13 Tips for a Powerful Virtual Presentation

By Julie O'Donnell

March 16, 2020

March 16, 2020 – We’ve all been on virtual meetings where the presenter has lost our attention and we have lost the will to live! Presenting virtually does require some additional preparation and planning to make sure you keep people engaged from start to finish. Here are some quick tips to improve your next virtual presentation:

Starting with the basics

  • Consider the room in which you’ll present…What will your background look like? Is it uncluttered? Will there be noises or other distractions? Avid sitting in front of a window as it can cast shadows on your face, or create a silhouette effect resulting in your face being dimly lit. If you have to sit in front of a window, draw the blinds. Ideally your face will be lit from above.
  • It’s important to make eye contact with your audience – particularly in online presentations. Make sure your laptop is positioned so that your camera is at eye-level. You can do this via a laptop stand or by placing your computer on a stack of books.
  • Position your laptop so it’s at arm’s length from your body – so that your upper torso is in frame. You want to be able to use your hands and gestures to emphasise key points and engage your audience, in the same way you would in a face-to-face meeting. Ensure you turn off notifications that may appear as you are sharing screen.
  • Check your sound – make sure you have headphones and aren’t relying on your computer speakers alone. Headphones will make for better sound quality. Test both your audio and video connection on the platform you’ll be using (e.g. Zoom) in advance of your presentation to make sure everything is work as it should be. Ensure there’s no interruptions by having your phone on mute.
  • If running the meeting on your own video conferencing platform, consider setting up the ‘mute upon entry’ option to avoid any latecomers distracting you. Remind participants to use mute when not speaking. If people forget, the host should mute them or take a moment to request people go on mute. Don’t let the distraction linger.
  • Stand if you can. Standing will automatically put you in a different frame of mind, bring more energy and mirror your natural presentation style in a face-to-face setting.
  • Opt for solid colours – avoid stripes, busy patterns or neon colours that can create a blurring effect on video. Keep accessories to a minimum and ensure they don’t rattle or hit your table causing background sounds. 

Keeping people engaged

  • Look at the camera, not yourself. Train yourself to look into the camera and not at the thumbnails of other participants, or the view of yourself.
  • Be visual – as with any type of presentation, focus on telling a strong story. Keep your slides visual with text to a minimum. Consider strong visuals that might be arresting, funny or unique and where they appear in your story flow.
  • Make sure everyone is on the same page – check in with your audience early to ensure they understand the story you’re about to tell or what’s going to be covered. Regularly scan the facial expressions of those participating (if they’re sharing video) to check they are following along.
  • Use your voice – change your tone and emphasise key words and phrases to avoid sounding monotonous. Remember to speak clearly and pause on occasion – for emphasis at key junctures and to set up transitions in your presentation.
  • Involve the participants – engage them in your story. Grab their attention by referencing them, e.g. “Some of you might be wondering…”, or by posting rhetorical questions. Pose questions directly to the group and wait for them to voice an answer or use the functionality of the platform to have people post their answer in chat or through a show of hands.
  • Take time to directly walk through key slides – particularly if they have graphs, charts or other diagrams. Use your cursor to highlight key points and verbally indicate to your audience where you are referring to.