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How to prepare presenters in virtual environment

By October 15, 2020 Projection

Like the majority of people these days, presenters are having to get used to delivering their talks virtually. While the experience of jumping on a Zoom has become ubiquitous for day-to-day meetings and even social gatherings, the reality is, when it comes to a large virtual event, there is likely much more a presenter will have to do – both to prepare for and deliver their session.

Whether it’s up to the planning team or a partner (like AV) to help guide the presenters, here are a few best practices we’ve picked up over the past few months.

Virtual PowerPoint 101
Unfortunately, when it comes to a PowerPoint presentation delivered in-person vs. virtual, not everything is created equal. When an attendee logs on for a session, they are often seeing the slides in one screen next to the presenter in the other. Therefore, it’s important to design and populate the slides with that reduced size in mind.

  • Less is more. Keep slides light in the way of content so as not to force attendees to strain just to see what’s on there.
  • Keep it simple. Too much flair can cause technical issues, according to SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management.
  • Design for those in the back. SHRM continues with some good advice for designing your presentation: “Design your slides as if you’re creating them for viewers in the back of a large auditorium. Use larger fonts and plenty of white space, and don’t put things near the edges of your slides.”

Eye contact is key
One of the benefits of virtual meetings is the intimate connection they can create. In many cases, the attendee will feel like the speaker is talking directly to him/her. Even this year’s Democratic National Convention picked up on the influence of eye contact, described in this Fast Company article: “Eye contact can impact your attention, your emotion, and even how you evaluate someone as trustworthy or intelligent.”

When we help prepare presenters, we counsel them, as much as possible, to look into the camera and not at the computer screen. While completely counterintuitive to look into the void of a camera lens, the person (and people) on the other end feel like you’re looking directly at them. This makes the experience more personal and engaging.

Preparation can make or break the event
When we set up a virtual speaker ready room for a client’s meeting, we offer each presenter one-on-one assistance with a technician to ensure they are comfortable and prepared. Whether or not you have a speaker ready room, it’s important to get presenters familiar with the environment in which they’re going to present.

  • Provide a roadmap. Make sure they have every logistic and direction that they will need – from how they are entering the platform (will they need to register in advance?) to how early they will be arriving and whether there is a green room.
  • Rehearse. We recommend hosting a rehearsal the day before the event so it’s fresh in everyone’s minds. Human interaction is key, whether a meeting, speaker-ready room, or rehearsal, it’s important that presenters don’t feel like they’re left out in the virtual cold.
  • Be generous with the best practices. Make sure presenters have best practices covered.
    • Lighting: Make sure the main light source is in front of you, not behind.
    • Sound: A headset microphone is best, as you have headphones and microphone all in one. (You can just use the set of headphones you’re used to using with your phone to make calls or listen to music.)
    • Connection: Ideally, hardwire your computer. If you need to use Wi-Fi (which we do not recommend), make sure you are as close as possible to the router.
    • Camera: Position it at eye level or just below.

For more best practices, check out our team’s Remote Presenter Best Practices.
For tools – from lights and headphones to cameras – check out our post: Best Tools for Virtual Presentations

The way presenters are prepared and deliver their content will have a direct impact on the attendee experience, so it’s important to ensure they receive the time and attention needed in this new environment. While we all got used to delivering presentations in person, we have to remember this is a completely different medium, and uncomfortable to many, so the more we can communicate, engage and advise, the better the overall experience will be for everyone.