Rehearsing to speak online can feel a bit odd, especially when video software enters the mix. You’ll be more effective in rehearsal if you’re aware of the speaking context. Knowing the context will and should inform how you rehearse for a digital speech because you should always rehearse under the conditions that you’ll speak.
Generally, we recommend integrating aesthetic strategies as you would for other speeches— including the purposeful development of verbal, nonverbal delivery, and presentation aids. There are a few additional variables for delivering a speech digitally.
Verbal Delivery
Verbal delivery is key in a digital speech – particularly webinars or web conferencing where your vocals overlay a slideshow and your body isn’t visible to an audience. Verbal enunciation, punctuation, rate, and pauses become key to maintaining your audiences’ attention. “Energy” becomes a key word – an energetic voice has variety and interest to it.
Audio-recording yourself during rehearsal on your smartphone or other device is a good first step, followed by thinking critically and honestly about whether your voice is listless, flat, or lacks energy. Since we tend to have a lower energy level when we sit, some experts suggest that web conference speakers stand to approximate the real speaking experience. As we have mentioned many times, preparing means practicing your speech orally and physically, many times.
Sound and projection are two variables that can affect your verbal delivery in digital contexts. It’s important to rehearse with any technology – including a microphone – that will be present and in the physical context that you’ll record the formal speech. If you have a microphone, you will need to alter your projection level. If you don’t have a microphone, be aware of how the recording device will pick up sound – including your voice and other noise around you. Extra noise can influence your credibility and the likelihood that an audience will continue listening.
Nonverbal Delivery
When rehearsing your nonverbal delivery, ask, “what’s visible in the video?”
Eye contact is still a key part of a digital speech. While you can avoid staring directly into the camera for an extended period of time, audiences still want some form of engagement, and eye contact allows you to make that connection. If you are recording the speech with or without a live audience, view the camera as your “audience substitute.”
Your facial expressions are also visible in a digital speech. If the camera is close up, this is even more true. Rehearse under these conditions, and record your facial expressions to see how they are translating to others. Also, ask: what is visible in the video? What adjustments do you want to make? Can you move further back? Can you adjust the camera? You will only have answers to these questions through a videoed rehearsal.
Finally, your background is also part of your video’s nonverbal aesthetics. Make sure that you consider how the background might translate to your audience. Is it messy? Distracting? Is it a white background? If so, you should avoid wearing white and disappearing into the walls.
Remember that your goal is to create an aesthetic experience that honors the purpose of your speech, so being accountable to all nonverbal factors will increase your ethos.


Presentation Aids

In some cases, an online speech will include presentation aids. It’s important to determine a) if the presentation aid is necessary and b) if you’re able to provide that presentation aid in a different form.
First, are you certain you need a presentation aid? It can be tempting to use a presentation aid for a digital speech to avoid being visible to the audience. After all, it’s common for digital presentation software to display either a visual aid or your body. If you’re only using a visual aid to avoid being displayed, that’s likely a poor reason, particularly because your embodied presentation is more interesting to the audience.
Also, ask: do I need to provide it live or in the recording? If you’re presenting to a discrete audience and want to provide a graph or some data, send the information in a report ahead of time. This will allow your audience to feel acquainted with the information and can save you from having an additional technological component.
Speaking for an Online Class
Film your whole body—not just your head and shoulders
Do tech walk-throughs and make sure your camera is working well and picking up your voice. Make sure you can get the recording to your instructor. You probably will not be able to just send it through email because the file will be too big. You will have to post it to the cloud in some manner.
Wear appropriate clothing. Not being in class may tempt you to wear something too informal. This might be an opportunity to go a step beyond in your clothing. Make sure, also, that it looks good on camera in terms of color and lighting in your setting.
Be conscious of lighting. The light should be coming from behind the camera.
Digital public speaking is evolving. These tips and tactics should help not just avoid the major problems but also cross the finish line into an effective presentation.
Make it a champion day!

Brandon K. Hardison – Champion Strategies

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