Webinars and teleconferences are similar to standard public speaking in many ways, but they also require some significant adaptation. Due to technological limits and the nature of long-distance communication, the speaker is harder to understand and usually lacks a very important public speaking tool: body language. To compensate, speakers have to focus more on clarity and audience engagement, and rely even more on some tried and true public speaking basics, such as vocal variety, organization, and of course practice.
The purpose of webinars and teleconferences is to get your message across. Use these tips to overcome the technical and distance challenges:
Housekeeping: Start with a solid introduction that explains your purpose and format, outlines your agenda, and introduces all the presenters. Go over all relevant technical instructions, such as muting, volume controls, asking questions, raising hands and using other webinar features, several times.
Eliminate distractions: Speaking from your desk is often harder, not easier. Have a colleague run teleconference tools or webinar software while you speak. If possible, go to a different room where no one will disturb you. To eliminate background noise, ask callers to mute themselves or do it for them right after your introduction.
Supporting materials: Well ahead of your teleconference, send participants all documents, visuals, and any other information they will need. On webinars, make sure the same items are displayed clearly and slowly enough for everyone to follow. When you are finished, send participants all supporting materials and items for follow-up, reiterating your main points and requests in the email body.
Frequent and specific referencing: When referring to documents, visuals, and other information, guide participants to the exact place you want them to look. Mention specific page numbers, paragraphs, and even sentence beginnings. Whenever speakers begin or answer questions, have them state who they are so participants can follow. State clearly when you are moving on to the next part of the agenda.
Pace, volume and length: These basics of clarity hold true on webinars and teleconferences as well. Speak slowly and clearly enough that people listening over a bad connection can follow. Speak loudly for the same reasons. Keep your points and answers to questions succinct.