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How to Present Online with Dean Waye (part 1)

Luke Szyrmer September 8, 2020 63

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Even though we can’t rely on human cues when delivering remote presentations, some people are just killing it. Dean Waye has been helping professional speakers deliver online content for close to a decade. He goes into how to persuade effectively when remote, for sales and operational purposes.

About Dean Waye

Dean Waye is the owner of awneo.com, a coaching and membership site that helps people create their best ever B2B presentations and webinars. He also works in Product Marketing and Sales Enablement at Openet/, a global B2B software company. 


I have a small number of friends and clients who are just loving lockdown, they’re cleaning up, they’re crushing their numbers, they’re getting better attention and they’re more persuasive.They’re getting in front of more people more often. 

You are listening to align remotely podcast, the show dedicated to helping lead distributed teams. Under difficult circumstances, I am the host, Luke Szyrmer, and I’ve participated in a run distributed teams for almost a decade as a practitioner, I’m speaking to experts on leadership, strategic alignment and remote work to help you navigate the issues start facing after you get your working from home gear. Sorted out.

Hello, hello, welcome back.

This week, we are going directly opposite to where we were going last time. So last time we covered remote workshops using a technique called game storming. Sometimes you simply don’t have the luxury of being able to organize a workshop for one reason or another. And yet you do need to be presenting something. This can be either internally or possibly as a persuasive presentation. And in fact, the audience is expecting a longer form of content from you.

But you want to do it in a way that actually works in a remote environment, which essentially requires a different skill set than traditional presentations. This week’s guest I invited him on because he’s an expert in exactly this particular topic, how to give presentations when everyone is remote and what kind of techniques you can use and how you can adapt to your presentation style so that you keep attention in a remote context when people are checking their email and their dogs barking in the background.

So today we’re speaking with Dean Waye, who’s the owner of Awneo Dot Com, which is a coaching and membership website that helps people create their best ever B2B presentations and webinars. He also works in product marketing and sales enablement at Open that which is a global B2B software company. 

Dean, welcome to the podcast. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into the topic of remote presentations?

This all started with the presentation and that was not remote. I had to give it in person. A bunch of us had to attend mandatory like management type courses. And the last assignment was to create and deliver a presentation to the class and to the company leadership, including the CEO. And my presentation ended up saving me from a layoff. I did really well. It was really good. It was interesting. You really liked it. They remembered me two months later when the layoffs started going around.

What was the presentation on?

The presentation was a methodology as a software project manager back then and in the previous company, I talked about the methodology I had set up to do a land and expand.

Everyone in the corporate world knows the term. You just need to get it into a client or a new client because then you can always find more work and expand the scope of what you’re working on and do more things and deliver more for the customer. And it was about a methodology I had for a landing and expanding. And clearly they were interested in that.

That’s good. Yeah, I mean, I wasn’t in sales or even sales back then.

It was just project management. But from project management, I knew they could dial up my boss who ended up going to the next company. That was the company I gave the presentation to the CEO for, was in the room at the time and so could validate that if he was coming up short on his forecast for that month, he’d get down on the up. And if I had two or three days notice, I could gin up enough new business to help him hit his target for that month consistently any time he wanted.

And so that was a good presentation, but it was a good story and the methodology was pretty good. But the presentation, I wrote it at the last minute, but I worked on it basically all night and then just delivered it and then back to the hotel and had a nap.

That was those classes were all done in Ireland. I came back to the States and I was in a Toastmasters group. And so I just gave a speech about here’s a presentation and how I ended up giving the presentation, the circumstances around it and how it ended up saving me from a layoff. That wasn’t the presentation itself. There were some professional speakers in that audience at the time, and they came up to me afterwards and asked if they could pay me to help them improve their corporate presentations and then from there very quickly moved into webinars.

Most professional speakers don’t make a lot of money giving speeches. They make most of their money in training. They create, deliver training.

And so a lot of them wanted to get really good at webinars. And so that’s how I ended up pivoting into how to create compelling online presentations.

Given that every single person who’s ever watched a webinar has switched away to check their email at one point or another, we all have this sort of gets a phrenic dual view.

We think that what we do as the audience is going to be different from what the audience is going to do to us when we’re the presenter.

We all expect our customers to be very understanding of us as a business, and yet we treat our vendors like we push them and and we push them hard. But then when our customers push us, it’s like, what are they doing?

Any reasonable everybody? It’s human nature, you know?

And everyone looks away. Everyone uses webinars or online presentations or some meetings as background radio at some point. And so the goal was, how do we dig into that and what are the tools we can use to help prevent that and keep the audience’s attention on us as much as possible? Because if they’re not paying attention, why are you doing all this work?

So now you’re more in B2B sales with this kind of a thing, I’m in marketing now and I work in sales enablement, which is a new ish field. It’s not super new, but it’s a new deal. It sales enablement is about taking what marketing at the strategic level is saying to the marketplace and then converting that into content and presentations and other tools that Salesforce would use at the customer level. So very much tactical and and less strategic.

So going back to the remote webinar thing, when you were working with these speakers, it was more about improving their trainings, improving all of their online.

I would help them write keynotes and I would do some marketing work for them in lead generation and stuff. But most of it was around making their presentations as online, especially as compelling as possible, because nobody as much as people find training in general, boring people find training remotely even more boring.

And there’s a lot of there’s a reasons for that. We can get into those in a minute. And so ever since that first group hire of speakers and trainers hired me to help them improve what I’m working on, that’s kind of what I’ve been doing, at least on the side, if not as a career for years and years now.

I basically I don’t help people learn how to generally make better presentations. I don’t help people learn how to use PowerPoint, but I help them make their best presentation ever.

The kind that’ll save your job, like it for me, or do you get promoted?

Or if you’re a small business, the right presentation or webinar can really help you break through as a small business.

And because these can be a lot of work when people start cold and there’s a lot of work that bring them up to that level, it’s not something you would do for your weekly status PowerPoint.

But if it’s important, then that’s when I usually get a call of interesting, I guess the main reason why these remote presentations are so difficult because it’s hard to keep attention. Is that something that now is a reason why people are reaching out to your audience?

Attention was always important, but now we’re all remote, so it’s way harder to get it and keep it. I don’t know how many presentations you’ve ever done in a room, and some people are really great in the room.

When we were all in a room together, we were processing cues like body language and who was talking to who and who showed up late and who left the room to take a call or use the bathroom. When we were all together in a room, the audience had more to engage with because they had your slides, they had your face, they had your posture, you moving around the room, what you leaned on, who you touched is just a ton of things to let their attention skip around to.

But it’s still generally on you. When we all moved online, we immediately felt like we lost something. We lost a lot, actually, because now the slides, we used to be part of the spectacle. Right now, the slides and what we say are our voiceover during the presentation. Those have to carry a lot more of the load they’re substituting for the spectacle that our bodies used to be in the room and that the other people in the room used to be for any individual person in the audience.

And so the audience can’t see us as much. So there’s less to keep that visual part of their brain engaged. Even if we use live video, you or me sitting at a desk, it’s just not very interesting. Not after the first minute or two. Nobody really cares about the books on your bookshelf or whatever. Even if it’s a brand new audience.

They learn what you look like within a minute. They’ve forgotten. They don’t even see it anymore.

And so really, the slides in your voiceover have to carry so much more of the load.

And I can tell you, working on presentations and webinars for people on the side, I used to have a very small and easy to manage number of clients so that I could still do my, you know, regular day job and travel, you know, a lot and the nature of the job. And since the lockdown, things have gotten crazy. I’ve never been popular until now.

And so we’re all doing so many of these meetings. Right. And we’re rather frustrated because we’re bored as the audience or we’re frustrated because the audience isn’t engaged. And only a small percentage of presenters right now are happy with this new normal.

Some people are doing really well with it, but they’re not the people who are doing well before.

It’s a different group that’s doing right now.

What do you mean by well, who are the ones who are doing well? And you think about the audiences context when they’re in front of us. We know their context because we’re part of the context remotely.

It’s a lot of the US part of the presentation. That’s all replacement stuff we can’t see now. A messy room, kids in the dining at the dining table. Your wife or husband is doing their own zoom. Colonists walking around because doing it on their phone and a get out of here. I’m trying to be on my call and the noises and events that wouldn’t be happening if we were all in a little conference room somewhere, either with ten chairs in it.

So now, if you were the kind of person who was great in the room, this is all a disaster for you.

You spent all this time and effort or maybe you just had it naturally.

But you’re really good at reading cues. You’re really good at reading the audience and moving into the ebb and flow of the kind of. And stuff, if you’re someone who has the talent or skill to hold the audience attention in person, you’re having a bad day every day.

But if you’re someone who, you know, has valuable stuff to say, someone who wants to construct their message carefully and create a controlled experience, it’s really not it’s not politically correct to say this.

But lockdown’s been great for you when we all shifted from silent movies into talking movies or talkies, but in reverse, there was a craft to making silent movies where you’re telling a story and you had to figure out what to say and how to say things visually because except for a few words on a screen or some music for, you know, mood, there’s so little to work with. Most of the big film actors from the silent era were done once dialogue came the movie.

They had squeaky voices or they couldn’t have emotions with their voice the way that the next generation of actors could. And now we’ve gone in reverse. It’s like we’ve gone from talkies back to silent movies. We still have moving pictures inside of our PowerPoint and we have sound and even music, if you know how to use it, but without all of the up close interaction. So we’re left telling the story with fewer tools than we’re used to. And, you know, the people who are good at the tools we do have now, you know, the limited set that we have, but we’re never good with in-person connection stuff.

They’re doing great. I have a small number of friends and clients who are just loving lockdown, they’re cleaning up, they’re crushing their numbers, they’re getting better attention and they’re more persuasive. They’re getting in front of more people more often before would never default to an online meeting if they could have seen in person one. Now, these guys and ladies, they’re super productive. They’re spending the morning talking to London. And then in the afternoon, it’s New York and Seattle.

And then at the end of it, it’s Malaysia.

They’re doing great. When you’re helping someone put together one of these webinars or meetings or presentations, what matters most when these presentations are given online?

Definitely what matters most to the audience is context, right? No question. And we have no control over it anymore. We don’t even know what it is. If the room was too bright or too cold or too noisy, there are too many people walking by the next room. There was a birthday party going on because someone brought a cake and we would know all that stuff. And now we don’t know any of that stuff unless their dog barks while they’re there, not muted.

We just don’t know.

On the one hand where a lot more forgiving. Yeah. Which is always good. We would have been a year ago, you know. Yeah.

We’ve just it’s not only are we removed from the audiences, removed from their own work context like they were before. So everybody’s in a new setup. But you’re also supposed to come together and get stuff done. Well. When you’re sitting down to work with a client, how do you structure a longer presentation to keep audience attention?

It turns out there’s not a lot of great advice for people doing B2B presentations about how to give presentations, all the advice you get seems to be aimed at speakers, which is you get insane tips, keep your slides to six words or less, or else you get really like dumb stuff about how to use animation. Most of that just doesn’t fly in a corporate context. It just doesn’t. So I used to think that the trick was to keep the slides as simple as possible and be to be.

That’s not practical. You’re going to have some complex slides and diagrams in a corporate deck. So now I use a multipart structure like three acts usually, and each act is broken down into sections, answering like a different unspoken question. And so we’re all moving towards a destination and we’re always doing something new and we’re always progressing toward whatever the goal of my presentation is, the call to action. And more than anything else, having a structure gives the audience confidence.

They don’t they might not even be aware of your structure when you watch a movie. You’re not aware that it’s done in three acts and that you’re now coming up on the end of Act one. You’re just flowing through the story. But even if they don’t know there’s a structure, it goes a long way to keeping people’s attention even without audience attention tools. And then the other part of keeping the audience’s attention in longer presentations especially, is to use audience attention, tools like setting up a question and saying you’ll answer it later in the presentation or pointing out how what you’re talking about now resolves something from earlier or even Kasit that earlier, I think in a different light or makes it more special or more important or meaningful.

And then, of course, using an audio call to screen sometimes more than one, an audio call, a screen is where you show something on a slide.

And in your voiceover, you talk about it or refer to it, but you don’t actually say what it is. And then you stop talking for a little bit. You shut up like saying this diagram is why people do business with us or we think we’re in the red box. But to our customers, we’re in the blue box.

To the people looking at the screen, the silence gives them time to digest what they’re looking at. They don’t even notice that you just did an audio call to scream to the people checking their email. The ones who are using the presentation is background radio. Their brain notices that there’s been a change and the silence tells them it might be important. So they switch back to look at your slide. Hopefully you had enough sense to make the next slide interesting so you don’t lose them again as they go back to jail.

That’s clever. Just going back to the structural point, could we go into a little bit more? How would you construct such a structure?

Can you give an example of one that you’ve used in the past?

I like a three act structure. I like to open by considering the price audience. You’ve been in this situation. I’ve been in the situation. The meeting starts at 10:00. But really, it’s not going to start till about one or two minutes past because it always takes everyone, you know, a little while to collect online. They need to finish their previous calls and whatever. So whether it’s a webinar or whether it’s an actual presentation, just like a live, even internal one, there’s a pre audience.

That’s the people who have joined.

But nothing’s happening yet. And I what I like to set up or even write or teach people when they’re looking to give their best presentation effort is to not ignore that priority. It’s a lot of the time, especially in webinars, you’ll get silly stuff like they’re just reading out. Oh, and so from Toronto, just joined it from Dublin, has joined us. Boring stuff. They have an idea that this is going to keep your attention because your location might be called out.

It’s social proof that other people have joined. So you’re not alone.

And then on internal ones, what you often get is public private conversations that go on like, hey, Jenny, can you make sure that the chat room is open, which is interesting to nobody, even Jenny and even Jenny probably.

Yeah. I mean, obviously, it’s open. I know what I’m doing. I do this three times a day now. We’re a long time. People waste the audience. But your attention span and how much you’re going to invest attention wise or emotionally into this next hour, your clock starts as soon as you join. And if the first minute or two or three or five, depending on how early you join, is really boring, then by the time you hit the five minute mark, you’re probably out.

You’ll pay attention to the title slide and the slide after the time.

I usually tell people to have an anecdote or a story or something interesting that they can just blather on about to the audience to keep them interested. It can’t be something that they needed to know for the presentation to make sense to them, but it should be something that’s related to it. Interesting and not path dependent for anyone to understand the rest of the presentation, their clock is counting down as soon as they join. And if you’re really boring or there’s just silence, God forbid they’ve already switched to their email.

You’ve already slipped into the equivalent of the friend zone. You slipped into background radio without even a chance.

I have people like leave the title slide up, which is, you know, everyone has the same title slide company name or the name of the the name of the presentation, the topic while it’s up and while you’re waiting for enough critical mass of your audience to join or that one important person you don’t want to proceed without joins, then you go ahead and you entertain for want of a better word, right? You entertain the audience.

Don’t throw it away.

Attention. Attention is like willpower. It’s a fixed amount quantity.

And no one’s going to stay with you forever while they wait for you to get to the point, even if they know every slide has an unspoken message. And the unspoken messages in the first few slides are extremely important, so your title slide, the unspoken message that you’re sending to the audience is you’re in the right place at the right time because some of us attend a lot of webinars or attend a lot of meetings and there can be a very tiny amount of anxiety.

Am I in the right meaning right now? Is I supposed to be in another one? So you’re in the right place at the right time?

Sort of the unspoken message for the title slide. And then the next slide I liked is usually slide two is what I what I tell people. It’s the attention commander slide. It’s the equivalent of a cold open.

If you know what a cold open is on a TV show or a movie where the action starts and then once that little bit is over, then you get the credits like the name of the movie and who’s starring in it, that kind of stuff. And so you want to grab them as quickly as possible, although if folks are in Europe, I tell them to do the slide first and then the attention.

And there’s some sort of cultural thing where they just it seems a bit American and rude to start with an attention commander slide instead of letting people ease into it.

And the attention command of its job is to say, whereas before the previous slide was, you’re in the right place at the right time. This one is you’re in good hands. I know what I’m doing.

This is worth your time. And then the one after that is usually the people slide.

If it’s if you’re not super known to the audience, then usually it’s your picture and your title and that kind of stuff. And if there’s more than one presenter, then there’s more than one picture of the person on the the people slide and the people slides, unspoken messages.

We’re worth listening to. We’re experts or we know this topic really well or we know what you don’t know. And almost virtually every slide in a deck has an unspoken message. And make sure you’re communicating it well, what’s the goal you’re trying to achieve with Act one?

I never want to let them go and act one. You’re usually tackling in a bit of a presentation. There’s 10 or 11 questions that you’re trying to work your way through in, let’s say, a 45 or 50 minute presentation if you’ve got a call to action. It’s not just an information or lecture model kind of thing where you’re just trying to dump information on people. If you want them to actually remember stuff or do something afterwards or persuade them in some way that there’s ten or so questions you need to work through generally in order you don’t put them on the slide.

You never actually go after them directly. But you start with the audience asking themselves, why is this different or important? But why is this different? And that’s what you try to tackle in the attention commanders line. And then how do I know I can trust you? And that’s usually handled at least you, not the company. But how do I trust you, the individual talking right now? And that’s usually where you try to answer as subtly as possible on the people side.

And then it just goes like on down through a list.

But those 10 questions are for the whole thing, not just for one.

Right. Usually act one. You’re trying to convince them that this is worth their time and they can trust. So the three things are this is worth your time. This I’m someone who’s trustworthy about this topic and this is actually real.

That’s an interesting one. So actually, real is an I’m a real person or that what I’m talking about or proposing actually exists vaporware. And so if someone is going to believe A, believe you and B, believe that what you’re talking about could possibly help them first, they need to believe that it’s real. This is where you have your customer logos up on a slide. Right. This is where you talk about, you know, other deployments that you’ve done this.

If it’s an internal one, it’s here. The people who have signed on to this and are working on it. These are credible people as project managers. Great. Our top technical talent on, you know, five cloud edge computing or whatever. How do I know this is real? It’s real because someone’s invested something in it or someone’s bought it and they have something to lose basically by not making it up.

That doesn’t exist only in the presentation. The first person who’s ever bought on to this, don’t worry, it actually exists. The customers know if it’s an external presentation to a customer. They know that you haven’t built every feature you know that they might want. They know if they’ve been in the business for any time at all. They know that some things you don’t even build until a customer agrees to pay for it in the first place. They know that you might have a partner company to deliver part of it.

They know that you might be hiring contractors who are brand new to you in order to withstand this thing up. So it’s all that more critical to prove that it’s real. You know, it really is real. And so you don’t have to worry about that because you need to be the ultimate question, the one that everyone’s got in the back of their head. If you’re making a B2C purchase, your biggest fear is you’re going to regret the purchase.

You bought a snowmobile. And I never even use that thing as a total waste of five thousand dollars.

I have to say, I’m grasping, but I have no idea what a snowmobile cost. I’m just taking five thousand dollars. I think it’s about 5000 dollars.

But the difference is in B2C versus B2B and be to see if you waste five thousand dollars, I mean, it hurts and you’ve wasted five thousand dollars and you wish you hadn’t other than maybe people in your family in a couple of friends, no one is ever going to know that you made such a big mistake and lost five thousand dollars.

Whereas if you lose even five thousand dollars of the company’s money, then you might end up losing a seventy five thousand dollar job over a really bad decision, you know. And so it’d be to be the number one question everyone has in their mind is how do I know I won’t be blamed for saying yes to this? Hmm.

Also, the numbers are bigger than 5000.

The numbers could be very much bigger. The numbers are bigger for the company and they’re bigger for you personally because you could lose your whole income and have to go find another job.


Or you might fall in credibility in your management’s eyes and not progress or not get all kinds of risk.

So basically, how do I not get blamed for this mess?

And so all of those other questions take the person through why they’re not going to get blamed for it. When you move on to act two, you’re really addressing things like why hasn’t this been available before? What’s kept us from having the solution in the past? What’s keeping us from getting it now and then you move into later questions in Act three. What’s the cost of doing nothing? That’s the worst question, right? Nobody likes to answer or have to be on the hook to answer.

What’s the downside of saying tomorrow instead of today? It’s really hard to move people off of that question. You might not ever verbalize these questions, but they’re thinking about all of them in terms of the cost of doing nothing.

You have a couple of slides just to speak to. That basically is what you’re saying.

Yeah, you’re always trying to preempt any of these questions. They generally get asked or thought of by the audience silently in roughly the same order, no matter what the topic is or who the audience is. And you’re trying to preempt them in a certain order or answer them as quickly as you can after you preemptively answer to the last one. These questions aren’t necessarily specific to zoo meetings, although they take on more importance because every audience wants these questions answered if you can keep answering them.

So this is this is really speaking to me. I get it. I know what he’s talking about. This could be interesting. There’s along with you for the ride.

It almost sounds if you don’t answer one of them, it’s going to kill herself.

I was in textiles for a long time and then in regular sales and then ultimately switched back to marketing. I’ll give you a classic example. Right. People mis answer the how do I know this is a real question by making the audience very early in the presentation, sit through slide after slide of just features. And a detailed technical explanation of the product. And that’s skipping a step because the audience at that point is not asking about the features or thinking about the features, the audience wants to know that the rest of the time they spend with you for this hour is not a waste of their time because you can’t be trusted in the first place.

If you apply for a loan and you ask the banker, is this really this a loan, a good deal for me? And he looks at you and he says the approach on this loan is only three and a quarter percent and there’s no prepayment penalty.

You didn’t answer your question, which is give you features. What you wanted to hear was, yeah, I’ve done this like 80000 times for people. Exactly your situation. It’s a good deal. So you can’t skip the trust questions by trying to throw features and public statements and be honest. That was a great question. The dean finished off there with with just focusing on features and explaining the downsides from the audience’s perspective. And I think this audience mindset approach really getting deeply into that remote audience experience is probably the most powerful part of Dean’s approach, in my view.

Everything else seems to come out of that, like his 10 questions, the three act structure, and really thinking it through of how you feel when you’re in the audience and you need to sit through presentations.

So this is a first half of the interview. The second half will be going up next week where we get into strategies around the call to action for a persuasive speech and also adapting this outsider to sales to in-house presentations for your teams.

 Thanks for listening to this episode of the Align Remotely podcast, if you enjoyed the show, please leave a review on iTunes, Google podcasts or wherever you get your podcast.

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