put up with poor sound & light, looking up people’s noses, strange backgrounds, and other distractions. Fifteen months on, most of us have now improved the quality of our virtual presentations, and we will inevitably make comparisons with each other’s; and judging from my poll, we will need to up our game to make sure we stay ahead of the competition.
Moving forward, with so many virtual presentations, ours will need to stand out from the rest and one great way to do this is to adopt a more conversational and interactive approach. Our presentations will need to be more engaging through the use of questions, polls, storytelling, and great visuals. Encouraging audiences to get involved in the presentation will lead to higher knowledge and improved retention rates.
With the advances in technology, we are no longer limited to basic PowerPoints; instead we have software such as Prezi, Mentimeter, ecamm, OBS Studio, Stream Deck and Miro to name a few; so more than ever we can produce dynamic, interesting, and engaging presentations.
There’s even technology to practice presentations in virtual reality. Having said that, it’s important to remember that content will always be the most important element of our presentations; while technology will simply help us present in a more powerful and memorable way.
One tip here is to make sure the presentation platform you’re using will support these tools and that you have the latest versions of all the tools & platforms you use. This will enable you to make the most of the latest features and it will make sure that the platforms work at their best.
Where is your audience?
Whether we are at the office or at home we will be joining meetings and watching presentations on a variety of devices. According to another survey conducted by a friend of mine Vicky O’Farrell, 80% of people catch up with LinkedIn on their mobile device which means there’s a good chance many will be viewing your presentations in exactly the same way.
This will mean that our presentations need to be clearer than ever, and if we use visuals and tools that I mentioned above, we need to make everything big enough to be mobile friendly.
Whatever the future holds for virtual presentations, and whether we deliver them from the office or from home, we know that they are absolutely here to stay.
As technology delivers new exciting presentation tools, we need to remember that those who deliver the best content in the most engaging way, will be those who are the most effective in getting their message across to their audience.