Patti Sanchez has over 30 years of experience in developing transformative communications for brands and causes. She is the author of Presenting Virtually: Communicate and Connect with Online Audiences and co-author of Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies, and Symbols. As Chief Strategy Officer for Duarte, Inc., Patti develops products for the training business and teaches leaders how to create authentic connections with their audiences and influence change through persuasive communication.
In this conversation, Patti discusses her new book, Presenting Virtually: Communicate and Connect with Online Audiences.
Geetesh: Patti, congratulations on your new book, Presenting Virtually: Communicate and Connect With Online Audiences. Please share with our readers what motivated and inspired you to write this book?
Patti: I’m a helper who’s naturally wired to swoop in when somebody’s struggling and offer to get them unstuck, so that’s what motivated me to write this book. As you know, back in 2020 lots of people were working remotely for the first time and had to figure out how to get their ideas across to others at a distance. So, we were constantly getting emails from customers who said their employees used to be good at presenting in person but when it came time to present remotely, they fell flat. Others said their employees were having trouble with even the basics of virtual communication, like knowing what technology to use or how to speak effectively into a video camera.
The Duarte team scurried to capture and codify our knowledge about virtual presentations and that’s what I summarized in the book. Two years later you’d think presenters would be pros at communicating remotely, but sadly many still are not. We recently surveyed over 500 knowledge workers to ask them how well their companies communicate virtually. The average rating they gave for virtual communication and virtual presentations was barely better than 5 on a scale of 1-10, which is basically a fail. This book will help presenters take their scores from a sad 5 to a stellar 10!
Geetesh: Virtual events existed before the pandemic. If the pandemic changed something, it raised up the ante for virtual presenting. So, when we are out of this pandemic, do you expect some big changes in virtual presenting or at least some consolidation of everything we use now? Please share your thoughts.
Patti: The pandemic fundamentally changed how we all work, and I think that’s a good thing. We learned we can work from home and still be productive and connect with other people even when we’re not in the same place as them. We also had to become more disciplined and efficient in our communication because everyone was juggling so many things at once (work, kids, pets, self-care, etc.). For many of us, that meant meetings got a bit shorter and more to-the-point, so our presentations had to get more focused, too. That’s probably why our research shows audiences tend to prefer shorter presentations these days, on average 30 minutes or less. If you want to speak longer, you’re going to have to make it really worth their time. One thing that won’t change is this: audiences are highly distractible, which makes it difficult for them to keep their attention centered on you. You have to work harder to make your presentation engaging, which takes planning and preparation but also creativity. You’ve got to infuse your content, visuals and delivery with variety that holds their attention and gives them little doses of delight. Audiences are also trained now to expect opportunities to interact with the speaker because virtual communication tools make it easy for them to ask questions or make comments, so you have to keep those channels of communication open. That’s true whether you’re speaking to a fully remote audience, or a mix of remote and in-person attendees because everybody is craving real, genuine connection.
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