Rice Speechwriting

Toast Chapter Excerpt: When you can’t give a speech in-person

What to do when you can’t give a speech in-person

Photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash

Have you experienced the following on a recent video call? 

You are in the middle of making an important point and your internet cuts out. 

Or you’re listening and all of a sudden the face on screen freezes followed one minute later by, “Did you get that?”

Live videoconference calls are poor substitutes for in-person speeches. Yet COVID has moved our weddings, retirement toasts, and award presentations, along with sales kickoffs, product launches, and conference speeches, all online.

With the slow pace of the current vaccine rollout and the possibility of permanent remote work options, online presentations are here to stay for the foreseeable future. 

How can we still give effective presentations while battling lag and latency issues with our videoconferencing technology and home internet connections?

This guide will show you a variety of options for corporate and ceremonial speeches that you can use for your next presentation or speech.

Consider pre-recorded video options:

A pre-recorded video can be played by the videoconference host through their own connection. Here’s a guide for how to do it on Zoom, but you can also host the video on YouTube and share it with your audience to watch later in the group chat or follow-up email.

The “live” pre-recorded video:

Record yourself giving your presentation as if you were doing it live. Ensure that you have proper lighting, a good microphone, and an environment free of distracting noises. The bonus is that you can do multiple takes for your presentation to get it right. Or you can record in shorter segments and splice them together with video editing software.

The professional complete video:

You might have to wait until we can be together in-person, but if you have previous footage, you can get a video studio to compile it together.

Here’s one example done as a farewell to a beloved boss:

Photo slideshow:

Facebook and Instagram are perfect sources for photos of the person you’re honoring. Peruse the best ones and compile them together into a slideshow and provide your own voiceover commentary throughout. Many sites also provide royalty-free music as an added bonus.


The compilation presentation:

Gather short videos from your colleagues or presentation partners for their parts and then edit them together into a larger video. If you don’t have the editing skills or the time, consider finding a videographer through a Google search, Fiverr, or UpWork to help you out. You pay for what you get, but you save time and get a quality product in the end.

The picture-in-picture slideshow:

This method is becoming more common as Canva and Loom both support video overlay onto slides. This is most effective when you want to give a slide presentation but don’t want it to be just slides.

The doodle drawing:

You’ve seen these in video ads and on internet marketing sites but they can be useful for getting your point across in a visual manner. A quick search for “create doodle drawing videos” will bring up plenty of DIY and done-for-you options. You can provide the voiceover while others supplement with the drawing itself.

This video shows both a picture-in-picture presentation combined with doodle drawings for PowerPoint:

What will hold you back from creating a quality video?

If you go the video route, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Outline the video script first and then figure out the pictures and slides you want to use
  2. Storyboard your video — Post-its are excellent for this to plan each scene.
  3. Professional help— whether it’s getting help with the text or the actual video, having professional help with the project can save you time and frustration throughout the process.
  4. Great Sound: It’s worth it to purchase a USB mic to get great sound quality (many great USB mics are priced under $75). You’ll be forgiven for onscreen appearances but poor sound quality will wreck your presentation. People often multitask when watching a video and will listen rather than watch.
  5. Plan ahead: Video takes longer than anticipated, build yourself enough time to plan, create, and edit, knowing that each part will take 2–3x longer than anticipated.

If you can’t do video, consider writing a letter

You might not have the time to put together a great video but you still want to express your feelings to the person you’re speaking to. You can write a letter. It’s unexpected and will be memorable. If your written presentation skills aren’t the best, there are online services that can take your text and turn it into your handwriting on beautiful stationery (and even mail the letter for you!). Put “handwriting services” or “letter writing services” in your favorite search engine to find helpful sources.

What’s next for your online speech:

Don’t let lag and latency issues prevent your next online presentation from being a success. Videos and letters can carry your message far better than leaving it to the possibility of technology failures. But video is not always easy — it takes preparation, planning, and often professional help. But it’s worth it to create a memorable speech that your audience will love to view again and again.

This post is an excerpt from his upcoming book “Toast: Short Speeches, Big Impact.” Find out more about the book at https://ricespeechwriting.com/toast-book

Photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash

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