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Five tips to make you a better presenter at virtual events

December 4, 2020

I love presenting on a stage. I love to engage with people, have an audience in front of me. So you think that presenting virtually would be no big deal. Actually, it is a big deal.

One of the things I miss the most is the engagement with the audience. The feeling you talk to only yourself. I was not too fond of it, but I tried to change it this year.

If you want to start speaking, this year is also a great opportunity. There are so many conferences going on virtually, and every event is looking for new and unique content. New and unique content is essential. In the past, when we could travel from one conference to another. It was easier to redo a session and be sure that no one else had already seen it. Your session’s retakes were a great way to tweak them with the online conferences and recordings that are sometimes shared. It sometimes feels you only got one shot. Of course, that is not true. You can keep tweaking and adapting your session, but the chances are bigger. More people have seen your session already.

Besides speaking, I also took the opportunity to attend a couple of these virtual conferences. This year was a great time for me to step out of my comfort zone and participate in events from other products/vendors/platforms. One event I liked was the one from Next.js: https://nextjs.org/conf.

Based on both speaking and attending virtual events. I created my five tips for you to consider when presenting virtually.

The tips

1. Please stand up

Let us start with the most important one for me. Try to present while standing in front of your camera. I know not everyone has a standing desk, but standing gives you a more natural feeling and is more engaging for your audience.

For yourself, while standing, you can move freely, but try to stay within the boundaries of your webcam. More importantly, you can use hand gestures.

For your attendees, having that bit of engagement from the speaker is so important. As attendees, we already have to look for a long time at just our screen. Suppose you would present while sitting. We would only see your face and shoulders, and we would only see your mouth moving. Less movement on your screen means that it is harder to keep their attention.

2. Please do not use a Bluetooth microphone

Can you hear me? Sorry, your voice is cracking. You sound like a robot.

Those are probably things you heard or said before, at least I have. When you want to go into this online presentation scene, please consider investing in a good microphone.

Info I am using the Elgato Wave:3

In a couple of conferences, I had a couple of speakers using a Bluetooth microphone. In many cases, it might not be an issue, but there is a lot of interference from time to time, and your voice is not clear anymore. Although it is probably not your fault, attendees might still get a bit frustrated from it.

When presenting in real life, you can hear yourself. You know when something goes wrong with the sound. Online you do not have this luxury. Sometimes you have a moderator, and they can make you aware of it, but you might not have an easy way to fix it.

I love to use a standalone microphone connected via USB. Not only because it assures you that it keeps the connection, but it also allows you to walk around, and you do not have to wear a headset while presenting.

3. Try to look into your camera

Looking into your camera is not an easy one. A trick I use when I have to present is to have my presentation above my webcam (you can see this in my setup: https://www.eliostruyf.com/uses).

My desk in the office
My desk in the office

It is essential to have your webcam in the middle of the screen you use to present. During demos, you are forgiven for not looking into your camera as you need to focus on what you want to show. Also, your audience will have more focus on what you are delivering to them at that moment.

Info A good webcam is never a bad thing. Webcams are good, but there are other devices these days you could use for better quality. You could use a mirrorless camera or even a GoPro.

Logitech C920 vs GoPro 7
Logitech C920 vs GoPro 7

4. Invest in good lighting

The dark days are here again in Europe, which means that your room/office might get dark very quickly. Good lighting is critical. You do not want to present in the dark. Although it might feel to you that you are in a bright room, what the attendee would experience is something else. Most of the time, the video is darker.

I went for two Elgato Key Lights. Two because of some research I did for people wearing glasses. I first wanted to have a ring light. Luckily, when I was about to purchase it, I saw a review that mentioned: “DO NOT BUY IF YOU WEAR GLASSES”. So that triggered me to do more research. When wearing glasses, you want the light not to come from in front of you but from the sides. That way, you do not have a light reflection on your glasses.

Info Another tip is to point the lights towards the wall instead of your face. This will help to have less glare and reflection. If you in a darker room, or during late evening talks, you might want to point them towards your face.

5. Just do what you love to do

If you are going to look for tips, you will probably find 100 more of them, but what is important to me is that you can just be yourself. That you just show what you love to do. By doing so, it feels real. You create a real connection to your audience, although it is virtual, and you will just enjoy what you are doing.

Have a great time attending and presenting