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How To Maintain Better Eye Contact In Virtual Presentations

By Blog

There is one thing that people are not doing that I see negatively impacting their online presentations, virtual meetings, etc. What is the one critical thing that a lot of people still aren’t getting right? Eye contact? Yes, eye contact from the time you’ve been a kid, you’ve been told you got to have excellent eye contact for people to understand that you’re having a conversation with them. So it is portrayed that you believe what they have to say is important, you’re engaged in the conversation, you’re present in the discussions, and this is generally done in person.

For some reason, people have forgotten this when we’ve gotten into online conversations. They don’t always pay attention to how their eyes connect with somebody who happens to be on the other side of the screen. So there are quite a few common mistakes. Oftentimes, people have their phones on the desk, or because the computer is on the desk and you’re taller than the computer, you’re looking down at the computer, you got the nose view, you’ve got all of these different things that are going wrong.

We want to talk about fixing that; I want to share with you a few things that will improve your eye contact and help you become a rockstar in your next virtual presentation or meeting.


The first thing that you can do to improve your eye contact in your virtual presentations, online presentations, and meetings is really simple. Start by recording yourself. Many people cannot maintain eye contact because they’re not comfortable with looking at the camera or looking at the lens and seeing themselves or seeing nobody on the camera; it becomes challenging for them to keep that focus. Make sure that you record yourself so you can become more comfortable talking on screen. 


This next step is one of the more challenging things for people to understand or think about. When you have your camera set, you don’t want the camera just set at eye level, and you certainly don’t want to set below eye level. You want it set just a touch above eye level so that your eyes appear wider and you don’t look like you’re looking down on people. It also makes your face look brighter. 


To improve your eye contact in virtual sessions, virtual meetings, online presentations, you can consider using a teleprompter if you need to. Teleprompters don’t necessarily have to be those big fancy ones that a president and other high-level officials use. Some teleprompters can be on your computer. They can be on your iPad, your tablet device, and teleprompters can also be on your phone. There is a great app called video teleprompter produced by Joe Allen. They helped me do more than just read the words that are on the screen. If I’m in a zoom meeting, I can use my camera through a teleprompter and still see the people that are in the zoom meeting; it also helps me to keep in contact with those in the meeting. 


Don’t obsess over eye contact. And when I say don’t obsess, I mean, you don’t have to stare at the camera the entire time. There’s nothing wrong with sometimes looking away to do something or grabbing something you don’t have to worry about it. You may believe that people suddenly will end the meeting and leave you your meeting if you look away. Trust me; they won’t do that. What they want from you is connection. They want authenticity. They want you to be as natural as possible. And yes, they want to see your eyes too.

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5 Storytelling Tips To Make You A Presentation Rockstar

By Blog

Have you ever had to give a speech or a presentation, and you just weren’t sure how to set up your address or structure it so that you could connect with your audience and have them get the point? I’m going to share with you five storytelling techniques that you can use to structure your speech and make you look like a presentation Rockstar. 

You’ve been called on to deliver a speech, a report, or a presentation. And you don’t want it to be the same old boring speech, presentation, or report anymore. You’ve heard that storytelling is an excellent way to bump up the engagement and connection factor. But you’re just not sure how to bring stories into work or data built or data-driven presentations.

 I want to share five techniques that you can use to structure any good story or presentation. 


The first technique is called the hero’s journey. In the hero’s journey, this is a journey or a technique you’re all familiar with. A lot of movies use this journey. The hero leaves their home, and they set out on this crazy journey. They go from something comfortable, something they know, something they’re used to, into this threatening unknown. After this, they fight a big battle; they overcome a great trial. And then they return home with a reward or with some new wisdom. This wisdom is then used to help their community. Many stories follow this; this technique helps to take your audience on a journey with that hero, goes with them through the fights, goes with them back home, where they’re then able to utilize those stories to share with those at home. All the new wisdom that they’ve discovered. Joseph Campbell wrote a great book called the hero’s journey. And if you’re interested in finding out about that technique, I recommend reading that book. 


The second storytelling technique with which you might want to be familiar with if you’re not already familiar. It’s called the mountain. Now, in the first part of the mountain story, you’re just telling everybody what’s going on, you’re creating context, you’re setting the scene. But the mountain is this journey, where there are ups and downs, there are breaks, there are challenges, resolution challenges, you got one challenge, then it’s solved. You’ve got a second challenge to solve the third challenge, and then it’s off. It’s like one of those personal stories where you almost feel like you are constantly having trouble. It never ends. And the thing about a mountain story, unlike the hero’s journey, the hero’s journey usually has a happy ending; the mountain story does not have to have a happy ending. It could end with someone dying, and it could end with the story not resolving as you would expect it to. 


The third storytelling technique that you want to be familiar with is one that’s called nested loops. Now in nested loops, you layer several narratives inside of each other. A friend tells you their story. And then that story includes someone wise, maybe telling them a story that changed their lives. And it changed the arc of their story. For example, I remember writing a story about how I was practicing for a group in college. As I was doing that, a friend or someone was a chaplain of my College who came to watch, and he said some words to me. He told me a story. And that story changed how I viewed myself as a leader. If I’m suggesting that story to somebody, I’m telling them the story that my guru said to me inside of the story. So they hear my story plus the other story of wisdom. And then they’re learning how that story of wisdom affected me and changed my life arc. That’s what a nested loop does. 


The fourth storytelling technique is the media rez, or in the middle of things. Using this technique, you start in the heat of the action; you start in the middle of the story, as it says in the name. You might be in the middle of the climax, in the middle of the conflict, in the middle of the battle, right when this story begins, but then you circle back to the beginning. And you tell how this started, and you give a little bit of the build-up before returning through that middle through that battle, on to the end of the store. Many movies work this way. Look for any movie that has or features flashbacks. 


The fifth storytelling technique is what is known as sparklines. Nancy Duarte uses this technique, and a sparkline is where you contrast what is happening currently with the hope of an ideal future or fantasy. An example of this, you will probably look for many political speeches or many sermons. They share with you what is happening now, the crazy that’s happening now. And then they tell you what that future is that you can look towards. These are very inspirational speeches, and they want your audience to move to action. They share with you a different future, a different possibility, one that doesn’t exist already, but an idealistic one, one that is perfect. One that is aspirational gives people something to hope for. Martin Luther King delivered what was called the I Have a Dream speech. And this was a speech that used sparklines talking about all of the different things that existed now or then. And then comparing that with his dream of what could be speeches and presentations are that much better and much more interesting.

 When there’s a story involved, stories are much easier to structure when you understand how they’re put together, and you have a framework.

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2 Phrases That Eliminate Authority & Influence

By Blog, Communication

Your words are powerful. They mean what they mean but they also mean what you may not think. OK. That was a little confusing. Do you see what I mean?

Have you ever had a conversation where you thought you said something and the listener received it very differently than you intended? The words were the same, but in the transmission process, something got added.

The good news is you can temper this with a bit of awareness. You can add clarity and confidence to your speaking by eliminating certain phrases which tend to diminish your message.

There are many examples. However, I want to focus on two.

In my opinion…how many times have you heard this added to the beginning or the end of an argument? I was in a meeting where a discussion was taking place. One of the participants had been sitting and observing for some time. Now, he felt compelled to add something to the discussion. He opened his mouth and delivered a poignant, wise and well-thought argument. But, then he paused and added…in my opinion.

What just happened? He added a caveat. He essentially said, “I could be wrong here but…

They hung on his words until the very end. But, he added those three words and you could see the room shift. They nodded and then went back to the discussion.

Adding “in my opinion” focuses the response on the speaker and not simply on the statement.

Leaving that out allows the listener to hear the statement without thinking about the speaker’s source. The statement becomes one of authority instead of appearing contrary. Removing “in my opinion” adds boldness to the overall delivery of the statement.

The second phrase is ‘Well, I think that…’

This phrase also subtly creates a focus on the speaker and their thought process instead of the allowing the words to stand powerfully on their own.

Say the following sentences out loud.

From what I can see, it looks like a blue sky.

Well, I think the sky is blue.

The sky is blue!

Do you hear the difference? The third sentence is authoritative. It stands. It doesn’t drive the listener into the thought process of the speaker. The sentence stands on its own as factual.

Think about two people. The first enters a room, then makes a statement. After making the statement, he begins to offer additional arguments defending the original statement. He spends 10 minutes defending himself even though no one has challenged him.

The second person enters the room, makes a statement, then simply sits quietly OR she turns and exits the room.

Which person made a stronger impact? If you were here in the room with me, I willing to bet you said the second person. Their statement stood on its own and caused you to ask in your mind, “What’s next?”

This is speaking with AUTHORITY and confidence.

As a speaker, you are a conduit. You carry a message that stands on its own. You support it with stories and ideas which bring it to life. But, you allow the audience to claim it as their own by forming their own pictures around it. While it may seem counterintuitive, if you claim the message before they do, you minimize connection as well as authority.

State the message then allow them to decide what to do with it instead of deciding what to do with you!

5 Reasons Organizations Must Get Presentation Training

By Blog, Communication

It was an important roll-out.  The team had spent weeks putting together the timelines, the assets, and answering all the questions they could think of.  Now, the only thing left was presenting it to senior management.  The team chose Sarah, the person who knew the most about the proposed system, to present the idea.

There was one problem, however.  Sarah was scared out of her mind.  And when she went into the room to present, it showed.  She fumbled with her clicker and her papers.  Her sentences rambled.  The red showed clearly on her face.
When she left the room, she broke down in tears because she had blown it.

Maybe every presentation isn’t high stakes or this dramatically terrible.  But, this is a true scenario more often than most companies would admit.  Whether it’s a high stakes sales presentation, new business pitch, or laying out a new strategy, the success of the business is dependent upon influence.  This means confident, clear and credible presentations.

So, why do many companies fail at this?  In some cases, training exists.  But, rather than interactive, performance-based training designed for muscle memory, the participants sit in a room answering questions and taking notes.  While this may fill the quota, it doesn’t improve the skill set or give better results.   Employees need to know how to present more than just information.  They also need to know how to access their innate abilities to tell stories, influence and connect effectively.

There are many reasons why training in public speaking and presentation skills is important for any organization. But, I will share 5 top considerations:

1. It makes them better at selling.
Your company sells a product or a service.  While you hire salespeople hired to win new business, internally, teams need to influence each other and/or management to create more efficiency. Ironically, many salespeople lack training on HOW to present.  Rather, they are told WHAT to present. Customers connect to the WHO and the WHY first before they will connect to the product.  In an article on redesigning the auto industry, Jamie LaReau, predicts we will need product presenters rather than salespeople.

While the outcome may be sales and revenue related, in order to get there, presenters must have the ability and skill to connect.

2. Finding a hidden company/department spokesperson.
The person who presents is quite often the person who knows the most or the person who is the least scared. Not very good criteria.  Is everyone equally skilled at presenting?  Is that even possible?  Maybe not.  But, with the right training, you will find a diamond or two in the rough.

I presented for a company recently and one participant mentioned she rarely presented because she was always told how soft-spoken she was.  She believed this was a hindrance to her presentation.  But, when we began working on what she could do to connect with her audience using her already built in superpower, she came to life.  Her thoughts were crystal, and she became animated about her content.  Soon after the workshop, I received an email from her team proclaiming her the official department presenter.  Her ‘soft-spokenness’ was an asset used to help her audience lean in.  And she actually learned to project better because she was now more confident in her skills.

3. Improve employee confidence.
More confident employees are more decisive employees.  Decisive employees are willing to take more risks and in an age where innovation is a must, risk-taking is a leadership mandate.  But when employees are not sure whether their voices can be heard, the confidence factor decreases.  So, when an organization says, “Hey there, here is a way you can increase the likelihood of your voice being heard and also upgrade your influence,”, employees tend to listen.

Public speaking and presentations give immediate feedback from a captive audience.  While much of the immediate feedback is non-verbal, it is still impactful enough to make a difference.  Imagine an employee who feels like she can communicate effectively with c-suite and entry-level alike.  This is a confident employee who knows that her words and how she presents them can make a difference.

4. Establish authority, improve reputation and credibility.
A well-prepared presenter can establish rapport, authority, and expertise with an audience, large or small.  But, a company with well-prepared presenters, plural, establishes itself as a company who identifies great talent and also equips its people to be passionate about its products.

As a child, I remember vacuum cleaner salesmen coming through my house quite a bit.  The products were always good, and they seemed to do amazing things. However, we never purchased…until the 3rd time a specific company came to us.  We’d seen the presentation twice before but we took special note of how the company armed its presenters.  My dad was a pastor and so he had a special affinity for well-presented messages.  This company was consistent with the excellence of presentation and we paid nearly $1000 in the 80’s for a vacuum cleaner.

Did my parents buy only because the presenters spoke well?  Maybe not.  But, they gave us a glimpse of the product quality by showing us the care they took in their presentations.

5. Increase retention.
Employees need…no, they EXPECT their organizations to invest in their development.  If their development needs are not being met, expect them to look elsewhere.  Recently, I trained a department of an organization. Of the 10-12 people in the room, 4 confided they were secretly looking elsewhere because the company didn’t provide them any training.  Until my workshop, some hadn’t received any training in the 2 years they had been employed.  One mentioned how much he enjoyed the presentation and communication training.  However, he wanted to make sure the managerial staff and the executives were also registered to take it.

His words were, “I know I’m getting better because of this.  It says something if your workers are getting better but you’re not doing it as well.”


People want to get better and organizations benefit when they help their people get better.  But, as Jim Collins mentions, organizations should go past good to great.  A great organization which employs the right training will produce great employees and great results.

Learn more about 3C Presentation Training for your organization.  Help your team present their ideas with confidence, clarity, and credibility.