Virtual Public Speaking Adjusting to the Digital Shift

Virtual Public Speaking: Adjusting to the Digital Shift

Webinars have been a thing for a while now. Similarly, we’ve all used popular video conferencing apps like Skype, Google Hangouts, and more. 

People have typically preferred in-person meetings. However, with the current situations in place, there is no option but to go virtual.

This has put quite a damper on the world of public speaking. But the new normal is here, and we might as well get used to it. 

As zoom calls take over the world of meetings, public speaking online has also become the norm.

If you’re preparing your virtual speech, we’ve come prepared with tips on how you can adjust to this digital shift. So adjust your laptop cameras, and here we go!

21 Virtual Public Speaking Tips

From the stage to a screen, it can be quite a drastic switch for most people. After all, you’ve only just gotten used to body gestures and audience interaction when the entire scene has shifted. 

There’s now a whole new range of things for you to keep in mind. But don’t you worry, we’ve come prepared with easy to follow tips to help you conquer the virtual stage as well!

Frame Yourself

Unlike on a stage, people cannot get the first impression of you simply by your looks. 

However, we still recommend you dress up with a professional look even for your virtual conference. 

Beyond that, what you need to remember is your frame is all that your audience has to judge you by, so you want to make sure it is perfectly adjusted.

Most people take on the virtual stage without even checking their own video feed. We’ve seen many many presentations lose their impact simply because of poor lighting and terrible camera angles. 

Before the presentation, we recommend testing out your video feed by turning on your laptop camera or webcam.

Remember, we’re trying to preserve the stage feeling for the audience, so try to keep the camera at an eye-level. 

If you place the camera lower than your face, you will be displaying an unflattering double-chin or have to have people look up at you. 

Similarly, if the camera is too high, you will cut out your arms, and they will only see a close-up of your face talking.

Both of these scenarios cause the audience to lose focus. If your table is not high enough, try supporting your laptop on a stack of books to level it. 

Next, place yourself at the center of the screen and make sure your hands are visible. 

Using the rule of thirds of photography, imagine the screen is divided into three horizontal sections. Try to keep your eyes in the top section. 

Do not cut off any part of your face. Make sure it is a comfortable position for you to speak in as well.

Basic Backgrounds

Many times we’re so focused on the framing that we forget to pay attention to our backgrounds. 

We recommend having one solid wall behind you to minimize distractions. You might not realize it, but having multiple walls or corners and pillars in the frame can take away from the main attraction: You. 

Having a basic background will make sure to help you stand out as the only animated object in the frame.

Not the time to showcase your decor

We’re sure you have amazing artwork or a trophy case that you’d think makes for a great background. 

However, we recommend having as little of it in the frame as possible. As nice as it is to have control of your surroundings, it does take away from your content. 

Your audience will have you on a full screen. You want them to spend that time focused on your expressions, gestures, and most importantly, your story. 

You don’t need any fancy furniture or multi-colored walls to keep their attention because your content is already king.


It isn’t always easy to apply the above tips. After all, you can’t help if you don’t have a solid, clean background available at a moment’s notice. 

Similarly, it might not be the easiest to not have paintings or closets in the background if you’re speaking from your office. In this case, you just need to minimize it. 

What we’re going for here is symmetry. Humans often tend to fixate on things that don’t align. 

Think about it, how much would it bother you if you noticed a smudge on the left of the speaker throughout the speech. 

Unlike the stage, here, you can actually pre-assess your surroundings. Make sure everything that is visible on your screen is properly aligned.

Light it up

Do not be stingy with the lighting. It doesn’t matter if you’re speaking in the afternoon and you think there’s plenty of lighting already. 

Never assume and always test it out. No matter how much light you can physically see, your webcam might have a different view. 

There’s nothing worse than trying to squint and see a speaker’s expressions. 

Poor video quality can drastically affect your audience’s attention. Make sure the light sources are not behind you as they can then cast an unflattering shadow. 

Have your window or light sources facing you so that you can be properly seen throughout. 

Like every other point, make sure you check this adequately before your presentation and not during your allotted time.

Hide Your Chair

In another de-cluttering tip, try not to use a high-backed chair if you’re sitting during your speech. Remember that framing is key. 

Minimize all possible distractions and make sure you take center stage. Furthermore, some high-back chairs can have fancy or gaming designs that might disrupt your professional outlook.

It is also typically a better idea to stand as you will have better control over your stance. It is difficult to convey confidence while sitting on a chair.

Eye contact

Making eye contact with your laptop camera no doubt is nothing like meeting the eyes of individual people in a crowd. 

You may have spent a lot of time practicing this on stage and now feel like the scene has shifted. 

Virtual speaking is also a lot less forgiving than your average stage. This is because every upward or wayward glance will be seen in full screen by your audience. 

There is simply no hiding it. The way to tackle this is to practice speaking by looking into your web camera. 

Since you can see your own screen, it can be very tempting to present your entire speech watching yourself. 

However, this does not make your audience feel like you are looking directly at them as you will be glancing downwards.

Try not to look around the room too much as it will break the attention you have thus far collected. 

If you wear spectacles, make sure the screen isn’t simply reflected on them. Your eyes are a key source of expression and necessary for building engagement.

No wires, please

You might be so used to using your earphones or headphones in your calls that you might not even question it. 

However, they can be quite restrictive to your movement. It is likely that you won’t be using these while practicing. 

It can really break a moment to have your AirPods fall out or see your hands tangled into your earphones. Large headsets can also take away from your professional attire. 

Unless you are located in an especially noisy background that your microphone can cancel out, we say, no wires, please. It does more harm than good.

Desire for Attire

The virtual space is very limiting in many ways. Dress-up is not one of them. Think about it. Loud chatters to bright, unflattering lights, every variable is canceled out. 

You are positioned center stage on your audience’s screens, so you definitely need to bring in your A-game.

Many people choose to go for suits, which is always a safe and dependable choice. You don’t have to feel limited to this, though. 

We just mean you should definitely switch out of your sweatshirt. Try to stick to business casual as it should suit most audiences.

We recommend you stay away from loud colors or patterns. Once again, it might be distracting and take away from your message. 

No matter how cute or funny you think your punny shirt might be, it will immediately take your audience’s eyes away from you and your content. 

Remember, your attire does almost as much of the talking as you do, so try to make it match your message.

Visual Adaptation

Be careful when using visual aids in virtual presentations. For starters, many stages tend to have rules against them. 

So you might want to check with the host or organizers before pulling out any props. Visibility, as well as accessibility, become quite large roadblocks when it comes to presenting in the limited space of a screen. 

Your setup will need to be practiced to the last detail to make sure that you don’t take up too much of your screen time scrambling to set things up. 

This is why you need to make sure that any prop you decide to include is essential to your presentation. 

Similarly, do not treat it as simply any other prop on stage and make sure to adapt it according to your virtual stage.

Stay on Screen

When you practice your speech for the virtual stage, make sure that you do enough takes in front of your laptop screen as well. 

As important as a strong stance is, digital space is no excuse to remain glued to your spot. Movement is essential, but it is easy to veer off-camera fairly easily. 

You don’t want to have half your body out of the reach of your webcam for most of your speech. 

So before you join the meeting, establish how much movement room you actually have. Framing is still important, no matter where you move. 

In a virtual setting, you will need to make sure your movements look complimenting on a screen as well. Without this preliminary check, it is easy to keep checking your own screen to make sure you’re in place. This can be damaging to effective eye contact. So whatever you do, do your practice runs with your laptop as well!

Slow Down

In your typical stage, you would slow down my moving around the stage or stopping to make eye contact. 

However, while you’re speaking on your own with no input, it can be difficult to know whether you’re talking without pauses. 

Practicing pauses becomes more important here than on a stage as you will seem much more unnatural in this setting. 

All focus is on you, which is great, but it also means that any mistake will get magnified.

If this is a multi-speaker setting, make sure you nod along while the other speaker is speaking. 

Try not to look at your phone or dart your eyes while listening. Chances are the speaker will glance over to the audience section, and it can be very discouraging to see people being distracted. 

Treat it like a regular stage, and as they say, “do as you’d like done for you.”

Avoid Interruptions

Whether you live with your family or roommates, nothing quite spoils the mood as much as people barging into your room. 

Moreover, people arguing, talking, or laughing loudly can be very distracting for your audience. 

After all, you’ve spent all this time on framing and dressing up. You wouldn’t want background noise to ruin your setup. 

So make sure you inform your family or roommates when your speech is taking place. Even if your house is typically quiet and you aren’t expecting company, don’t take that chance.

Inform everybody of the date of the virtual conference with another reminder the day-of. Besides, the noise from your background is just as likely to distract you as it is to distract your audience.  

Test runs! Test runs! Test runs!

No matter how much faith you have in your internet service provider, do not take a leap of faith on game day. J

ust as we like to stress the importance of practice, we cannot stress this enough: Test runs.

It will cause a lot of adjusting difficulty for the moderators if you keep dropping in and out of the meeting. 

The hassle can waste a lot of time and might annoy your audience if you have to keep restarting your speech. 

If you do your test runs ahead of time, you’ll have enough time to prepare backups in case something does go wrong. 

The rest run is not just limited to your internet but also any props and lightings that need rearranging. 

If you are going to be using presentation slides with screen share, make sure you coordinate with the tech master so that everything goes smoothly. Give yourself enough room so you can avoid panic.

Keep Your Spirits High

Keeping your energy high in a virtual conference can be tough. After all, you don’t have the bright faces and audience interaction that usually keeps your spirits up. 

But what you need to remember is that your audience is also feeling this lack of interaction. So you need to actually serve a double dose. 

Since you are in command of the stage, you need to do everything you can to avoid being monotone. 

Do some stretches and pump yourself up well before the meeting. Show up with a brilliant smile and high spirits.

Have a Good Internet Connection

This tip works in good harmony with tip 16. Speedtest your wifi connection well in advance. You want your display as well as your audio to be crystal clear. 

Try to switch to a LAN connection if your wifi is not the strongest. You might even want to consider switching to a hotspot connection for your speech, if possible.

Create Symmetry with Other Speakers

During a virtual conference, particularly when there is more than one person on the screen, it is important that all speakers are in the same position, or at least as similar as possible. 

This helps create symmetry, and symmetry is what our mind defines as beautiful (or, in this case, professional/high quality).

Schedule Some Fun

Video conferencing sets a lot of limits in terms of interaction. Part of the fun in a conference is getting the crowd livened up and hearing that thunderous applause or laughter. 

The challenge is definitely in figuring out how to schedule this fun over a virtual connection.

It means that you will need to allot enough time for each panelist to speak. You need to ensure there is no overlapping between speakers. 

The moderator shoulders a big responsibility in keeping everything balanced. Make sure no one speaker takes up all the speaking time. 

Similarly, encourage lively discussions, plan in some musical sections if you have any music enthusiasts in your audience.

We advise against spontaneous panel discussions. If there are multiple hosts, have practice runs to avoid any trouble on the day of. 

Also, get a qualified tech master to make sure there are no glitches.

Tip for the Virtual Audience

Not all the tips are for the speaker. As much as it’s important to you to be a good speaker on a virtual platform, it is just as important to a speaker that might come before or after you. 

It is only fair to return the favor. Put away your phone, and make sure it is silent. Mute yourself when someone else is speaking. 

We encourage having your video on as it will make the speaker feel as though there is an audience. 

Nod along attentively and respond with a smile whenever required. If you have your video on, make sure you are not moving around or appearing distracted.

Wrapping up

Speaking on a virtual platform instead of a stage might seem daunting at first, Afterall there are so many factors to keep track of. 

However, once you see them broken down into easy to follow tips, it is much easier to implement. 

Furthermore, you are now able to understand the importance of adjusting these factors.

There are certainly many technical aspects that you are not used to handling. Now you not only have to perfect your content but also be wary of your lighting, internet stability, and audience control with no interaction. 

Knowing these factors is a step in the right direction. Just like with in-person conferences, with enough practice, you will have this down in no time.

We hope our 21 tips are helpful in helping you conquer the virtual stage. While it seems intimidating at first, at the heart of it, it is still just you addressing your audience, be it with a few additional bells and whistles.