7 tips to deliver more impactful online presentations & lectures

Impact UK
8 min readSep 22, 2020

By François Marmion

As part of the the Learn & Dive section of Impact UK, our cohort benefitted from one-to-one sessions with François Marmion, Managing Director at Manao, for a financial model workshop, ensuring they have the correct approach for the UK market. François has more than 25 years experience working with start-ups on both sides of the Channel. He launched Manao in 2015 with a vision is to bridge the gap between entrepreneurs and investors thanks to a common language, clear strategies and robust business plans.

François’ work didn’t slow down throughout lockdown, and he delivered presentations, lectures and corporate workshops, completely online, and ensuring they were full of Impact!

Here, he shares the lessons he learnt through this experience, with 7 tips to deliver more impactful online presentations & lectures.

In just one week, like many of us, as a lecturer and corporate speaker, I had to switch from on site to online. In 4 months, I gave various lectures to almost 500 students, usually split in groups of 20 to 40, and organized their exams fully on-line. I organised my first on-line exam for 55 students on the very first week of the lock down.

That was a learning curve, for them and for me.

The situation was quite identical for my corporate presentations: I had to redesign everything to make it work online, especially my speeches about the future, and successfully used the same tools and practices.

We all learned a lot, learned fast and had no choice. And we did all this not having that many points of comparison, since we were all learning at the same time.

I worked quite a bit to achieve a certain level of engagement, interaction, and quality during these on-line sessions. This is the reason why I would like to share my experience with you and suggest 7 practical tips to help you make more interactive and impactful presentations and lectures online.

1) Interact as much as you can: engage with the audience every 10 minutes

That might sound short. However, watching a presentation on-line can get boring very quickly. Do not assume that your audience, whether they are students or professionals, can keep their focus on your slide show, or just on you talking, for more than 10–15 minutes in a row. Which would be great already.

You have to engage your audience on a very regular basis. Do it more often than you might have thought, if you want to keep the interest high. What matters is not only to engage the audience, but to vary the type of engagement. There are broadly two types of engagement activities: questioning and group work. Efficient options are chat, quiz, open questions with word clouds.

2) Use a variety of tools in your presentations and learn how to switch fluidly between them.

The embedded polling and engagement tools provided by your video-call providers are not necessarily the best. For quizzes, word clouds and polls, there are plenty of tools out there: Mentimeter, Kahoot, etc.

I did some research on the supposedly best tools, tested about ten of them and picked the one I found the most fluid and professional (in my case Mentimeter).

You might worry about the quality of the flow if you start using for instance Zoom + Mentimeter. The only answer to that is that you have to be professional: practice in advance to switch screens easily, have all the screens you need for your session already open on your desk and provide all the appropriate access codes to the audience, through your slides and through the chat box.

Use of a Word Cloud live tool (in that case Mentimeter) with a group of English and French business students — the question was about the future challenges faced by the major cities in the world — they could input the result from their phone and I was sharing the live results from the class, live on Zoom.

Changing tools and screens and entering a code or opening a new app will also wake your audience up and break the monotony.

3) Create small group activities. Use the most essential feature: the breakout rooms.

Some activities are more challenging online, such as traditional lecturing or corporate slideshow presentations. They become easily boring without interactions. But other activities can almost gain from the online format, such as sub-group activities.

Why? Simply because smaller groups of 4 to 6 people can interact very well on-line, and almost in a more organized matter than in an actual room. To me, this is the key feature of these video call services. You can create breakout rooms almost instantaneously, without any preparation, which is amazing.

Stick to a clear message, a clear organization, and a clear timing that your audience is well aware of. Provided so, it works really well and this is absolutely amazing the quality of what people can produce together online in such a short timeframe!

Everybody had to engage, do something, interact. No time to get bored.

Another great activity that works very well online with small groups is pitching. That is very relevant for business students as well as for startups. The format of a pitch, 5 to 15 minutes to deliver an impactful speech on a topic, followed by a small Q&A session, is ideal online.

Attention is at its maximum, everybody is engaged: intensity and energy levels are high.

It’s a great use of on-line time to make people do something really relevant. You can even bundle that up with mentoring sessions to help people prepare for their pitches.

Mentoring is another activity that is very efficient on-line, in small groups, around a document that you share, this works perfectly.

4) Prepare, prepare, prepare…

Professionalism is about preparation. The online world is even more demanding. Since this is a live process, you have to be fully ready before the session starts.

You have to prepare your agenda, your timing, your interactions, your tools and your contents:

· the first step of the preparation is about design. Think well ahead about the right interactions, the right tools to use, the right topics for your sub-group sessions. Improvisation might be possible on site, it is extremely difficult online,

· if you plan to use a new tool for the first time, do a run through, rehearse, test it, test the flow, repeat the sequence that you will have to do live with 30 people,

· prepare the timing of your session. You are the timekeeper as for any presentations. On site, you can sometimes speed up and quickly squeeze your content to fit the schedule. That is more difficult to do on line, the level of attention is lower, the slides more difficult to see, the sound is not as good, so do not believe you can accelerate as much as in real life. Rather shorten your content or adapt your schedule,

· open the session a bit in advance to make sure that everything works,

· if you want your audience to produce content during the breakout rooms, you have to prepare a template for that content, do not expect people to come up with that. Send them that template before the session, so that they can download it.

· I would strongly recommend for the host to connect with a second device, as a participant, in order to have a control screen. On the second device, you will be able to check what the audience can actually see.

· make recommendations to your audience: to make sure that they test their audio/video before the call starts, discourage people from calling from funny places (car, public transportation, noisy places, outside in the wind…), make sure that they mute themselves in order not to bother other participants.

· the last bit of preparation is about your own basic needs. Make sure that you have everything you need around you to feel comfy and keep your stamina: water, tea, coffee, chocolate or energy bars, or whatever you need.

· think of a plan B. If your Wifi or your network crashes, try to think of another solution. For example, I was ready to switch from my Wifi to the tethering feature of my mobile phone.

5) Keep a higher level of energy

High energy has always been a must for any successful presentation. However, as many of us have noticed, working, presenting or lecturing online requires more focus than on site.

At the end of the day, you end up more tired.

You have to make that up with two things: interaction and energy.

Due to the setting, the audience is in a passive mode. You need to keep things moving and this relies on you: the show, the pace, the movement, the dynamics

Conclusion: eat well, sleep well and relax beforehand!

6) Shorten and adapt your content

Given the level of attention that you can realistically expect from an on-line audience, you will have to redesign your presentation.

Scale it down. Shorten things. Cut them into more digest pieces. Insert interactions between those pieces (open question with word clouds, quizzes…).

If you had 40 slides to show, cut it by half and dedicate half of the time to the interactions.

People will remember a more interactive experience and will, in the end, learn more from you. Your online impact will be stronger.

You might also find out that, after all, your short version of the presentation is more impactful and makes more sense also for traditional onsite presentations!

7) Find your own style to engage your audience

The six previous tips complement each other. They form a coherent framework for on-line presentations.

They are even more efficient if you apply them all together. Doing sub-group exercises helps you save energy. Preparing and rehearsing makes the interactions much more fluid. Reorganising your presentation set space for the interactions and energy is easier to keep at high levels on shorter modules.

This is all consistent: engagement, variety of tools, sub-group work, preparation, reorganisation and energy.

But more important than anything, my last piece of advice is to find your own way. The one you are confortable with. Your audience will feel it. They will feel your online confidence. They will feel that it is not a one-way show and that they can express themselves.

That is the most important: find your own online style that values and engages the audience on the other side of the screen!

François Marmion

A longer version of this article was previously posted by François on his blog, which can be found here.

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