Five Tips for Presenting on the Small Screen

Posted on November 1, 2011

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For most of the past century, technology focused on making presentations ever larger.  TV screens evolved from being measured in inches to being measured in feet. Stage shows transformed from intimate communication across the footlights to massive Las Vegas-style arena extravaganzas. And even audio presentation graduated from monaural to stereo to quadraphonic to 3D to Dolby to HD.

Now, suddenly, everything’s changed.  Today we are presenting on smaller and smaller screens.  We’re watching live television on smartphone screens (measured to tenths of an inch) and handheld tablets. We’re viewing 3D movies on home televisions. And we are engaging in live video presentations via computer applications with images that may be only a few inches square.

It’s a new problem for communicators—presenting for the small screen.  All those broad gestures, stepping out toward the audience and interplay among co-presenters usually must go out the Windows in computer and mobile video settings.  Playing small-ball to win a new business competition or to motivate your employees to sharpen their game requires a more focused set of techniques for the presenter.

Here are five ways you can help expand your presence on small screens to improve the impact of your presentation:

  1. When presenting, ensure you are using an Internet connection with a fast upload speed.  Providers generally tout the download speeds that they offer, but presenters will be uploading their own video image, not downloading videos.  Therefore, you should evaluate primarily the strength of the signal that gets you to the viewer’s desktop or mobile device.
  2. Use appropriate facial expressions, rather than relying exclusively on gestures to emphasize your points.  Augment your arsenal of expressions to  include more smiles, a casual tilt of the head, a raised eyebrow, a slight lean forward or back, a look of surprise or anger, each to convey the emotive  content of your message when your face, rather than your entire body, is filling the screen.
  3. In medium-wide or wide shots, gestures remain crucial.  When the space between you and the camera increases, your face is minimized; so body language becomes more important.
  4. If you deliver your audio via a phone, rather than via the same computer application you use for video, avoid using speaker phones at both ends of the conversation. Your words will be doubly muddled if you are essentially talking into a speaker and others are listening to a speaker. Instead, imitate Broadway actors and use a small, discretely placed headset to start with a good, solid audio signal.
  5. Be sure to look directly into the camera when presenting from a remote location, especially when being viewed on small screens. Unlike standard television interviews, in which viewers “overhear” conversations between an interviewer and a newsmaker, remote presentations require that you
    maintain direct eye contact with the camera as much as possible. Looking off to the side or down can create the impression that you are uncertain or hesitant.

The screen may be small, but your presence can be enlarged if you adjust your presentation technique for mobile audiences who already have adjusted their expectations.

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