Presentation Skills for the Virtual Workplace with Roger Courville

Wayne Turmel and Roger Courville discuss the impact of virtual communication on presentations and the importance of teaching skills rather than solely focusing on technology. They note that communication is a crucial factor in the success of virtual hybrid work and that the key to success is how technology is used to connect with people. The conversation also touches on the difficulties of presenting online compared to in-person, including the lack of visual cues and how to assess audience engagement using alternative tools like dashboard features in Zoom or WebEx. Roger and Wayne emphasize the importance of learning the skills needed to present virtually and using available tools to understand the audience. They also discuss the need for a balanced approach to technology and communication to be successful in virtual presentations.

Key Points

00:00:07 - Virtual Presentations

00:02:31 - The Nature of Mediums and Human Connectedness

00:04:18 - Virtual Presentation Skills Training

00:06:52 - Online Presentation Tools

00:08:52 - "Creating Meaningful Virtual Eye Contact with Your Audience"

00:10:19 - Mastering the Art of Online Presentations

00:15:12 - Presentation Tools and Muscle Memory

00:16:42 - Maximizing Efficiency of Virtual Presentations

00:19:01 - Benefits of Using Participant Lists and Calling on People by Name in Virtual Presentations

00:20:35 - Combining Polls and Chat for Effective Q&A Tactics

Featured Guest

Name: Roger Courville

What He Does: Head of Strategy at Virtual Venues

Notable: He has been teaching about web conferencing since 1999. His white paper, "Five Keys to Moving Training Online" written in 2008 won's Reader's Choice Award for "Top Download of the Year."

Additional Resources

Order The Long-Distance Team

Remote leadership experts, Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel, help leaders navigate the new world of remote and hybrid teams to design the culture they desire for their teams and organizations in their new book!

View Full Transcript

00:00:07:19 - 00:00:32:13
Wayne Turmel
Hi, everybody. Welcome to the Long-Distance Worklife podcast. My name is Wayne Turmel. Marisa is not with us today. This is one of our guest episodes and I am really excited. Those of you who are familiar with the show know that we try to make sense of the whole virtual hybrid work thing, and nothing is more important to that than communication.

00:00:32:19 - 00:00:57:14
Wayne Turmel
And we are talking to a very smart guy. Roger Courville has been in the world of remote communication, virtual presentations as long or longer than I have, which is a really long time. He's with virtual venues. He is a writer and a teacher and all of that stuff. And Roger, good to have you with us, man.

00:00:57:15 - 00:01:00:06
Roger Courville
Oh, so glad to be with you again, Wayne. Thank you.

00:01:01:01 - 00:01:33:20
Wayne Turmel
I'm what I thought we would do is it's people. Look at things like teams and WebEx and whatever, Zoom, whatever else, and they think of them as meeting tools. But I want to talk about presentations, you know, webinars, training, teaching things, what we used to think of as presentation skills and why so many of us frankly think, Oh, we do it in a virtual environment, so let's start there.

00:01:33:20 - 00:01:42:20
Wayne Turmel
Right? We thought we knew how to talk and then we had this to work with, you know.

00:01:43:06 - 00:02:07:23
Roger Courville
Well, like you, I go way back September 1999, very first virtual event I ever worked on. And the presenter shows up by dialing in on a cell phone while he was standing in line at an airport. He had no idea what was going on. And, you know, it became fascinating to actually like you. Since I know a little piece of your story, I became fascinated with how the medium affects how we connect with people.

00:02:08:08 - 00:02:31:16
Roger Courville
Right. And sometimes the basic level is, Oh, how does Zoom work? And I or WebEx or Adobe Connect or pick your and I want to learn how to use a piece of software. But the point isn't connecting to it's connecting through. And if I can be theoretical for 92 seconds, transmission theory or medium theory of communication began to study decades ago.

00:02:31:16 - 00:03:06:04
Roger Courville
In an academic sense, the the nature of how a medium affects the sending and receiving of signal right and illustrated. We understand that you can tell a story in a book. You can tell a story in a movie, and the discipline of telling even the same story to the same audience is very different. It's a little less obvious when we use a tool like, you know, our teams or WebEx or Zoom, because what we do is we're used to being talking on the telephone, and then when we make a presentation, what do we do?

00:03:06:04 - 00:03:30:17
Roger Courville
We put a PowerPoint. But if we think about the things that are the best part of human connectedness in an in-person world, and then we move it and we ask anybody, Hey, what's the best part of connecting in person? Nobody would say somebody talking over PowerPoint. And so I think one of the key problems that we have is that we also see webinar is done badly every day.

00:03:31:05 - 00:03:42:11
Roger Courville
And so we have an expectation of what a webinar or virtual event is. And then of course, there's the personal attitude. Do I realize that I suck? Because you can't help those who don't realize they need help.

00:03:44:02 - 00:04:18:20
Wayne Turmel
I love that you said that because it has always frustrated the heck out of me that people who in a in a room, in an audience environment are engaging and charming and they interact with the audience and they're kind of fearless. And then they get online and they become presenters and all listen, it's great. All the things that we know about communicating go out the window and we do things that we know are.

00:04:18:20 - 00:04:33:03
Wayne Turmel
But if you said to somebody, I'm going to talk to you for 45 minutes, I don't want you to talk to me. I want you to sit there and hold your questions till the end as you walk out of the room. Right?

00:04:33:11 - 00:04:55:14
Roger Courville
Exactly. You know, one of the things that and I don't even know why other than the need, it seems like it's the same thing. I'm got PowerPoint, I'm talking to people. And yet if we asked people how to be successful with when technologies involved in other contexts, nobody would say, teach me the technology. And that's all I need to know, right?

00:04:55:14 - 00:05:15:16
Roger Courville
If we were teens in telephone customer service skills, yeah, we might need to know how to mute a call and forward a call. But nobody does training on the telephone and thinks that they've just been trained as a customer service agent. Right. And similarly, we wouldn't teach presentation skills and show somebody how a projector works and then think our job was done.

00:05:15:16 - 00:05:45:13
Roger Courville
And yet, at least to me, one of the things that I did, you know, was focus on skills. And over and over people would call and go, Hey, we need some, you know, a virtual presentation skills training. And I would say, great. Tell me what you want to know. Well, we use WebEx or whatever their answer was, and I'm just and I just got used to using the old sales adage, sell them what they want, but give them what they need.

00:05:45:13 - 00:06:11:02
Roger Courville
So to me, it's it's just upside down. In fact, if we're going to turn this into a teachable moment and turn it into a tip, it would be like saying someone wants to learn to be a better writer and you're going to do it specific to the medium of Microsoft Word. At some point, you might say, here's how to underline or bold some text, because that's part of you expressing yourself as a writer.

00:06:11:16 - 00:06:29:06
Roger Courville
We wouldn't only teach you that, but we would teach the tool and the tactic after the principle of going, When might I want to italicize something? If I was thinking about being a better writer and then using the tool to to execute that in a particular way.

00:06:29:13 - 00:06:52:22
Wayne Turmel
Yeah, focusing on the technology is is counter productive and yet that's where most people go, right? So here's my question. If you were talking to somebody and you had one thing for the love of all that is all you learn. This.

00:06:52:22 - 00:07:16:10
Roger Courville
Well, I know you know where I'm going. And I appreciate the question, in part because I've answered that question on on more podcasts than I've been on every time I released a book or something that I can count and I say I lean in pause for a fact open, you're at a glance tools to which someone typically goes, Huh?

00:07:16:17 - 00:07:42:04
Roger Courville
What are my at a glance tools? And I say, Okay, here, here's this slightly different, lengthier explanation. The number one complaint people move online and present is I can't see the audience that I'm connecting with. Right? And I think then the default is then talking too much, talking over PowerPoint and as you already pointed out, committing the unpardonable sin of ignoring people with their hands up.

00:07:43:21 - 00:08:06:12
Roger Courville
But when we move on line, we're minus some of the feedback mechanisms that we might be used to from standing in front of rooms. Meaning I see people are snoozing, I see people. I see that Wayne has his hand up. I see somebody else, you know, glancing at their watch, whatever that might be. And I use those visual cues to then do what I do.

00:08:07:03 - 00:08:29:17
Roger Courville
Well, how do we do that online? Various tools have all kinds of platforms Zoom, WebEx, go to, etc., have all kinds of tools that are proxies that I think of, like the dashboard of your car, right? The default is, Oh, I want to see everybody on video, but that only works in two. You get ten videos and by the time you know, most of them cut off after 25.

00:08:29:22 - 00:08:52:07
Roger Courville
And if you're presenting the any group of people, you're not going to look at 25 different cameras anyway. So you're back to going, okay, what is the way that I make eye contact, virtual eye contact with my audience, and that is to learn to use the instruments on your dashboard, like looking at the dash of your car. You don't stare at the speedometer, you glance at the speedometer and get meaningful feedback.

00:08:52:12 - 00:09:20:20
Roger Courville
Because if you stare at it too long, you get distracted and bad things happen Open. You're at a glance. Tools, to me is the single easiest and most interactive way that you can do that. Forget the hands up, forget the polls, forget the audience built in attention meters. Open the chat box and when Wayne type something in, learn to glance at it and go, Oh, Wayne makes a good comment.

00:09:20:20 - 00:09:37:21
Roger Courville
And in fact, what you figure out is that if you want, it doesn't even have to be a question like Wayne asked a question. How much should I do on Tuesdays? Great. I'm going to answer Wayne's question. How much should I know you? I'm bopping along and Wayne says, Oh, you should also do that on Tuesdays. And I'm like, Oh, perfect.

00:09:37:21 - 00:10:11:03
Roger Courville
Wayne says, You should also do that on Tuesdays. And now I just brought Wayne into the into the conversation. And assuming it's not in a really two way medium like a Zoom meeting and you maybe you're more in a one way broadcast kind of medium, you still gave Wayne a voice. People realize that you're connecting with real people in real time, and it just transforms the experience on the other side, because the downside is that if you are nothing more than a glorified YouTube video, then why should I show up live?

00:10:11:03 - 00:10:19:21
Wayne Turmel
And, you know, as I've tried to explain to people, hands up everybody who's never fallen asleep in front of the television right.

00:10:19:21 - 00:10:24:03
Roger Courville
Exactly. Has a great voice.

00:10:24:03 - 00:10:45:15
Wayne Turmel
Yeah. I love what you say, that notion of getting that feedback, because that's what freaks us out, right, is we're speaking into the void and then we get in our own head because we're not getting the smiles and the nods and they're laughing at our silly jokes. Well, if I see somebody put up a smiley face laughing emoji, I know that they're there.

00:10:45:15 - 00:10:46:18
Wayne Turmel
I'm getting feedback.

00:10:46:20 - 00:11:16:13
Roger Courville
Right? Right. And you know, you can I mean, and that's you asked the one tip to where you start. Let me encourage someone listening to think that we can get really deep and advance. Let me give you one example. Frequently, if not most frequently, when you're presenting online, you're in a different audio environment, meaning you hear yourself differently, whether you've got a headset on or you're listening through your computer speakers.

00:11:16:20 - 00:11:38:12
Roger Courville
Even right where I'm right at right now, like in a in a guest room because I'm on the road and not in front of my regular microphone. It sounds different in terms of how I have my own biofeedback in my own head. It sounds different than my usual studio, but any of those sounds different than when you're standing on stage or in a room that's big enough to seat 50 or 100 people.

00:11:38:19 - 00:11:58:23
Roger Courville
Now, you might not think that's critical, but I've seen over and over that part of what creates apprehension is that something is different and there is something psychosocial is different about presenting in a different space. Maybe you're in a cubicle or you're in a small office or or you're listening on your earbuds or you know what I mean?

00:11:59:06 - 00:12:11:02
Roger Courville
So we think you can get really deep about the things to become conscious about, to master the environment. I mean, that's not where I'd start, but that's how literally how deep we can get.

00:12:11:02 - 00:12:35:02
Wayne Turmel
Sure. Well, there's a couple of things that you just said that I think are maybe news to some people, Right? Number one is you said very early on about making eye contact with your audience. And I think the number one mistake, you know, where I'm going with this that people make is they make eye contact with the picture of their audience right corner of the screen, which is not where their audience is.

00:12:35:02 - 00:12:50:11
Wayne Turmel
Eyes open, right? That little picture can't see their eyes are straight ahead looking into the camera. But that notion of making eye contact with the camera is literally not natural.

00:12:50:11 - 00:13:18:18
Roger Courville
Right. And another thing that's that is maybe too natural would be this. If you're standing in front of a room and you were had your back to the audience and you stared at your PowerPoint slides, let alone read them, people would think you sucked, right? And yet what what do we do when we move online? Now they're right in front of our face and we have more propensity to want to read things literally or use my PowerPoint as a teleprompter.

00:13:18:18 - 00:13:49:21
Roger Courville
And that's not natural, right? I mean, maybe it's almost too natural to just glance at my PowerPoint slides because they're right in front of my face. But that's not where and how you would make connection. Think more like a TV person. You want to make eye contact with the camera. Now, even great TV hosts don't always in fact, a lot of one of the trends in the last couple of decades relative to how TV used to be used to be a lot is not necessarily making 100% eye contact with the camera.

00:13:49:21 - 00:14:10:20
Roger Courville
Right. We know the teleprompter. Look at the teleprompter in that way. It looks like I'm always making eye contact with the camera. And you can do those kinds of things virtually. And there's a number of contraptions that will help you try to figure out a teleprompter while making eye contact with your with your computer camera. But most most of the time, authenticity wins.

00:14:12:03 - 00:14:31:22
Wayne Turmel
That is so important. I can't tell you how often I've said to people, you know, we do certain things when we're presenting online because we don't want to make a mistake. We don't engage the audience that ask questions because we want to get through all our material and, you know, we don't.

00:14:32:05 - 00:14:36:11
Roger Courville
That's an amateur mistake offline to all.

00:14:36:11 - 00:14:40:21
Wayne Turmel
Absolutely. But they are the group we used to.

00:14:40:21 - 00:14:45:16
Roger Courville
Call that trying to squeeze £50 of spuds into a £5 sack.

00:14:45:16 - 00:15:11:10
Wayne Turmel
Your grandpa, he's so much nicer than mine is. Yes, exactly what it is. But those kinds of things we do for our convenience as the presenter, like we read our slides because we don't want to forget anything. We don't want to read out a point. And I always tell people we, your audience, will forgive imperfection. They will not forgive having their time wasted.

00:15:12:21 - 00:15:15:14
Roger Courville
Oh, bingo.

00:15:15:14 - 00:15:16:16
Wayne Turmel
So what you call.

00:15:16:20 - 00:15:21:03
Roger Courville
Five extra bonus points for Turmel? Oh, my gosh. Yes, right.

00:15:21:17 - 00:15:55:09
Wayne Turmel
Lying squirrels, acorns. You know how that works. We could do this all day and have did. But here's the thing. It's the muscle memory involved in using tools. And I don't care what it is. Say, WebEx, whatever the tool aims. Yeah, it's really not that important. They all do 90% of the same thing, but there's a muscle memory involved and as a result, we tend to not use all of the tools because we don't know them.

00:15:55:09 - 00:16:19:14
Wayne Turmel
We're not used to them. We don't want to get thrown off. What are the three features? Because 80% of people use 20% of the features, right? Is kind of the rule. What are the three features of that most platforms have, right? They're kind of universal. That would make a huge difference to how people present.

00:16:19:14 - 00:16:42:08
Roger Courville
Let me put an exclamation point behind something you just said and it will do sketch and I already told you my first feature, so we'll get to the next couple, but exclamation point when when it's not. You used the term muscle memory, right? That autonomic thing. It's like swinging golf club when you're thinking about it. It sucks. So you just have to do it enough so that it's not.

00:16:42:08 - 00:17:07:16
Roger Courville
You don't have to think, Where do I find the mute button? And and actually, scientifically, when we experience some level of apprehension, right, our our adrenaline increases, our breathing gets more shallow and our voice doesn't sound as awesome and a bunch of other things and we. Oh, and we forget things that we thought we knew cold. So that your point about muscle memory is dead on?

00:17:07:16 - 00:17:09:09
Roger Courville
It's not hard. It's just.

00:17:09:09 - 00:17:11:08
Wayne Turmel
It only takes half a dozen times.

00:17:11:13 - 00:17:27:21
Roger Courville
Right? It's not hard. It's just different. You just got to do it a few times. Particularly if you're working with a great coach like Wayne Trammell Big, who's going to who's going to know what to walk you through and how to to to maximize the efficiency of those repetitions. So I mentioned the idea of chat just to open it up.

00:17:29:06 - 00:18:03:19
Roger Courville
The second one that I think is overlooked is almost not a feature. It's a it's a behavior which would be the ability or willingness to stop sharing your desktop. So even if you are just going to do a webinar and you're going to present PowerPoint and it's just going to roll every once in a while, if you stopped presenting PowerPoint, even if you weren't going to show anything else, you stop presenting PowerPoint because maybe you're going to take a moment just to check out the chat or something and answer a question.

00:18:05:11 - 00:18:35:21
Roger Courville
When you stop on every one of these platforms, if you stop sharing, something happens for the audience that moves their player around right there, where the location of the video reconfigures or whatever. So just the act of stopping sharing and restarting your sharing of terms that you push in your PowerPoint creates a psychological trigger on the other end of the on the other end, right?

00:18:35:21 - 00:19:01:07
Roger Courville
So and then I'll extend that to the ability to turn on or off anything. For instance, if you truly aren't going to take questions, turn off the raise hand feature as opposed to let waiting in the front row raise his hand and sit there for 30 minutes wondering if you actually saw him. Right. I know you've probably experienced what I have read presenting to a larger audience and somebody submits a question and and then they go, Hey, did you see my question?

00:19:01:22 - 00:19:29:18
Roger Courville
Because they don't realize they're sitting there with 800 other people, right? So the same would happen with turning on or off a raise hand feature or something like that. If there was a third feature that I might that I would say is critical, at least to the way that I do things, it's parallel to the chat box, which is simply the ability for you to see names and call on people by name.

00:19:29:18 - 00:19:30:09
Roger Courville
Now in most.

00:19:30:12 - 00:19:32:08
Wayne Turmel
Recipient lists is your friend.

00:19:32:16 - 00:19:55:19
Roger Courville
Right now most of the cases that's enough integrated with chatter questions so that you can go, Oh, Wayne makes a great comment. But whether it's the tool or the skill, something your first grade teacher knew that one of her best tactics was to call on Wayne by name as opposed to, Hey, you troubled kid in the back row.

00:19:55:19 - 00:20:16:21
Roger Courville
That's right. So and and if even if you're talking to 800 people, if I say, oh, Julie asks personally, I only use first names unless I, you know, it's cool to do something else. And personally, I also go, Pradeep, Pradeep, did I get your name right? I'm just not going to be shy. Did I get your name right?

00:20:16:21 - 00:20:35:01
Roger Courville
And sometimes you mispronounce it and they'll type the phonetics into the chat and you just made a friend because you asked them how their name was pronounced, but that to your point, participant list or the ability to call on a name is like using a name tag when you're sitting in front of somebody or in an in-person sense.

00:20:35:09 - 00:20:50:07
Roger Courville
And there is a tool plus skill that dramatically transforms attention. Because if I call on Julie or Pradeep, even if I didn't call out Wayne's name, Wayne knows that I'm connecting with real people in real time.

00:20:50:14 - 00:20:53:15
Wayne Turmel
And Wayne might be next, and so he'd better pay attention.

00:20:53:22 - 00:21:15:06
Roger Courville
Right? Oh, well, let's talk about that as a Q&A tactic. You know, maybe you get to get to end and you're doing Q&A at the end and you go all right, Julie, great question, Wayne. I see your question. Your next something accuser. Oh, Wayne, I'm next. You're right. So people are people are paying attention. So anyway, there's a thousand of those.

00:21:15:10 - 00:21:40:00
Wayne Turmel
I love, and I'm not going to try to add the 37 things that came your question. But the notion of changing the view is really important because people are a little like raccoons, color, light and motion gets our attention. So when something changes, even if I'm not really paying attention, all of a sudden I reconnect. And the same is true for audio.

00:21:40:06 - 00:21:57:02
Wayne Turmel
One of the reasons for taking questions as you go is any time there's a new speaker, our brains automatically reconnect and so I love this Roger. We could geek out. I mean, we had one more. Yeah. As long as we're.

00:21:57:02 - 00:22:29:16
Roger Courville
Talking about maybe unconventional ways to use tools. I love I love combining polls and chat when I ask questions. Polling gives you quantitative data, right? I know that 37% chose a and 27% chose B, but I love to use it like a like a Likert scale where the all of the above or open ended option is, okay, I give you A, B, C, and D, and then on E, I right other parentheses add yours to the chat and it gives you a chance to connect those long tail, right?

00:22:29:16 - 00:22:50:22
Roger Courville
I mean, if you're asking the question you know, 80% of the people are going to choose C but now somebody can give you their corner case piece and they type something in the chat and it gives you something a chance to respond going, Oh, that's an interesting that's an interesting answer, Kyle said. E And here's what he said is a way to combine the quantitative and the qualitative.

00:22:50:22 - 00:22:54:01
Roger Courville
And it's it's a it's a really powerful way to think about polling.

00:22:54:14 - 00:23:18:21
Wayne Turmel
Love it. We could both geek out on this. We have both literally written the book or written a book like this. And, you know, look up Roger Courville on Amazon. You will find all kinds of good stuff. You'll find what I've done in the field. Roger, thank you so much, man. I really appreciate your wisdom, your tips. This is really good stuff.

00:23:18:21 - 00:23:44:07
Wayne Turmel
For those of you listening, we will have in the show notes, Roger's LinkedIn and his website and virtual venues and all of that good stuff. You will find those at That's where we have the show notes for each episode. You can reach out to Marisa and I any time Marisa Eikenberry is on LinkedIn.

00:23:44:07 - 00:24:13:08
Wayne Turmel If you have not yet please feel free to pick up Kevin in my new book The Long-Distance Team: Designing Your Team for everyone in Success. We are so glad you join us. We'll be back next week with the Marisa episode and thank you so much. Don't let the weasels get you down and we will talk to you soon.

00:24:13:08 - 00:24:34:01
Wayne Turmel
Thanks so much.

Your Host

Wayne Turmel

Master Trainer and Coach for The Kevin Eikenberry Group, co-author of The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership and The Long-Distance Teammate: Stay Engaged and Connected While Working Anywhere, and trainer of remote teams for over twenty years.

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