- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

Online Presenting: More Pharell, less Phil

3rd November, 2020

Online Presenting: More Pharell, less Phil

Have you seen the brilliant video doing the rounds of the internet at the moment?


It features two young men listening to Phil Collins’ classic song ‘In the Air Tonight’ for the first time.


You see them nodding along as Phil sings ‘I can feel it, coming in the air tonight…oh lord’ for what feels like an eternity.


And then – whoa!


They can’t believe that old Phil ‘drops a beat’ 3 minutes into the song (around 4 mins 50 into the video – it’s worth a watch). It’s the famous drum solo that kicks things up a notch.


‘Who does that? Maybe he wanna wake us up!’ they shout.


They’re pretty impressed at this point.


Because that just doesn’t happen these days with most songs. There are no slow guitar solos. No gradual crescendos. No meandering intros.


We get slapped with the chorus almost straight away.


Now that we all have music on our phones we judge a song almost instantaneously. We don’t like to be kept waiting.


Pharrell Williams’ megahit “Happy” gets to the chorus just 30 seconds in.


And he repeats it, often. It was an earworm we couldn’t get rid of for months.


And you need to channel Pharrell not Phil when you’re presenting online.


What might be an interesting introduction in person can feel like an eternity of tedium online. When our viewers can’t busy themselves with all the minutiae of our body language and facial expressions, they can switch off, fast.


So try these tips if you’re presenting online:


  • Supersize yourself at the start – I advised a client recently to not share her slides right at the beginning of her presentation. I suggested she talk to the camera first without her presentation in shot. This meant her audience could see a bigger image of her on screen to create a connection first.

  • Go hard, go fast – ‘A few housekeeping points’ is never going to set pulses racing. Start with a bang instead. A big statement, a shocking statistic, a funny meme, a stretch goal, a little-known fact. Use something emotive to make people sit up and listen straight out of the gates. Then you can go back and fill in the gaps if you need to.


So are you more Phil or Pharrell when you present?

University of Cambridge


- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

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