Our screens are like a microscope. We are often lulled into a false sense of security that we can relax and just be…but we can’t just ‘be’. Our cameras examine and reveal everything from how we are sitting and how we are dressed.
Our screens are also a stage — which either we pretend doesn’t exist (and turn up wearing pyjamas) or we put on a screen face, pretending to be a newsreader. But that is not our job. Here are 11 tips to help you be ready to own both the microscope and the stage!
We are disembodied by the screen — most of the time we are just floating heads. Imagine a seesaw where there has to be balance to succeed. I firmly believe we have to find balance between the physical and the digital. To do that we need to reground our bodies every day — to re-body. To touch the ground. Here is an exercise to do that: plant your feet on the floor, and breathe in deeply. Repeat this four times until you feel the calm. You are now re-grounded.
I know that standing up will give me more energy, but sometimes I just can’t be bothered. It can be the barrier to really good energy and connection on screen. But if I have a standing desk and I have to choose to turn it into a sitting desk, I know I will stand up more. If I stand up more, I am instantly re-bodied and full of energy.
As an actor, I loved improvisation. We would rehearse the structure of the scene but leave space for play. Do the same with your presentations. Whether you are presenting to a team, investors or your boss, prepare story number one — your 45-second ‘founder story’ — which is what got you to where you are today. See this as the structure of the improv scene. You don’t know where it will go but you are ready to begin. And story number two — come prepared with an anecdote of something that you did in your personal life that relates to your work life. How? Let’s get to points four and five.
Speak them out loud, don’t just write them down. Make sure they have a beginning, middle and end.
Story one gave you the template and energy needed for story two — your business story. As practise makes permanent, retell it to cement it in your body and voice.
You can’t control your audience but you can control yourself. Take your part of the conversation out for a walk. Practice the part you play — your opener, your presentations, your questions. Actually say them out loud as you walk around — you will appear so much more confident on screen.
When you are running team meetings, ask an ice breaker that will cause people to talk immediately with very little thought. My favourite is, ‘What did you have for breakfast?’ Ask people to put it in the chat and wait until they do — they always do. Then make a kind comment or ask a kind question about what they have said. It sets the tone for the meeting, and let’s people know you are not here to stare at blank screen.
The screen demands so much of our energy and attention — and we need to choose how much to give. If you are having a familiar chat, or you are doing what you always do, maybe you can bring 80%. But for the fundraising, the job interview, or something new, you need to bring 110%. You can’t always bring 110%, but there are times when you need to.
Watch my one-minute warm up, or go a bit deeper with my Pocketcoach Global exercises (especially videos 5–12). Choose one exercise and repeat it three times a week for a few weeks and see what it does for you. It will light you up on screen.
Nobody wants to see your nostrils, nobody wants to see half of your head, nobody wants a bright light in the background that makes you look half dead. So make some space, clear your background, put the lights behind your computer, not you, have your camera angle at 15% and you are all set!
Seth Godin calls a document parading as a slide a slide-u-ment. If you are going to put lots of text on the screen, your audience will read the text and not listen to you. Don’t do it! Pictures, graphs, headlines — YES. But the slide backs you up. Not the other way round.