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Can I do public speaking on Zoom?

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Speaking on Zoom can be better than in person

Is public speaking effective on Zoom and other platforms like it, such as Teams and WebEx and so on?

Hi, I’m Shola. And I’m a public speaking coach and a speaker. I absolutely love speaking on Zoom. And there are a couple of reasons why in particular. But I do find that my public speaking is still improving on Zoom versus in front of an in person audience. Plus, I also find that there are some added characteristics, added information I can get from Zoom that I can’t necessarily get from an in person audience at the same timing. So what do I mean by that?

You have a direct line to audience members

Well, I absolutely love asking people to make comments in the chat when I’m presenting, and when I’m speaking. And the reason why is I’m typically someone who likes to have a lot of interaction in my presentations and speeches anyway. And I found that by using Zoom and saying to people, “If you have questions, or if you have any comments, put them in the chat so I can see them as we go through.” I absolutely love it because it means that I can respond in real time to people’s comments, their suggestions, their questions.

There is more opportunity for interaction

And some people think, “Well, isn’t that disruptive?” But I am somebody who always thinks that the reason I’m speaking is for the audience. And I’m there whether it’s to help them with some information or to entertain them or to help them move forward and inspire them. So the more interaction between the audience and myself, the better.

You can check in and find out quickly if you’re hitting the mark

Another thing it helps with is sometimes you might be making a presentation and people… Perhaps it’s not quite what they expected it to be. So if you’re asking people to share in the chat, you can quickly see if what you’re sharing is hitting the mark. So you might just say, “Well, what do you think of that? I just shared some information with you. How do you feel about it? Or on a scale of one to 10, how many of you feel this way versus that way? Or with regard to a particular skill, give me a red, yellow, or green, like a traffic light system. If you use the skill a lot, make it a green. If you don’t use it at all, make it a red.”

You can get instant feedback from the audience

So there are ways that you can get people to interact with you. They don’t have to do a lot of typing, and you can still get some great feedback from them as you progress through the speech. Now, of course, having chat going through is not ideal in all situations. So for example, I’ve been hired to give a keynote presentation for a company in about a month or so’s time. And they said to me, “Well, would you like to record the presentation beforehand and play it back, or would you like to do it live?” And I said, “Well, I’d love to do it live. And I’d love to get people involved in a chat.”

You can easily make your talk more interactive

But if you’re making a big speech, or a big presentation, that’s going to be listened to by a lot of people, you may not want to be super responsive and looking at every comment that comes up in the chance all the way through because people are expecting a certain kind of behavior from you. They’re expecting for you to be inspirational, for you to have something prepared. So in that situation, I might just branch off here and there, and say, “Okay, I’m going to stop now. Any questions?” Or, “I’m going to stop for a moment. Pop in the chat. Red, yellow, or green.” According to some question I asked them.

It can help you become a better speaker and learn new tools

But I absolutely adore the chat, and how responsive I can be as a speaker to my audience using Zoom. And I think what that also does is it helps you become a better speaker because, first of all, it helps you kind of multitask a little bit. I know multitasking isn’t always a good thing. But while you’re presenting, you’re also thinking about the audience, and then you’re getting that instant feedback from them in the chat box. I love it. And it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but personally, I really like it. There are other tools on Zoom as well. There’s plenty of videos online on Zoom. So I’m not going to walk you through Zoom, but there are lots of other tools on Zoom too.

You can change the video viewing options to suit your delivery

But I believe you still can be an effective public speaker online. You don’t need to have an audience in the room with you. Now, some of the things that you might miss out on, or that are a little different, is obviously when you’re on Zoom in Zoom meeting, for example, you’ve got everybody in a tile view. So all the little faces looking at you when they’re on their video, and that can be distracting. So I find that when I’m speaking on Zoom, I don’t necessarily want to see every single face because you’ve got to look around a bit to see how people are responding. And then there might be something going on in someone’s room that catches your eye and can throw you off track. So I would personally not have the view where you can see everybody looking at you when you’re delivering some sort of presentation on Zoom. So that’s one of the things I would do. I do find it a bit distracting.

It’s wise to control the distractions

Whereas, of course, if you’re in a room with people, typically everybody just sitting still. They’re all looking at you. You wouldn’t have the same amount of activity, possibly, going on that you might have in someone’s office or their living room or bedroom or whatever, when they’re watching you make your presentation. So a few things that you can kind of control for to make sure that you’re not distracted by speaking on Zoom, things that wouldn’t necessarily be happening if you were in the room live with your audience.

There are plenty of opportunities for speaking online

But all in all I think it’s been a really good experience having Zoom to on speak regularly. And I think there are plenty of opportunities for public speaking online. And of course, as we start to go back to work, as I said, this is during the COVID period… As we start to go back to work, I think it’s going to be a really interesting time because there’ll be people who will have more opportunities then to speak in person, but they’ll still have opportunities to speak online. And it will be interesting to see how one feeds into the other. And if someone’s been doing a lot of online speaking, if they feel that that has helped them with their in person. And likewise, if they start doing more in person and doing online, if they feel that that has fed back and helped with the online speaking too.

Video recording is a great tool for improving

But I think the more you speak the better. I really do feel that one of the things that has helped me the most with my in person presentations was starting my video blog. So I probably got about a hundred videos that I’ve done over the last couple of years. And running that blog really helped me with speaking because when I record videos, I don’t allow myself to stop. Even if I make a little mistake, I will carry on because you don’t want to train your brain to think, “Oh. Well, I screwed up. I’ll stop.”

You can train yourself to make fewer mistakes through video

Because the brain starts thinking, “Oh. Well, this doesn’t matter. There’s no repercussions, no implications if I make a mistake.” Because you’re saying, “Okay. There there, dear. Don’t worry. We’ll stop it and start again.” Whereas if you say to yourself, “Well, whatever happens, I’m going to carry on.” You’re training yourself to make fewer mistakes. And of course, you’re going to make some, especially at the beginning. And it’ll take you a while to figure out your style on camera, but it really does help to just drive through. And of course, if you’re on Zoom, you can’t stop mid teleconference. Say, “Oh. I made a mistake. Sorry.” So Zoom is even more powerful perhaps than video because you’ve got no choice, really, then to carry on.

You can customise the options to make sure they suit you

So I hope that helps that I think public speaking on Zoom is a great way to rehearse. It’s a great way to get more experience. It’s not the same as speaking to a room of people. Other things that can be different. For example, I’m sitting down right now. If I had been in a room doing some public speaking, of course, I’d be standing up. So that’s different. But if you like to stand up, you could set up your camera and a microphone so that you can stand. And you’ve got space to move around. Some speakers like to do that.

Remember to explore all the software options for interaction

So you still have options, but of course they are a little bit limited when you’re on camera. But as I said, you have got things that replace that like chat, like people putting their hands up, like doing polls. There’s a lot of functionalities in Zoom that’s fantastic. So if you haven’t checked it all out properly yet, go for it. There’s some great videos online. It’s not that complicated to learn. And while we’re in this situation where we’re doing so much speaking online, why not master this platform ,and have fun with it as well.

Hope that helps, and go for it. Go speak on Zoom. Take care.

Shola Kaye is an award-winning speaker, author and professional speaker coach with clients around the world. Her work has been mentioned in Forbes, Harper’s Bazaar and on the BBC.
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