How to look, sound and feel better on virtual presentations

My guest today is Anders Boulanger. Here's three facts I think you should know about, Anders. One, he's been a performer for all but five years of his life. That's the first five. I'm guessing it's the first five. He wasn't. You're right. Yeah. Number two, he for the past two decades, he's created engaging presentations for companies including Siemens, Fortinet and Microsoft.

Anders Boulanger was a life-long performer. He learned how to capture attention.

And, you know, I used to do something we'd call Walk Around Magic. Okay. Which was where you'd have to be at a cocktail hour or something like that. And you would go to groups of people and have to interrupt them and then convince them to watch you perform. Right. And it's also similar to a street performer who doesn't even have a crowd to begin with. Right. And has to kind of garner interest from passersby in order to actually build an audience. That all built into working for companies, doing trade shows and attracting crowds of people to trade shows. So we and when, say we, it's me and my team of certified infiltrators really, you know, cut our teeth and learned how to engage by that feedback loop of either people stay in watch or they leave. You know, it's very clear whether or not you're being engaging because people are busy and they have other things to do and they will just leave. So that's how we kind of like codified a lot of the the kind of the rules and engagement tactics that we teach in our trainings.


Speaking to a virtual audience

And so now what we've done is we've used that to help companies and help sales teams a lot of the time be more engaging on these virtual calls because there's a number of challenges that maybe aren't quite apparent at first, right? One being some people who have, you know, a personality and are outgoing and are good face to face all of a sudden face some challenges with the virtual thing because their energy doesn't kind of come through. They don't have that ability to to touch and break that barrier. You know, they they might be coming off flat in the virtual camera, in the virtual, you know, sense. They may not be used to the platform. So now they're kind of doing. And for the people who are watching this, I'll describe what I'm doing. But sometimes when they share a slide, they're, uh, hang on. And they got their mouse and they're moving all over the screen trying to, you know, figure out what's the next step. So maybe the, you know, their ability with the platform is not their proficiency with the platforms, not where it should be.

So is it multiple things that kind of stack up? And one of the things we also talk about, too, is the engagement gap. And and this is the idea that your front line people. Okay. And I talk a lot more about, you know, revenue teams, sales and marketing. But this can be anyone, right? The communicator. Right. Is maybe, you know, unaware of what message they're sending and mean you're intended message mean you know right. It's the intention behind it and then what is actually received is what's what's the important piece. But they might be unaware of what kind of message they're sending. And when I say that in a virtual sense, what is the camera angle that they have? Right. Is it up the nose and it makes them look kind of snooty? Is it you know, is it down on them and making them look diminutive? Right. Is there unconscious kind of, you know, perceptions being sent? So they're unaware they might be untrained. They might not have ever been trained how to either work a virtual meeting or maybe they've never been trained on how to be engaging.


Right? So that's another piece. And then the third one of of the of the communicator piece is they might be just unremarkable in the first place. Okay. Some people aren't great face to face in the first place. And then you put this virtual magnifying lens on that and then it makes it even worse, right? So there's it's kind of like find that the virtual meeting exacerbates whatever issues are there. And then on the communicate with the other side, the receiving side of this gap that I'm talking about, people are busy, they're distracted and they have no time. So I see this as kind of a perfect storm of not getting your intended message across. Right. Because of of these issues. And people are consuming that content on a dopamine spiking device that they'd watch movies going on social media with. So you're actually competing and you have to raise your bar in terms of engagement because of those issues. Because. So hopefully that makes sense to your to your listeners.


How many seconds do you have to grab their attention?

Not a lot. And depending on the scenario, fewer than you'd almost think. So in a in a trade show sense, people are usually hiking past your booth at a pretty good rate. Pretty good clip, right? So you might have a 1 to 2 second window just to stop them. And then they're past the point of no return in a street performing sense. Some people are kind of wandering around and they might be watching you from afar. And it may might kind of you have a little bit more time to kind of flirt with them, if you will. Okay. And then, you know, on a virtual call, well, you're having a meeting with someone, so they're probably going to give you the time of day. But it's very easy for them to to tune out. Who knows if they're even watching you for a while.

Right. So so I think it depends on the circumstance. But and in the walk around magic like with that, if it's a busy you know and used to find the higher end of an event it was the kind of the maybe the snobby or it might be that kind of thing. It was it was like you had to get them and get them to buy into you very quickly. And if you did, then you suddenly had credibility because you people hear all the laughter, they'd hear the excitement and they'd want to get in on it. So it and it, it was just that first group was hard to to kind of break into, right? But then you kind of got that social proof happening. So yeah, go ahead.



And so just what I just did right now is I fanned out $2,000 in currency and it looks kind of nice. It looks kind of cool. And people would see that and they go, whoa, what's that all about? And I'd put the cash down on the floor and people would be like, What is this guy doing? So we were creating all this kind of interest and it's a bit of a pattern interrupt to right. It gains your intention because people don't see that normally. Right? So and again, on the virtual side of things, you know, for virtual engagement, how can you disrupt what people would expect and keep creating contrast? Right. That is another big piece of of what games are attention. You know, and if you think of, you know, smells in terms of senses, if something stays the same for a while, you can't smell it anymore. Right? But if you go somewhere and you come back, the change. Right. So that that kind of contrast is important.


So in in a virtual engagement sense. And if I do this all of a sudden now I've changed my camera and you can kind of see my setup a little bit, but this idea that we can actually change what people see instead of them seeing the same thing all the time, right? Just like facial expressions, you know, being changing things up. If nothing changes, why bother looking there? Right. So I find that contrast is one of those biggest things that the more of that you work in, the more you're going to keep people kind of off balance and they're going to be seeing something new all the time. And they'll they'll stay engaged and they'll they'll hear you and see what you're trying to get across.


Anders, if you if you were talking to a business leader, perhaps a a manager or even a president CEO, they're about to have their monthly staff meeting. What three tips might you give them so that this next staff meeting could be a bit more enjoyable for their audience?

Right. Because the perception but internal engagement is some of the things that we're hearing from some of the VP's and the people we're talking to. And you know, one thing I would say for for the leader or the manager is, of course, lead by example, right? If you want everyone else to kind of, you know, be more engaging, you do it first as well. And so here's here's a few tips, one of them being more. We believe that you have to deliver 33% more energy than what you thought you needed in the first place. Okay. So a quick, quick kind of story or example is I do a lot of prerecorded videos for some of our clients for their virtual tradeshow booths, for social media promos. I'll record magic with a message on camera, so I'll often be talking for like a minute and then I play it back and I'm like, How was that? Right? Like, I nailed all the words I want to nail. How did it look? And this one client said, Anders, we want this to be really high energy.

We want it really heavy. I'm like, Oh, don't worry, I can do peppy, you know, like And so I would delivered my line and I play it back and I was like, Oh, that's kind of flat. You know, that's not, that's not what I thought I just did right. And then I would do it more. And I'm like, Oh man, that's going to be so peppy. I won't be able to even stand watching it, you know? And then it was like, Oh, that's just okay. Like, it's like you have to the webcam sucks energy from the meeting, right? So, so that would be one of the things is, is deliver more than you think you need just to get to the place where you thought you were okay. 

And so a tip for more energy and if you can and if you're your office set up allows it is to stand up. If you stand up all of a sudden now you have better access to your breathing and your diaphragm.

Your voice is going to have more energy. You're going to have more resonance because of how your posture is. So that's going to carry weight to right the sound of someone's voice. You know, if it's there are pleasant tones in it. People want to listen. Right? So so there's so that's one thing. So standing up, it's going to give you more energy, more access to your breath, better voice, better projection. And the other thing is to get eye level with your with your camera, you know, and so that we're we keep trying to mimic, you know, the face to face interactions that we have in an in-person event or an in-person meeting. And and so one of the things that is kind of it's almost counterintuitive and it's hard to explain just saying it, but if I look down at you, George, and my screen, that takes my eyes off my camera, which doesn't give you eye contact, which may might make you feel disconnected, you know, getting eye to eye level with your camera, but also delivering that energy, that extra 33% into the camera is is now getting to you.

And as you look at the screen, you know, I'm talking to you and you're getting eye contact from your screen. Okay. So when we see people who don't give us eye contact, you know, in an in-person thing, yeah, they're either look distracted or they look shady or they look, you know, this kind of thing. And again, when we look at those kind of customer facing interactions, that is not your intended message to say to be shady, right? You want to be straight with them, you want to be looking them in the eye and, you know, and communicating with your whole body and being seen. And so that's another advantage to to going back to standing up is that, you know, I'm. Backing up right now so that I can stretch my arms out wider. I can express myself more. And when sometimes when we're just talking head on a screen, it doesn't doesn't give us the same effect. And what's happening to in from a neuroscience point of view is our mirror neurons can't fire and can't have that connection because we're not seeing everything that we can understand how it feels.

You know, mirror neurons light up when if you grabbed an object, if I hung on to a pen, you know what that feels like. And, you know, so a prop is another way of of creating a little bit more engagement. So I'm giving you more than three there, George, but I kind of get so jazzed about this stuff that I just kind of go off. So I hope that's okay.

Yeah. I believe the key that I heard is more energy and there's a few ways, and one of the simplest way to get that is stand up, which, which your typical meeting people are sitting, slumping, snoozing. Even people who put their, you know, their arms on on the desk and they're doing this kind of thing, putting her chin on their hand, and then they muffle their self with their hands and they just look silly and they they look boring and they look bored. Like, why? Why this is so important? Why can't you show a little bit more energy? So I've seen that happen in meetings now, in particular in sales presentations, because these days people are having their sales meeting online instead of instead of going and waiting in the lobby for, you know, to go into the boardroom or even over even in in preference to a phone call to have a Zoom meeting.


You know, look how well he handles himself. You're building trust because of of the confidence that you're instilling. So that's another way that we one of the things we teach is just to kind of take that higher level of of handling visuals while presenting.