When we talk about delivering a presentation we assume a stage or at least people physically sitting in a room. While this has some challenges on its own giving a presentation remotely from your desk is different. You don’t have the immediate reaction of the audience like people laughing about your jokes. On the other side of the screen people can leave much more easily. It’s simple to close the stream compared to sneaking out of a session room. You’d need to adopt your presentation to these circumstances.
Planning the talk
Plan for a strong start
Much more important in a virtual environment is the beginning of a presentation. It’s easier to leave a virtual presentation than leaving the room at a conference. When starting with a story or with information that captures the attention of the audience they are more likely to sit through the rest of the presentation.
Starring at a screen for one hour can be quite tiring. Therefore it is even more important for a remote presentation to not just show boring slides (just with bullet points). Often people only see your slides and hear your voice. Even a tiny camera feed doesn’t make a huge difference.
At a presentation on stage you can ask for a “show of hands”. How about in virtual talks? You can still do that and you should. It helps you connecting with your audience. Not only that you can imagine a lot of people watching the presentation will nod but it also reminds you that you’re not doing that talk just for your or for a machine but for many others.
Some platforms allow doing live polls. Asking questions, give people the possibility to pick an answer on screen, and share the results with the audience. Use those. It helps make your presentation much more engaging.
Look for a Co-Presenter
The dynamic when presenting with two people is often very different than presenting alone. It helps you sound more natural and engaging. This of course can cause some issues in handing over the control for the slides or screen sharing but it can improve the overall experience.
Animations require quite some internet bandwidth (on the presenter and the attendee side). Avoid complicated builds if you want a smooth experience.
Prepare for delivery / recording
Some virtual conference platforms and screen capture software offers you to use your camera so people can see you while you give your presentation. Use those. It makes your presentation more interactive and the audience is feeling more connected. Some things to look after: Clean up your office or the room you present from. Try to find a background that doesn’t attract people’s attention too much. The content is king and not your cool picture in the back.
Make sure you’re presenting from the screen with the camera. It looks strange if you’re not talking to the audience.
This seems obvious but you’ve probably seen this video: Make sure you don’t get interrupted from your co-workers or family members during your presentation or the recording of it. Tell co-workers or your family to not enter the room for an hour and put a sign at your door.
No background noise
Turn off washing machines, automatic vacuum cleaner, and everything else that makes noise when presenting from home. Turn your phone into flight mode and (as said) close your door.
Have a stable internet connection. If you do this more often you should think about buying a larger package or having a second internet provider to switch to. Make sure your family is not streaming HD movies at the same time. You might need all the bandwidth .
- Reboot your home router
- Reboot your laptop
- Close all apps you don’t need for the presentation. Especially everything that has notifications, like Slack or Mattermost.
- On MacOS: Turn off all your notifications (System Preferences → Notifications)
- Be ready to go 30 mins before you are due on. Use this time to check your connection, slides etc.
At conferences people can catch you after your talk in the hallway to ask questions additionally to the Q&A on stage. This is not possible for remote presentations. Make room for Q&A if the platform allows for it.
During the talk
On a virtual platform questions usually stream in during the talk. Some platforms allow attendees to upvote questions: Concentrate on your talk and do not read questions in between. You could plan for some breaks to answer the most recent ones. Make sure your presentation flow is not too much effected by this.
Answer questions during the talk
Another strategy is that a co-worker answer questions as they come in in the Q&A screen. This actually adds value to the a virtual live presentation compared to watching a talk on YouTube.
Another tactic is to pre-record your talk, stream it, and answer questions textual yourself as they come in. It can come across a bit strange that it looks like you’re answering questions while you give the presentation so be clear about it or answer them logging in with a different user name.
At the end
This is the standard for virtual presentations: Answering questions at the end. The great thing about virtual platforms is that you usually can answer EVERY question:
- Have a moderator picking questions and read them to you
- Read out the and answer the questions with the most votes
- Answer other (not so highly voted) questions afterwards: On the platform or on a public page