Presenter Tips and Tricks
As an increasing number of events are moving towards virtual or hybrid options, speakers who have mainly presented to a live audience are now asked to do so virtually. The thing is, even if one is used to speaking on stage in front of a large audience, speaking online is a very different skill set. COVID-19 has thrown many challenges at us all and has taught us to be adaptable and learn new ways of doing things in a very short space of time! Discover these tips and tricks to help ease the transition and present with impact online. The Conference Design team thank you in advance for reading this page carefully and feel free to contact us at email@example.com with any further queries.
As a presenter, it is essential that people can see you well. Make sure you have good front light—meaning the light shines brightly on your face. If your back is to a window, close the shades. While natural light is often the best choice, if your home office doesn’t have natural light and you do a lot of virtual presentations, consider purchasing supplemental lighting to enhance your image.
Try to use a background that enhances your professional image and is aligned with your message. Avoid a cluttered background or anything that can be distracting such as people walking through. Learn whether your presentation platform enables you to use virtual backgrounds (like Zoom) or whether you can blur your background (like Microsoft Teams). Your background can either add to your professional presence or detract from it.
A dry run is essential so that you’re comfortable with the platform features. It’s best to have a co-host (or producer or moderator) assist you with the technology so that you can focus on your presentation. Make sure you practice with the same technical set up (computer and internet connection) that you will use when you deliver the presentation.
When you are the one speaking, look directly into your computer’s camera, not on the screen or at other participants. This takes some practice, but it makes the viewer feel as if you are looking right at them. Some presenters turn off their self-view so that they aren’t distracted by their own image.
Try not to have your camera too far above or below you. If it’s too low, then you run the risk of creating a double chin. A camera too high makes it difficult to maintain eye contact, as you may find your gaze dropping as you speak.
If you are part of a panel or a team of presenters, make sure you are aware of when your camera is on. If you are not speaking but your camera is on, make sure you look like you are paying attention.
You want the camera to frame your face, neck, and shoulders. People are drawn to faces, so you don’t want to lose that connection by being too far away, but you also don’t want your face to take over the whole screen. Practice your positioning and distance.
If possible, use a standing desk or position your laptop so you can stand at eye level with your computer. Standing up provides a higher energy level and forces us to put our body in a more presentation-like mode. If you have to sit, lean forward as you would if you were presenting at a real meeting or as if you were a TV news anchor. Avoid slouching away from the camera, as that sends a signal that you are disconnected from the audience.
Just like in a live presentation, you want to present with a little energy and animation. Too slow or too monotone in your voice makes it easy for folks to disengage and tune out. Keeping people engaged virtually requires you to be engaging.
Without real-time visual audience feedback cues, getting the pacing right can be difficult. Even though you want to infuse some animation and energy into your presentation don’t pump up the speed too much. If you tend to be a fast talker in real life, practice slowing down just a bit. If you’re a slow talker, you may want to speed up just a bit.
While people may forgive less than perfect video, if they can’t clearly hear you, they will leave. Practice with someone on the other end of the presentation platform or record and review your presentation. Make sure your sound emits clearly. Sometimes headphones or external microphones work better than the computer audio, sometimes not. You should practice with the same technical configurations and location that you will use for your presentation.
If possible, plug your computer directly into your modem using an Ethernet cable. This will give you the strongest signal and most stable internet connection. The last thing you want to happen during your presentation is to have a weak or unstable internet signal.
If using slides, make sure someone else (another webinar co-host or producer) also has a copy of the slides just in case your internet goes wonky and you have to present by calling in. If you are using slides, make them visually appealing. Use high-quality graphics and limit the amount of text on each slide. It’s your job as a presenter to deliver the content. The slides are meant to enhance your spoken words, not replace them.
Just as if you were doing an in-person presentation, craft your presentation to engage the audience. Incorporate chats, polls, raised hand features, etc. Try not to speak for more than ten minutes without some sort of audience engagement.
When presenting live don’t get side tracked by the chats during your presentation. You’ll be shocked at how distracting it is to your train of thought if you attempt to read the chats while speaking. Instead, have your co-host or producer monitor the chats. If you ask people to chat you answers or comments to a question you’ve posed, then pause your talking and engage directly with the chats by acknowledging them, reading them out loud, and commenting on them.
While we do not expect virtual presenters to be in three-piece suits or high heels and pearls, business casual or smart casual attire is recommended.
Please email a pre-recorded version of your presentation to Conference Design at firstname.lastname@example.org prior to presenting at the conference, as a backup.
Please ensure your PowerPoint presentations are in 16:9 aspect as 4:3 aspect (square) presentations will not fill screens.
Again, just like in face-to-face presentations, audiences connect to authenticity, so be yourself! Let your personality show through. Have fun. If you look like you’re enjoying the presentation so will others. Research shows that happy people retain information better than bored or disinterested people, so model the energy that you want to create.