Lights, Camera, Action: Show Your Best Self Online, Part 1

Pop quiz: What’s the scariest thing you can do?

A. Handle a barrel filled with angry rattlesnakes.
B. Make hairpin turns in a tractor-trailer around a twisty mountain pass.
C. Give an online video presentation.

If you answered C, this story is for you. (I can’t help with snakes or big rigs).

Whether it’s your video debut on YouTube, a job interview on Skype, a meeting on WebEx, or a class online, how can you look and sound engaging while being authentic? I’m going to share 10 tips to help you put your best foot forward in the online space, with some extras for introverts, who excel when they preserve their energy like squirrels stashing away nuts for the winter.

Online presentations take many forms: sitting or standing; one person presenting to one, two, or a crowd who may or may not be visible; half a roundtable in Washington, DC, meeting with the other half in Hong Kong, time-zone considerations and all. Not to mention live versus recorded presentations, and full-body versus talking head. And production values can range from a TED Talk stage to Cousin Joey in his jammies, moaning about the Mets on a Google+ Hangout. Regardless of the format, some of these ideas should help:

1. No need to jitter, you heavy hitter.

Online presentations can bring on the same performance anxiety as presenting in person. To combat that, take real inhales and exhales, as opposed to scared little breaths—before, during, and afterwards. When you’re nervous, it’s hard to keep track of all the things you need to remember for your online presentation, including your content, delivery, and the demands of the technology. So if you remember just one thing to manage your jitters, conscious breathing works wonders: belly in and belly out will prevent belly up.

Introverts: You may be more inclined to live behind the scenes. Being the center of attention under the “bright lights” can lead to agita. Aim to build “spaciousness” into your schedule so you have alone time before you’re “on.” I like to call this your “introvert bubble.”

2. Find your inner Oprah.

When I ask my coaching clients their role model for presenting themselves authentically, the name that comes up most often is Oprah Winfrey. Why? She comes across as entirely comfortable in her skin. Accept who you are. Take stock of each of your strengths as an online presenter—whether it’s your good posture, strong voice, sense of humor, generosity with sharing information, acting skills, time-management skills (extra important online!), or expertise on your subject matter.

Introverts: Times are changing in our society, with an increased awareness of the power of the quieter half. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re reserved, soft spoken, and reflective. Instead, appreciate the strong listening skills and ability to compose thoughtful questions which often come with the package.

3. Prep for all systems going blooey.

Stay calm when (not if!) it happens. A riff on Murphy’s Law: “To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer.” Assume something’s going to go wrong with the technology. So test run it with enough lead time to fix the glitches.

Introverts: Harness your power of concentration and attention to detail to troubleshoot when necessary.

4. Before the cameras roll, sneak a peek.

Does the flower pot behind you appear to grow from your head? Is spinach lodged between your teeth? How about that milk mustache? Are you chinless or missing the top of your head? Make sure your whole face (or body) is clearly in the frame. Allow time to make adjustments to your positioning and whatever is around you.

Introverts: Tap back into your predilection for details. If you’re a perfectionist, rather than fighting the urge to move that flower pot an inch to the right, go for it.

5. Say it in sound bites.

Know what you’re talking about, and make it relevant to those in the “room.” Do your research. But don’t try to deliver a whole dissertation on your topic; instead, think of the typically short attention span of viewers and mind the length of your sentences, throwing in plenty of pauses.

Introverts: Plan your message and boil it down to succinct segments. This will help you from getting caught off guard by zingers from left field.

Let me leave you with one more thought before next week, when I’ll share five more tips. You can’t learn about becoming a better presenter online by just reading about it. Live outside your comfort zone and do it. Make that video debut on YouTube, welcome that job interview on Skype, nail that meeting on WebEx and that class online. In the second part of this story, I’ll show you more about how to conquer your biggest fear—and then you can bring on the snakes and the big rigs.

Copyright © 2013 Nancy Ancowitz

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