When I was a little kid, just about the same time of the year, my family and I went to the local Dussehra festival. It was a fun experience with all different carousels, merry-go-rounds, slides, and many other things. There was this musical instrument seller who had different kinds of flutes and trumpets on sale. He was playing the flute to attract potential buyers and the audience. Indeed, he had great talent to create that kind of mesmerizing music. I was so fascinated by that; I requested my father to buy one flute for me. Giving in to my nagging, he bought one. I was very excited to play with it and show off my friends that day as we headed back home.
After freshening up, I picked up the flute and started playing. And gosh! It sounded so terrible, even to my ears. First, I was confused, wondering how that seller played so nicely, and I could not do it despite having the same instrument to play. I came back to my senses as my father nudged me, "Flutes don't make artists. Artists use the flute to show their talent."
Flutes don't make artists. Artists use the flute to show their talent.
Looking for a better flute phenomenon is neither new nor bygone. It keeps popping up in different scenarios. We often attribute this quote to Henry Ford, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."
Nowadays, when a question pops up regarding improving virtual presence, people still ask for faster horses and better flutes. Just that horses replaced with filters and video calling features, and flutes replaced with high-end cameras and microphones. People say something along the lines of, "Zoom should add more filters and features. There should be xyz feature in MS Teams."
We are somehow ignoring that a better brush doesn't make one a better artist, or a better pen doesn't make one a better writer. It all depends on the craft of the trade. However, when it comes to the virtual world, you not only need better content, but you also need better media production. And that's a kicker for many.
If you are not a media personality or do not have any close contact with media production, this may sound too overwhelming or irrelevant. So, let me explain.
When we speak, our speaking rate is around about 150 to 200 words per minute. However, when we listen or see, we don't see in words. We see pictures, motion pictures. And if you believe in the picture is worth a thousand words maxim, you know there is a substantial gap between someone speaking and the next person listening. Listeners' sensors pick up far too many things, and if the speaker or presenter does not feed them, they wander elsewhere. And that's when you lose your audience.
When we listen or see, we don't see in words. We see pictures, motion pictures.
We not only want to grab the audience's attention but also maintain it. Have enough engagement to make sure that we captivate the audience and provide some level of novelty to pay attention to.
However, when I looked around and sought advice on improving virtual presence, "Look into the camera," is all I got. Some of my friends tell me they have been told to over amplify gestures to compensate for the medium's lacunae, which I find ridiculous. The last thing we want on a video call is to have our image frozen in a funny embarrassing pose.
Moreover, have you noticed a change in people's level of acceptance of your virtual presence lately?
Take this quick little quiz and check your virtual presence influence score.
When the first lock-down was imposed, many of us picked up the pace to get our acts together. The initial few months gave us enough practice to be reasonably comfortable with virtual meetings and presentations of all kinds.
But the novelty is wearing off. People have developed more discerning eyes and ears. Like it or not, we judge what we see! Once a distraction at home was considered cute, now it is being perceived as unprofessional. Any decent dress was initially acceptable; now, everyone (kind of) expects people to be dressed up for the virtual meeting.
One thing we all would agree, virtual presentations are here to stay. And that means just scraping by is not going to work. Especially when your business, reputation, and earning potential depend on it, having an engaging virtual presence is more critical than before.
Just scraping by in virtual presentations is not going to work. Especially if your business, reputation, and earning potential depends on it.
So, now the key question is, how can you do it? How can you increase the production value of your presentation? How much can that cost, and how difficult could that be?
Well, the answer is somewhat complicated yet simple. It may not be easy, though. But it is possible!
It all starts with what we have and how we want to deliver it. It means whether we want to deliver educational information, inspirational content, tell a story with many benefits or get into an FYI type of meeting. Depending upon what we are set to do, our whole act's composition beforehand for the video call, webinar, or presentation is necessary. Think of it as a screenplay or storyboarding in some sense. When you know what you will be doing, you can plan things better. You may not want to deliver everything in a talking-head format. You may want to use some media to support your delivery (aka b-roll footage) or mix and match PowerPoint or images.
Once you know how everything needs to play out, we can look for the right tools to accomplish and complement that. For example, I teach people how to leverage technology to improve their virtual presence. But that's like teaching someone how to play the flute. The basic requirement is, they got to know their composition well. Technology is often easier (relatively speaking) part of the whole thing.
Most of us also think that increasing and improving production value needs an elaborate, expensive, and specialized setup. That is not the case. Better planning and composition is a necessary and sufficient requirement.
And, you don't always have to do big things to make a big impact. Sometimes, small, little things can make all the difference. If you have got your composition figured out, the rest will be easy. I or anyone else can teach you the rest.
The point is virtual presence, presentations, and deliveries are not going anywhere. Even if everything comes back to normal (what that looks like), they are here to stay. If that is the case, why not learn the skill and master it?
And remember, a better flute may not make you a better artist, but a better composition definitely will!
A better flute may not make you a better artist, but a better composition definitely will!
How about your virtual presence and influence? Take this quick little quiz and check your virtual presence influence score now.