In science fiction films, people routinely talk to holograms of other people as if they are really there. This often takes place over vast interstellar distances, with no apparent problem of connection or interference. Alas, we live only in the present and don’t have this sort of wonderful technology.
Instead, we have Whats App Video and FaceTime and Google Hangout … and so on.
I’m a passionate believer in technology. It’s made life easier in many, many ways. Skype, FaceTime and other videoconferencing platforms, are great. They make it possible for me still to help clients when I’m in a different country to them , or attend meetings when I might otherwise be unable to make them. More and more of my clients are using this technology to work with me with excellent results – and many are then using it to deliver their presentations to worldwide audiences online.
All of that is not to say, however, that something like Whats Apps Video is perfect – far from it. Nothing can quite replace being in a room with an audience. Connecting with people often requires a physical presence, and there’s a lot of compensation to be done when that’s not possible. Nevertheless, live broadcasts are now a “thing” and we need to get used to that.
A lot of the issues facing a video speaker are in reality the same as those facing a conventional one: your speech needs to be well honed and your voice needs to be expressive. In fact, these two rules of thumb are of even more importance when gesture and movement are less of a help. Your audience may be able to see your face, but in some ways Skype emphasises your words more than ever.
In some other aspects, speaking over video is similarly familiar. We’ve been speaking to camera for many decades now, and some of the guidelines from that arena stay true for Skype: look into the camera, and make sure it’s at a good angle – usually at eye level. Try to ensure the light source isn’t interfering with the picture, and when you speak into that camera imagine it’s your best friend.
Video-conferencing via Skype or WhatsApp or any other platform also has, of course, some functionality of its own. It enables you to see what your audience are seeing – make use of that feature and adjust your approach on the basis of the visual feedback you’re getting. Likewise, try and have someone else in the room. Onstage, you’re on your own – but over remote video you can have a helper on hand for any technical difficulties, and no one will know.
In many ways, then, video frees you up. Most importantly, it makes your content king again. All the tricks of the stage are peeled away, and it’s just you and the audience, via a webcam or tablet. Sounds like science fiction to me …