Updated: Feb 8
As many of you now know, presenting virtually is not the same as standing up in front of an audience. A lot of us are presenting from home and negotiating a multitude of distractions and the schedules of others. I happen to live in a 2 bedroom apartment in Manhattan, so you can imagine what those days look like when my husband and I are negotiating homeschooling my 8 year old all while trying to work. Figuring out a an efficient and virtual setup has been crucial for our jobs. We have a system now, but it took a while.
Over the past few months, I have conducted and watched several online presentations and have included a few things I have learned in this post. After you are done reading, please let me know if there is anything else you have personally learned about presenting online and include this in the comments. I would love to hear from you.
Tip number one:
Know your technology
Whether you are presenting on Zoom, Google Meet, WebEx or the myriad of other programs, make sure you know how to navigate your way through the technology. If you have someone who will be hosting for you, make sure you have a dry run before presenting. In fact, if you can, make that 2 dry runs and invite a mock audience. Technology can be finicky and cause unexpected problems. If something does go awry, spite best efforts, make sure you have a back up plan.
Tip number two:
Set up your space for success
If possible, find a quiet, well lit room. Avoid backlighting and windows. Make sure you have a strong wifi connection and close out any open programs on your desktop. Make sure you have a neutral background that is not distracting. I love bookshelves, but do you want people listening to you or reading the Tom Clancy title in the background? If you do use a virtual background, please don't make this a last minute decision. I personally find them distracting. Also, make sure you have great lighting. Here is a ring light that I love! Set it up so that it is facing you and avoid having your back to windows. The better we can see you, the more engaging you are.
Tip number three:
Give your audience guidance
Most people by now are used to online conduct, but reminders don't hurt. You can set up your presentation for success by inviting people to turn off their cell phones and limiting their distractions. Show them where the mute button and the camera buttons are located. If you are inviting an open chat during your talk, then show them where the chat is. If not, please ask them to refrain from chatting until the Q&A. You can also remind participants where the gallery and speaker view is and which you prefer. Remember, this is your talk and you need to guide us through the expectations so we can experience it the way you would like us to.
Tip number four:
Simplicity and interaction
If you use slides, keep them simple. Consider strong visuals that support and enhance your message and please, limit your text. I love Garr Reynold's book, Presentation Zen. Here is an excerpt to give you an idea for how you can design your next presentation so that your audience is listening to you and not just reading off the slide.
Find ways to engage your audience. Use break out rooms, research online icebreakers etc. I am assuming that you have an outcome in mind for your presentation, yes? If this is the case, then spend some time really thinking through how you can get this objective met and the most compelling way to do so.