When it comes to an actual delivery, I don’t suffer from Zoom fatigue, and I sincerely appreciate the various delivery options available like breakout rooms, polls, chats, video, PowerPoint, and more. I back that up with a professional backdrop, a powerful microphone, side lights, a strong camera, and a standup desk so I can move.
I need to make a quick confession: I actually like delivering virtual presentations. I don’t have to travel and hunt down airport parking spots, battle security lines, stress about airline delays, cope with the loneliness of hotel rooms, or when I finish my work, fight my way home.
Yep, I really enjoy the world of virtual delivery. At this point, it’s just about the same as a live delivery, except for one thing; energy. I put out as much energy as I can possibly muster for a virtual delivery, but like my other brothers and sisters in the presentation business, I drive my words, facial expressions, and movements to the blue light that resides on top my monitor. The problem is, that blue light has no heart, no soul, and worst of all, no energy.
When you are in front of a live audience, there is a kind of energy dance that goes on. You put out energy, and the audience feels it. The audience reacts, puts out energy, and you feel it. This provides fuel, and in turn, you react with even more energy, and the audience feels it. This energy continues to build, and a kind of symbiotic relationship begins to emerge between the speaker and the audience, with each providing support to the other.
Like it or not, when you are in the spotlight, you have a significant impact on the energy around you. You’re either generating energy and enthusiasm in people, or you’re reacting to their energy. When you are working virtually, there is no real opportunity to feel the infectious energy from an audience. Add the fact that an audience of any real size is going to be muted, and it becomes you and the blue light of the camera doing your own, private dance. No energy, no noise, no laughter, no applause.
For the record, during the first year of virtual delivery, I actually experimented with a laugh button on an iPad, wired to a speaker, propped up next to my microphone. I was usually late diving for that button, and I often missed it altogether. There was something important still missing… The missing link was the contagious energy from the audience.
I’ve learned something very important: I need an audience to take me to a level of output that is nearly impossible to get to without their help. I need that audience as much, if not more, than they need me. I know it’s a tall order but, ultimately, the success of your presentation will depend on whether you can fuel others with your energy, and utilize their energy to fuel yours. Let’s keep improving the process of virtual delivery, and recognize it’s a wonderful way to deliver certain presentations under certain circumstances. But never confuse that form of delivery with the power of live delivery, and the infectious energy that feeds all who partake in it.