A Good Business Presentation Starts Strong

If there’s one thing 2020 has taught us, it’s just how important effective communication is to the health and sustainability of a business. Every good business presentation starts with great communication.

Until this year, a lot of businesses dabbled in online and digital communication, mostly in the form of emails and texts. Face-to-face communication was there—if we wanted it.

A world-wide health pandemic changed all that.

That’s when video conferencing tools like Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts took off. For people sent home to work remotely, using these apps became a way of life. It’s estimated that Zoom added 2.22 million active users in January and February of 2020, far exceeding the 1.99 million users the company added in all of 2019.

Months later, we’re still using the platform to stay connected with colleagues and clients, family, and friends.

Like thousands of other businesses, Effective Presentations had to take a serious look at its service delivery in the spring of 2020. With travel bans and restrictions placed on gatherings, we knew we had to take a new approach to connect with our clients. And they, in turn, had to reach theirs differently.

Although we’ve been using Zoom and other similar video conferencing tools for years to deliver our presentation training workshops to businesses across the U.S. and Canada, it’s become the preferred (and necessary) method in 2020.

Not surprisingly, remote business presentation training has become a priority for thousands of companies. Businesses that once relied on in-person meetings suddenly needed a way to stay connected with existing clients and pitch to new ones.

We also saw an uptick in people who started to see just how important making a great first impression through the lens of a webcam is.

First Impressions are Important

Making a great first impression is always important, no matter how you’re meeting someone for the first time.

It’s especially important when you’re meeting with customers because it’s during this initial interaction that their opinion of you (and your services) is formed.

  • Do you come off as friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful?
  • Are you giving them the impression that you can be trusted to serve them with their best interest at heart?

Making a great first impression sets you up for a successful business relationship. A bad first impression, on the other hand, can set a negative tone you may never be able to shake.

If you’re finding it difficult to make a good first impression because you have to make it online, we have some fail-proof tips.

It’s possible to make a first impression over Zoom that’s just as good (if not better) as it would be if you were giving a business presentation live.

5 Ways to Make a Good First Impression

  1. Dress for the occasion. It’s tempting to hang out all day in your favorite sweats when all you’re doing is sitting behind a keyboard. But if you want to make a good first impression, wearing your 20-year-old college sweatshirt with the ratty cuffs and mustard stains isn’t going to get you there. Remember, this is a business presentation. Unless the occasion calls for formal dress, it’s perfectly acceptable to dress in business casual: a collared shirt or solid-colored sweater is always a good choice. Neither are distracting and both give the impression you’ve put a little effort into your appearance. While you’re at it, run a comb through your hair and show up generally looking neat and clean. Your physical appearance is the first thing your client will see. Even over video, showing up disheveled makes a strong statement about you—and it’s not good.
  2. Choose an appropriate background. When you’re meeting a client or colleague in a conference room or over coffee, you don’t pay much attention to what’s happening on the wall behind you. But when you’re meeting with someone over Zoom, this is an important detail you can’t overlook when you’re trying to make a good first impression. Choose a space that isn’t too busy or cluttered; a solid background with natural light is ideal. If you don’t have anywhere that’s suitable, you can use one of Zoom’s standard backgrounds to disguise your location. You can even search for free Zoom backgrounds online and upload an image to your Zoom profile so it’s ready the next time you have an online meeting. Here’s how you do it:
    • Go to Zoom.us and log in
    • Navigate to the “Settings” menu on the left-hand side of the screen
    • Select the “In Meeting (Advanced)” option
    • Scroll down to “Virtual background” and enable it by toggling to the right
    • Launch the Zoom desktop app and login
    • Click the gear icon in the top right corner
    • Select “Virtual Background”
    • Choose a background shown or click the “+” sign to upload your image or video to use as a background Don’t forget about the lighting in the room. Natural light is always the best choice if you have it. Even if you don’t, make sure your face is well lit and that your primary light isn’t coming from directly behind you.
  3. Speak to the camera. A lot of people will look at their screen when they’re on a Zoom call, and it’s something they might not realize works against them when they’re talking to another person online. The great thing about Zoom is that it allows you to have a face-to-face conversation with another person without being in the same room. However, you have to remember that you’re speaking to the person on the other end through your webcam. That means when you’re looking at the image of them on your screen as you talk, you aren’t looking into their “eyes,” so to speak. Eye contact is critical when it comes to effective communication. Meeting someone’s eyes when you talk makes you appear more trustworthy and it shows the person that you’re speaking with that you’re paying attention to them. Considering how important first impressions are, you need good eye contact. So rather than looking at the image of your client when you speak during a Zoom call, talk directly to the camera so that it looks and feels to the person on the other end as though you are looking them straight in the eye.
  4. Use the mute feature. With so many people now working from home, it’s become commonplace to have unexpected interruptions, like kids or pets running into the room. And even though anyone with a family understands how difficult it is to work from home, you still don’t want to have your meeting ruined by noisy distractions in your environment. That’s why it’s important to learn how to mute your meeting so unwanted noises are kept out. First and foremost, plan to sit in a space where there will be little or no noise during your call. When another person on the call is speaking, engage the mute feature so unexpected noises on your end don’t interrupt the call. (You can temporarily unmute yourself by holding down the space bar

    while you speak.)

    Listening is a critical part of a good business presentation, and it’s difficult to do that if you’re distracted by noises in your environment while on a call. Allowing that to happen doesn’t leave a particularly good impression on the other person on the call, either.

  5. Remember you’re on camera. When you’re not sitting directly across from someone, it’s very difficult for people to read your non-verbal cues. That’s because their view of you is usually limited to your head and shoulders. For that reason, it’s important that you are more deliberate with your gestures, and that you make them in front of the camera.

On the flip side of that, people interacting over Zoom sometimes forget they’re in full view of others on the call. That means if you’re eating, looking off camera, or distracted by something else, your Zoom audience can see that.

You’ll always make a good impression—on camera or in person—if you appear interested and engaged in the conversation. Set your camera so you’re centered on the screen, clear away distractions, and give the person or people on the call your undivided attention.

And don’t forget to smile!

Access Your Presentation Tools Now

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Making a Great First Impression Online

Head into every Zoom call like it’s an in-person meeting—because it is.

If you’re connecting with someone for the first time and it has to happen using a video conferencing tool like Zoom, you’ll make a good first impression by knowing how to leverage the technology. Talk into your webcam as though you’re looking your audience straight in the eye and deliver a friendly, effective business presentation straight from your computer.

Need more help improving your on-camera performance? We offer virtual training packages for individuals and teams. Contact us to learn more.

Has the need for Zoom meetings taught you any valuable tips for making a good impression over video calls? Help our community and share your top tips for good Zoom meetings in the comment section below.


  1. I have struggled with adjusting to Zoom. I feel like I am personable and well-spoken in person, but on webcam, I feel awkward and out of my element. I realized mid pandemic I needed to learn how to be more comfortable on Zoom and this blog gave me great tips that I have been following. The biggest tip I took away from this article was to “speak to the camera”. Before I had a habit of speaking to my image on the zoom page, now when I’m in meetings I make the conscious effort to look directly into the webcam rather than looking down at my screen. I feel like this small change instantly makes me feel more personable and confident.

  2. In my physical speeches pre-pandemic I videotaped them so that I could review later how I looked and sounded. I think doing the same on zoom is equally important. You can set up a personal meeting with yourself, practice a short presentation, and then review it for the same details. Also, you might want to do a one-on-one chat with good friend and have them give you feedback on looks and sound. That way you can adjust your presentation and be better prepared for your next presentation.

  3. For my pre-covid physical speeches I videotaped the presentation so that I could review later for both speaking and appearance purposes. I think the same is helpful for zoom presentations. You can set up a solo meeting with yourself, practice a presentation, and review to find any adjustments that need to be made. Or you can set up a one-on-one chat with a friend and have them give you feedback on the same issues. That way you can make adjustments before your next scheduled presentation.

  4. Gus Thompson says:

    I like the tip about muting your microphone. I can’t stand when someone makes a loud noise and it completely distracts and takes away from the meeting.

  5. Ricky Giuliani says:

    The background tip was awesome and helped me land a job! I strategically placed a hockey stick in my background because I knew the employer was a sports fan. In doing so, I think it added a little more credibility to who I am as a person.

  6. I can’t wait to get back to face to face meetings. COVID has video essential and I don’t thing we will ever go back to the way things were.

  7. I need to get a better mic and camera. When I’m on a Microsoft Teams meeting I notice most people’s backgrounds look better than mine. That is a disadvantage to my career and closing ratio.

  8. This is great I never thought about making eye contact on virutal meetings. I can’t unsee how others aren’t making eye contact in there own presentations!

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