The pandemic has shifted most traditional presentations to an online format. Many firms are offering webinars for clients, delivering proposals to groups through video conferencing and holding internal training remotely. Remote presentations yield great opportunities for reaching a larger audience and sharing ideas and knowledge.
At ConvergenceCoaching, we have been facilitating remote presentations since our inception. We offer a public webinar series, facilitate staff training and strategic planning meetings for firms, and host regular leadership and development program roundtables and remote workshops.
I wanted to share some of our best practices for preparing for and delivering remote presentations. I’ll break them into two categories: things to do while preparing for your presentation and things to focus on during your presentation.
Preparing for Your Presentation
- Identify your topic and audience. There may be times where you know your audience before your topic, and vice versa. If you know your audience (for example, you’re facilitating a webinar for a construction industry association), but not your topic, ask yourself what specific subjects they would want to (or should) know about. What trends are happening right now that they should be addressing? If you know your topic (for example, educating an audience about the most recent updates regarding PPP loan forgiveness), but not your specific audience, consider who needs could most benefit by knowing about these updates. Is the information you plan to share relevant to a specific industry you serve or does it apply to most (or all) industries? Is there a specific role within the organization that can most benefit, like CFOs? Will you go in-depth in your topic and focus on technical aspects, or will you stay high-level with your focus?
- Know your presentation platform. If your firm is hosting your remote presentation, you’ll have easy access to your platform so that you can familiarize yourself with it. If another organization is hosting, you’ll want to schedule a time to test the platform they plan to use, ideally before you develop your presentation slides or materials. Doing so allows you to understand what functionality is available to you and how you plan to engage and interact with the audience. You can then plan certain discussion questions or activities into your materials. Here are some examples of functionality you may want to consider for interaction:
- Chat or Q&A – be sure to understand whether participants can chat to the entire group or if their messages are only seen by speaker or admin users. Know whether you’ll have access to the Chat or Q&A and whether or not your moderator will also be able to help feed questions from it to you.
- Polls – you can set up polling questions to quickly understand how your audience feels, or what they know, about certain subjects. This will help you feel more related to them so you can tailor your comments as you’re teaching.
- Raise hand – if your platform has this feature, you can encourage participants to raise their hand for a question, or you could also use it as a way to poll your attendees by asking them to click the icon if they’ve experienced a certain situation or agree with something you’re saying.
- Manual mute/unmute capabilities – if your audience has the capability to unmute and mute themselves, you could potentially have attendees share verbally.
- Breakout rooms – you could split your audience into groups to work on an exercise together, or respond to questions that you pose. These should be used sparingly as they do take quite a bit of clock time to execute, reducing your actual presentation time.
- Video – if your attendees have the capability to use their webcams, encourage them to do so, as it helps increase interactivity and engagement. Make sure you have yours on, too!
- Whiteboard – you can use this to actively add text or drawings to a blank screen, and you can allow your attendees to do the same if interested.
- Prepare your content. Once you understand the audience you’re speaking to, the message you’re trying to help them receive and the options you have for engaging and interacting with your attendees, you can create your session materials. It’s helpful to create an outline that includes your planned introduction, your main points and their sub-points and a conclusion. Then, you can ensure your content flows well and is cohesive. Consider asking a colleague to review your materials or help in their development. Also, think about what resources or materials you’ll provide your attendees after the presentation ends, and how you’ll deliver those items and communicate any expectations.
- Consider how you’ll manage questions. Determine whether you’ll encourage attendees to ask questions as they have them, or if you prefer to save some time at the end of the session for a Q&A. If you’re a guest speaker for a third party, they may have a general practice for this that they want you to accommodate.
- Understand what responsibilities you will have as the speaker, and what responsibilities any other admin users will manage. For example, is your only role to speak and forward your slides? Will you need to open and close your own polls, record the session or start and close the webinar platform? Knowing will enable you to prepare and even practice ahead of time.
- Set up your space to be “camera ready.” Be sure that you have a table and chair set up in a space with a clean, non-distracting background. Try to position your webcam (whether it’s built into your device or is a separate device) so that any natural light from a window is in front of you to highlight your face, rather than appears behind you (which will make your silhouette appear “shadowy” and dark like you’re in the witness protection program). Decide what you will wear so that the look is complementary to your intended appearance. For example, a t-shirt or small strap top may not be the look you want for a presentation to clients and prospects who will only see you from the mid-chest and shoulders up.
- Have a backup copy of your slides accessible. A backup copy of your slides is critical in case a technical glitch renders you without being able to see them on your main device. That way, a member of your presentation team may be able to keep the slides going, or your attendees can download them off the platform, and you can still keep speaking to them by dialing in by phone. You can print paper “handout” layouts of your PowerPoint slides and keep them on your desk. Alternatively, you could keep the file on a separate device, such as a tablet, also on your desk. If you choose the latter, practice opening the file as if you were simultaneously presenting to be sure you can do it seamlessly.
- Join the session early. You don’t want to feel rushed at the start of your presentation. If you’re presenting for another organization, ask them how early they’d like you to join. We aim for logging in 15 minutes early. When we first join, we’re sure to check the following:
- Internet stability (you might want to have a wired connection for best results)
- Audio and video work appropriately
- Screen sharing works and you’re able to advance your slides or materials as needed
- Speak to the camera as much as possible. It’s helpful to look into your camera so that your audience feels like you’re speaking to them. You might practice this ahead of time by presenting a portion of your topic and alternating between referencing your slides as needed, and looking into the camera.
- Maintain variety in your delivery. Sometimes, presenting in a webinar feels like you’re talking to a wall. As a result, it’s important to pay attention to your tone and voice, being careful not to adopt a monotone delivery or become too quiet or giving a “low energy” feeling. Remember that you have an important message that you want your audience to absorb. This will help you infuse more passion into your facilitation approach. And a dose of appropriate humor doesn’t hurt either.
- Remind your audience how they can learn more, or follow up with you. At the end of your presentation, share your contact information with your attendees. Let them know how they can learn more about the subject you just presented on, whether by contacting you or referencing some designated resources. If you committed to send them follow-up materials, reiterate those expectations.
These are just a sampling of the best practices and tips we have for presenting, specifically in a remote format. We hope they are helpful as you prepare for your next presentation. Let us know what else you do to ensure your presentation is as successful as possible. Share with us in the comments below!