You might be highly experienced at giving live product demonstrations at the trade shows you attend in person. But have you ever given a presentation online? If you’ve never spoken before a virtual audience, you may not be prepared for how different these two experiences are. Online presentations are very different from their live counterparts, so read on to learn how to prepare an engaging virtual trade show presentation.
How Is a Virtual Trade Show Presentation Different from a Live Presentation?
It’s Harder to Connect with Your Audience
The key thing that differentiates live and virtual trade show presentations is simply the audience. At a live trade show, you deliver a presentation to a live audience who’s standing right in front of you. That proximity makes it fairly easy to connect with individuals and with the audience as a whole.
A virtual presentation is different. Most people in the audience are at home and are probably alone. A few might be logging in from their places of work. Either way, what you have is an audience that’s fragmented. Because of this, each viewer experiences your presentation as a one-on-one interaction, rather than a group interaction. It’s also a one-on-one interaction where you and your audience aren’t physically in the same room.
All of this means it’s much harder to connect with a virtual audience. So a virtual speaker must be able to project warmth and personality into their speech, body language, and general demeanor. This will make it easier for your audience to connect with you.
It’s Harder to Engage Your Audience
Just as it’s harder to connect with an online audience, it’s harder to get them to engage. When an audience is engaged, they’re alert and focused, and they’re receptive to whatever information you’re providing. You can’t keep everyone fully engaged 100% of the time, but you should aim to keep engagement as high as possible, for as many people as possible.
For virtual trade show presentations, this means:
Make it visual. Add interest with images, slides, video clips, and other visual media.
Break it up. Make it easy to follow by dividing the material into distinct segments. Use slides to reinforce the subject or theme of each segment. This makes it easier for people to follow along, even if their engagement levels start to flag a little.
Talk to the camera. If you’re using a webcam, it may feel more natural to focus on the screen, but when you do this, the audience sees you looking everywhere except at them. Treat the camera as though it’s a person you’re talking to, by maintaining eye contact for three to five seconds at a time. From the audience’s perspective, that’s more natural and more engaging than a presenter who’s looking off to one side or other.
Tips for Engaging Your Virtual Audience
1. Dress Like You Mean Business
For many people, attending virtual meetings and other online events means an excuse to wear casual clothing. Others dress professionally from the waist up, with pajama pants and slippers concealed beneath their webcam’s line of sight.
The trouble is, when you dress that way for a virtual trade show presentation, you risk getting stuck in a casual mindset. Your audience may not know you’re wearing pajama pants, but you do—and that makes you feel more comfortable and relaxed. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when you’re giving a trade show presentation, being too relaxed may give the appearance you’re not taking it seriously.
To make the best impression, it’s important to look professional and be ready for any questions or comments your audience comes up with. Dressing the part helps you with both aspects because when you look like a professional, you feel that way too. It’s also a signal to your audience that you mean business.
2. Get the Technical Aspects Right
When you’re giving a virtual trade show presentation, you’re at the mercy of the tech. That includes your internet connection, audio quality, and lighting. To make your presentation as effective as possible, it’s vital you nail the technical setup. You need high-quality audio, a strong internet connection, and good lighting to properly support your presentation.
It’s also important to have a good level of familiarity with the tech you’re using. If something should go wrong when you’re giving a live presentation, you need to know how to troubleshoot and get the problem fixed ASAP. Test all your equipment before going live. And if you’re using slides or any other visual presentation aids, practice at least once or twice. That will help you project confidence in yourself, your company, and your products.
3. Craft a Compelling Narrative
The most effective advertisements are typically those that tell a story. The same tactic works for trade show presentations, even if your subject matter is a little dry. If you can find a way to weave a narrative story into your presentation, it will be much more compelling than if you just recite facts and figures.
For a virtual trade show presentation, you’re likely going to be talking about the products or services you’re showcasing in your virtual booth. So, the narrative should focus on problems and solutions:
- Problem: What problems do people encounter at work that are relevant to the product you’re selling?
- Solution: How can your product solve those problems?
Use real-world examples to drive the story, if possible, such as real problems that your own clients have had and how your products helped solve them. With anecdotes that illustrate the points you’re making, your presentation will come to life. It will be more interesting to your audience, and that will make it more memorable too.
4. Avoid Heavily Detailed Slides
PowerPoint presentations can be a useful way of quickly getting your audience up to speed on background information. They’re also great for providing bite-size pieces of information that can serve as a springboard for a more detailed discussion of a particular topic.
But if your slides are so detailed that you could easily give your presentation by simply reading off the slides one by one, then you’ve spent too much time developing your slideshow—and possibly not enough time on other aspects of the presentation. Reading off your slides might be an easy way to get the job done, but it’s not interesting for your audience.
This is particularly important for virtual audiences because it’s so much harder to keep people engaged online. If your presentation consists of text-covered slides, which you then read off verbatim, don’t be surprised if you get to the end and find your audience has been replaced by black squares and empty chairs.
Instead, use your slides to enhance your presentation, with images, charts, and figures that illustrate the points you’re making without repeating everything you’re saying. This helps you create a presentation that’s visually interesting and therefore more engaging to your audience.
5. Invite Your Audience to Participate
You can’t exactly ask an audience member to help you demo a product when you’re giving a virtual trade show presentation. But that doesn’t mean your audience can’t participate! When writing your presentation material, try to work in several points where you can ask your audience questions or invite their feedback.
For instance, you might decide to start by citing examples of problems your product can solve. At this point, you could ask the audience to give examples of their own. When you start talking about potential solutions as a way to segue into discussing your own product, you might work in an audience question about the kinds of solutions they’ve tried, and why they didn’t work.
Bear in mind, of course, that audience participation is possible only if your presentation is going out live. If the presentation is pre-recorded for your audience to watch on-demand, it’s better to leave those elements out. Instead, invite the audience to contact you or your sales team if they want to take the conversation further.
6. Run a Rehearsal
For any kind of public speaking or presentation, it’s practice is key. Aim for at least one complete run-through of your presentation, ideally for a virtual audience. If you can get one or more people to watch via Zoom, for instance, you can get some useful feedback on how you’re coming across to a virtual audience.
If you’re new to virtual presentations, you may also need to spend extra time working on directing your attention to the camera. This can be a difficult thing to get right if you’re not used to it, so it’s worth spending some time on. Record yourself while doing this, and you can then use the recordings to assess your progress and figure out where you need to improve.
Prepare and Practice for Your Best Chance at Success
For the uninitiated, giving a virtual trade show presentation can feel extremely intimidating. But with a good amount of preparation—and plenty of practice—you can craft a presentation that engages your audience, encourages them to interact, and gets them motivated to the next step with your company.