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Best Tools for Virtual Presentations

By October 8, 2020 Projection

As the tech people “in the room” (or, more accurately, behind the screen), we are often asked for our recommendations for the best technology and tools for virtual presentations. From lighting and sound to communication, we’ve compiled a list here that we hope will be helpful to our meeting planner partners as they prepare the speakers and presenters for their virtual events. 

The basics

When presenting virtually, you want to sound and look good. The attendee experience can be dramatically impacted when they can’t hear a speaker due to a bad microphone or can’t see them due to a blinding backlight.

Video
The built-in webcam on most notebooks and all-in-ones isn’t great, with many having lower resolution than necessary for a good attendee experience. In addition, built-in cameras aren’t always positioned where they should be – at the top of the screen. There are a variety of high-quality, external cameras that easily and quickly improve the quality of a presentation.

Options:

  • 4K-capable Brio
  • Logitech StreamCam
  • Razer Kiyo
  • Microsoft LifeCam Studio

Sound
As Dana Brownlee points out in this Forbes article, “There’s not much worse than sitting through a virtual presentation with horrible audio. If you’re looking for a formula for losing participants, that’s probably it; but if you’d rather have participants hanging on your every word, the first step is providing crystal clear audio.”

The microphones that are built in to our computers aren’t made for high-quality sound, so if you’re presenting, you’ll want to get an external microphone.

Options:

  • Blue YetiUSB Microphone
  • Blue SnowballMicrophone
  • Heil PR-40 Microphone
  • Samson Meteror Microphone
  • Samson Go Mic

If you are going to be standing and presenting, you’ll want to consider a lavalier microphone, such as the Saramonic SR-ULM10L Omnidirectional USB Lavalier Microphone.

Beyond the microphone, Darrell Etherington suggests getting headphones in this TechCrunch article. “Headphones of any kind will make your video calls and conferences better, since it minimizes the chance of echo from your mic picking up the audio from your own speakers. Big over ears models are good for sound quality, while earbuds make for less obvious headwear in your actual video image.”

Lighting
According to TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington, “Lighting is a rabbit hole that ends up going very deep, but getting a couple of lights that you can move to where you need them most is a good, inexpensive way to get started.”

While it can seem overwhelming, small changes to lighting can make a huge difference. You may have been on a conference call with someone and commented on how amazing they look. There’s a chance it was due to a great night sleep, but more than likely, it was the result of lighting.

Etherington is right; you can go crazy, but if you’re not planning on building a studio in your house, you can keep it pretty simple.

  • Make sure you have good front light – that is, the light shines on your face. If your back is to a window, close the shades.
  • For those more advanced presenters, consider three-point lighting (also known as documentary lighting).

Options:

  • Lume Cube
  • Joby Beamo Mini
  • Neewer Portable LED Lighting Kit
  • Zaze Ring Light
  • ePhoto Digital Photography Video 2400 Watt Three Softbox Lighting & Boom Hair Light Kit
  • Elgato Key Lights or Key Light Airs
  • Philips Hue Play Smart LED Light Bars

In-home technology  

While looking and sounding good is important, having enough Internet bandwidth so people can see and hear you is even more so! This is one of the most overlooked pieces of the virtual event/remote presenter puzzle: Hard-wired connection. Even the most robust Wi-Fi is subject to interference that can impact bandwidth; a hardwire connection is not.

Mary Abbajay offers this in her Forbes article: “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.”

Our team recommends measuring the distance between your cable router and presentation space; 100’ works for most unless the house is larger than 3000 square feet.

Option: Cmple Cat5e Network Ethernet Cable

Team alignment & communication

While not necessarily a tool for presenters, it’s critical for the entire meeting planning team to have a real-time, seamless way to communicate with each other. Recently, we helped design and produce a national association’s annual meeting, and the ability to connect during each phase of the event – from planning through execution – was crucial. For that event, the team used WebEx Teams. We’ve also used Slack to ensure real-time, seamless alignment.

In addition to the planning team, we have found that it’s a game-changer to have a place outside of the virtual meeting platform where all breakout moderators can communicate. If you have 20 breakouts with a moderator in each one, there are likely issues that will arise that require attention or consensus. Without a channel, like WebEx Teams or Slack, where moderators can connect outside of the breakout (with attendees watching), they are left out in the breakout wilderness. That can lead to a poor experience for both moderators and attendees.

Additional tips

In addition to the technology and tools mentioned above, presenters might want to consider getting a timer so they can keep track of time, especially since they will likely be presenting off of their computer.

On that same note, it can be hard to multitask while on a web conference. One solution is to offload audio and video recording tasks to a cell phone; this frees up the laptop for note taking, document consulting, etc. (Justin Jaffe offers how to do this in his CNET article.)

There are so many options for improving the quality of a presentation, and therefore the experience an attendee has. We have included many of those options here; while not an exhaustive list, hopefully it’s a great place to get started.