How to deal with virtual presentations when you can’t see each other

Jeeeezussss. Your camera’s just gone off.  You can’t see your audience or react to the expressions on peoples’ faces so suddenly it’s like someone’s thrown a blanket over you.

Or there’s 100 people tuning in to your presentation and IT have told them all to turn their cameras off to save bandwidth.


Now you’re talking into a void.

How do you engage in a blackout?

There are ways.  I’ve derived some of these methods from podcasters, radio presenters and voice-over actors.

I knew that voiceover jobs such as the talking turtle would one day have its uses beyond animation.  But don’t worry, you won’t have to go that far to keep them hooked.

Here goes:

You can’t see them

  1. Stick a photo of someone above your computer or on the wall or window behind it.  Make sure it’s a being you’d actually want to engage with.
  2. Have a co-host: two cameras on shouldn’t collapse the band width.  Even if that’s not possible, you could still have a conversation with them, like a radio presenter with a phone-in guest.
  3. Get the listeners to take the reins: have a participant explain, share or demonstrate something with you with video off or on: having a member of the audience or meeting speak up, indirectly involves everyone.
  4. Find methods that depend on feedback: if you’re asking them to do something but you won’t know if they’re actually doing it that’s no good. Pick activities where there involvement is obvious to all.  Here are some ideas.  Do mix them up though: avoid poll after poll
  5. Remember they can still see YOU: how you move and your background will matter.
  6. Use emojis or unmute for feedback: You can’t see if they put their hands up.  Use emojis and make this clear from the beginning so that they all know where to find the ‘hands up’ emoji.


They can’t see you:

  1. Vary vocal modulation: if you ever listen to morning radio presenters, they usually have a vibrant and highly emphatic delivery. That’s what you’re going for – a range in vocal pitch with slow and fast parts to mix it up.
  2. Include Anticipation:  give them a sniff of what’s coming up so they keep their ear to you.  Here are some ways you can do that.
  3. Add the word ‘you’: this is one of the most powerful words. Do it right near the beginning and pepper it throughout.
  4. Refer to people: say names, refer to their experiences. It keeps them on their toes. Here’s a video that will give you the four times you need to be saying peoples’ names. (Beyoncé turned up for this).
  5. Captivate with a narrative: storytelling is a way to bring people in as they want to stay with a good narrative. If you want to make the hook even stronger throw in a ‘maggot’ : it’s what brings the fish in. For example, before describing how a trip to a hospital made me understand how our tech could be used. I begin with “Let me tell you how a banana skin created the prosthetic you see here today.” There’s a description of someone slipping on one somewhere in there but the important factor is that it’s an interesting hook that brings people in.
  6. Use Polls, Word Clouds and other varied tools to gather feedback (see number 6 in ‘You can’t see them’): participants can relate to others on the call and it takes the pressure off you to engage for a while.
  7. Get them to hit the chatbox:  you then reply verbally, using peoples’ names.
  8. Use visuals: if you’re showing slides (avoid bullet points and use pictures), or videos, they’ll still have something interesting to look at.

Remember, they’re changing nappies, playing the mandolin, cooking soup and answering emails (maybe all at the same time) given half a chance.

Mix all these methods up every 4 minutes and you’ll keep people interested in your content – so much so that they won’t even think of doing all that other faff.


Your Action:

  1. Have this page saved in Evernote or bookmarked.
  2. Refer to this to make your virtual presentations captivating whether or not you can see each other.
  3. If you find yourself having to do LinkedIn videos, webinars without cameras and other such experiences that are more in line with TV Presenters, download the complete training guide. I’ll help you make it feel more natural.


Subscribe to my YouTube channel for video guides now.


Photo by Anthony DeRosa from Pexels

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