Reading the Zoom

Author: Copacino Fujikado

How we've been slogging through the digital awkwardness the best way possible.

Presentations during COVID-19. What a time to be alive. 

First, let's recount the complications: you're speaking to a literal void. There's little-to-no body language validation. It's hard to see heads nod along, even when they do. Humor attemps can land poorlyeven if they're funny! Energy levels can be hard to read. And if the client has their camera off? Good luck, friend.

For early-pandemic Zoom presentations (and Teams...since there's a chance our friend Bill G. is reading this), the feeling once we logged off went something like this:

Boom! We slayed that like a seasoned bunch of TED Talkers. Wait. Did we? Not sure. Guess they'll...get back to us...welp, on to the next meeting!

Since those early times, we've learned a lot. What to do. What doesn't work so well. And just like anything else, the more at-bats we've gotten, the better we've become. The north star we've strived for, as is the case with any presentation, is this: make every presentation a dialogue, not a monologue. And that means winning starts with engaging our audience.

This philosophy is proving itself in ways besides just, well, being a philosophy. We've picked up a number of new business wins without having the benefit of an in-person wooing. Here are a few WAYS TO ENGAGE, if you will, we've found helpful while presenting in Zoomland:


Keep it loose, keep it human.

Having a designated warm up act to log on a little early and start the small talk is a great way to warm up the crowd and set the tone of the conversation. Baby or dog walks in? Great. Bring 'em in! Show 'em off! Welcome the humanity, but keep the interruption brief. Embracing IT pratfalls are fine too, because we've all been through them. "Oh, Client Matt is frozen! Well, I guess he hates that idea! Ha!" Again, when it comes to any of these, it's a quick mention before moving on just as quickly. The difference is, now you get to proceed with a slightly-more-loosened-up-than-before crowd. In our most recent call with our new client, the rapport felt great right awaybefore the meeting even officially started. So, by the time we started screen sharing, energy levels were already high. 


Blow up the chat.

Chat can be, especially in early client/agency relationship stages, a great ice breaker and nod to human-speakas well as a chance to make sure everyone is tracking without disrupting the presenter's flow: "any questions, feel free to chime in or stop us!" Use sparingly so as not to distract or derail.

If you have a double screen, you'll have the extra real estate for internal chats with your team members. They can help call things out that may go unnoticed because of your video grid layout or send discreet tips to help you navigate your way through the presentation.


Find the energy and focus.

As you're presenting, it helps to pin the person on the other side who gives off the best vibe. Put them right under your video cam and make virtual eye contact with that person. Call them out. Relate to them. Leverage their energy. Bonus: if they're a decision-maker, they'll affect the opinions and POV of the others on their team as well. 


Zooming. It's a vibe.

Backgroundswhether virtual or whatever you have laid out behind youcan lead to a conversation. The same goes for presentation outfits. Some wear sportscoats. The brave ones, mustaches. Less is more. But something is something. Because your background and your outfit are just another way to connect with clients on a human, emotional level.

Especially in a period of time where connections are fewer and farther between than we're all used to.