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How to not be upstaged with video when you’re onstage

Follow these four steps to make yourself (and your message) the center of your audience’s attention.

How to not be upstaged with video when you’re onstage
[Photo: Emily Valletta/Unsplash]

Video content is everywhere. By one recent estimate, it’ll make up over 80% of online content consumption by 2021. Video has long been changing norms in the business world, too, with videoconferencing, Skype, and Google Hangouts, to name just a few common tools reshaping our work experiences.

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What’s sometimes less apparent is how all of this impacts presentations and public speaking. A well-placed video in a slide deck, for example, can create energy and invoke emotions in ways that static PowerPoint slides can’t. But as with many good things, there’s always the possibility of overdoing it or doing it poorly–with the risk of less-than-savvy speakers getting upstaged by their own video clips. Here’s a four-step strategy to combine your own speaking skills with video content in order to get the most out of both.

Step 1: Tell the audience what to look for

You, and not your props, need to control the narrative of your presentation. Tell your audience what to look for when you introduce your video. Even better, give them a hook that reinforces your story. This isn’t just a technique for integrating digital content into a live talk; it’s just a good presentation skill. I was recently at an art museum where a guide pointed out how successful nobles commissioned their own portraits to appear in Renaissance paintings of religious subjects. Suddenly I started noticing non-saints in contemporary dress popping up in canvas after canvas. If the guide hadn’t pointed that out, I wouldn’t have spotted them among so many other figures rendered in such great detail.

Think strategically about what you want your audience to see, how you want them to feel, and what you want them to be thinking about afterward. Make sure you convey that message to them before pressing “play.”


Related: Four public speaking myths that keep ruining your presentations


Step 2: Take down the energy level

Many videos used in business settings are meant to “pump up” an audience and generate high energy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if the function of your video is to energize folks, don’t try to compete with it yourself. Some speakers try to match the energy of the video clips they show by jumping up and down and yelling, “Wow, wasn’t that great!?” This approach probably won’t work.

It’s way more compelling to present a contrast by toning it down. You can do this by walking to the center of the stage or toward another side of the screen. If you’re at a podium, you can organize yourself by moving your hands from your side to the top of the podium. If you’re at a table, you can put your hands on the table. These motions–even wordless gestures–create a break in the action and help take the energy down a notch so your audience can reset their focus on you.

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Related: This is your one-month timeline to prepare for a work presentation


Step 3: Reiterate the message of the video in your talk

Once you calm down your audience, immediately connect the video to the way you introduced it earlier. Emphasize what you wanted your audience to see (and how you wanted them to feel) so that they’re clear on why you showed the video, and how that connects to the key message of your presentation overall. By the time the video ends, your audience might have already forgotten the main point—so it’s crucial to remind them.


Related: Here’s how to avoid drawing a blank in the middle of your presentation 


Step 4: Transition quickly to next key point

Finally, pivot toward the next idea you’re going to address. The amount of time between the end of the video and your next point should be only 60 to 90 seconds. This allows for the audience to “settle down” before you get back into your presentation. But once you’ve taken the energy down and regained control over the audience, don’t waste any time pushing ahead. You can raise those energy levels back up and start speaking about your next main point.

Well-executed videos are a great way to engage your audience and enhance your message. But if you’re not careful, you’ll leave your audience thinking more about your video than your actual talk. You want them to remember you, not your multimedia.

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About the author

Anett Grant is the CEO of Executive Speaking, Inc. and the author of the new e-book, CEO Speaking: The 6-Minute Guide. Since 1979, Executive Speaking has pioneered breakthrough approaches to helping leaders from all over the world--including leaders from 61 of the Fortune 100 companies--develop leadership presence, communicate complexity, and speak with precision and power.

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