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10 Tips For Giving Effective Virtual Presentations
What to know before you go live.
September 26, 2016
Presenting online? Try these suggestions to improve your results. | Illustration by Tricia Seibold
As audiences go global and you need to reach more people through technology (including webinars, conference calls and teleconference), you must consider the challenges to connecting with a virtual audience. Here I pinpoint 10 valuable best practices to ensure you communicate successfully.
1. Be Brief
Audiences begin to lose attention after roughly 10 minutes of hearing from the same presenter. If you have more than 10 minutes of content, use interactive activities to keep your audience engaged (for example, take a poll, give quizzes, or ask audience members for their opinions via chat).
2. Be Simple
Keep slides simple — avoid too many words, graphics and animation features. Less is definitely more!
Light yourself well | Illustration by Tricia Seibold
3. Be a TV Personality
Look straight into your camera, not the screen. Wear clothing that is neutral in color (no plaids or stripes). Light yourself well and from above. Be mindful of what appears behind you in the background. Invest in a good microphone.
4. Be Standing
Even though your audience cannot see you, stand when you present. This allows you to stay focused and use good presentation delivery skills such as belly breathing, vocal variety, and pausing.
5. Be Prepared
Practice delivering your presentation with your technology in advance of your talk. Make sure all of the features of the technology work. Record your practice using the recording feature of your tool. Watch and listen to learn what works and what you can improve.
6. Be Assisted
Have someone available to deal with technical issues and to field email/text questions. Also, if you have multiple remote audience members in one location, be sure to pick one of them to be your “eyes and ears.” Ask them to queue up questions and facilitate discussion on your behalf.
7. Be Specific
Ask pointed questions to avoid too many people answering at once. For example, rather than ask, “Are there any questions?” try “Who has a question about the solution I provided?” Set a ground rule that people state their names prior to speaking.
Imagine your audience | Illustration by Tricia Seibold
8. Be Synchronized
Transitions are critical. You must connect what you just said to what is coming next when you move from point to point. Transitions between topics and slides are good opportunities to get people reengaged to your talk.
9. Be Connected
Imagine your audience even though you can’t see them. You can place pictures of audience members behind your camera so you can look at people as you present.
10. Be Early
Encourage your audience to access your call or webinar in advance of the start time so you can iron out any technical issues in advance and get them familiar with the technology.
Matt Abrahams is a Stanford GSB organizational behavior lecturer, author, and communications coach.
For media inquiries, visit the Newsroom .
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November 19, 2014 Matt Abrahams: The Power of the Paraphrase An expert on public speaking shows how paraphrasing can help you navigate tricky communication situations.
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Practice where, when and as often as you need. No more forcing your family, friends, or coworkers to endure five rounds of practice presentations. Our virtual audiences will take their place. Adjust the venue, audience size and behavior to fit your training needs; from starting out with a fear to perfecting that important presentation, Virtual Orator provides the right speaking experience for every need.
Practice in a variety of venues. Pick a space similar to where you will present, so you can ‘own’ the stage when you step in front of the audience. Or, Pick a venue and audience to challenge yourself.
Every time you start Virtual Orator, we invite a randomized audience. You choose the size of the crowd and their general behavior, from friendly to distracting and disinterested. Our software creates realistic situations, and our proprietary AI makes the virtual humans behave accordingly.
Preparing & Honing
What our users are saying
I’ve tried several other apps, but Virtual Orator is the only one that I feel can really simulate the fear setting and make me improve. -Steven S.
I’ve been using your program for about a week now. I’m really loving this… Believe it or not, I think it’s helping me already in real situations. -Luis R.
Prior to Virtual Reality Exposure (VRE), many clients had difficulty staying focused on the triggers associated with making speeches in front of audiences. With Virtual Orator, I have patients make 1- to 2-minute speeches with the Oculus Rift headset on, and it immediately triggers their fear responses. – Dr. Rick Bradshaw
Virtual Orator requires the use of a Head Mounted Display (HMD), aka. VR googles. Only by using such an immersive device, can we ensure that the presentation experience is realistic. This realism of the experience is what makes Virtual Orator so effective for training and overcoming fears.
*NEW* licenses for Pico Neo and Oculus Quest lines of All-in-One VR headsets are now available in our shop. The VIVE Focus port and license will follow soon.
VR glasses connected to the PC are compatible with Virtual Orator if they can run in SteamVR. This includes Oculus Rift & Meta Quest, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Virtual Orator will run on any “VR Ready” Windows PC. Please assure laptops are labeled VR Ready, as this can be an issue. Check your PC using the SteamVR Performance test , or Windows Mixed Reality PC Check app. Virtual Orator adapts visual and simulation quality to the performance of your machine. Some functions do require Windows 8.1 or higher.
Recent on the Blog
“ The Virtual Orato r” is a blog about Public Speaking and VR. Get tips and tricks. Learn ways to improve your skills. Get more out of Virtual Orator. Some of our recent posts:
Traumatic Memories: how do they impact your ability to shine?
Channel Supervillains to improve your public speaking
The Power of Kindness: A Solution to Public Speaking Anxiety
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How to Give a Great Online Presentation: 11 Pro Tips
Giving a presentation online is much more difficult than presenting in front of a live audience.
People get distracted easily. You can’t read the room. Often, you can’t even see your audience.
Because of this, it’s hard to engage and captivate your participants.
Hard, indeed. But not impossible.
I put together these 11 tips that will help you turn your online presentation from good to great.
And don’t just take my word for it.
Among these tips, you’ll also find the wisdom of Nathan Gold , high-stakes presentation coach, and seasoned keynote speaker, and Gibson Biddle , former VP of Product at Netflix, now a teacher, speaker, and workshop host.
Ready to take your online presentation to the next level?
#1. Cut the number of your slides and simplify them
Don’t overwhelm your online audience with too many slides or they may easily zone out. In case you have more material, consider splitting the presentation into two sessions.
Also, make your slides minimalistic. One idea, one quote, or one number per slide is ideal. This will make the information more digestible and draw attention to what you’re saying instead of forcing people to read.
#2. Use the rule of three
A good structure helps people follow your story and understand your presented content better. Gibson Biddle recommends following the rule of three because:
- 3 items are easy to remember
- They help you minimize your text
- 3 chapters provide guideposts for the content of your presentation
The rule of three will help you hold the message of your talk together nicely.
Apply it in the design of your slides (3 bullet points a slide), or use it to structure your whole presentation (three main takeaways).
#3. Fail to rehearse at your own peril
Improvisation has a certain appeal, for sure. But don’t leave your online presentation to a chance. Take your time and rehearse your talk well. Otherwise, your online gig might come across as unprofessional and messy.
I usually give as much as one hour of rehearsal time for every minute of my talk before any large presentation that I give.
Nathan Gold goes even beyond that. In this webinar, he says that whenever he trains TED and TEDx speakers, he asks them to commit to around two hours of out-loud practice for every minute of their talk.
Of course, the length and intensity of your preparation is entirely up to you. What’s important is that you’re confident about how you’re prepared. At least, though, run through your slides and content about an hour before your talk and rehearse your opening well so that you start strong.
#4. Start with a strong hook
Speaking of starting strong. Captivate your audience right from the start of your presentation. Open your talk with a powerful statement, story, thought-provoking question, or an eye-opening number.
See our new vlog below where I share 5 types of hooks to open your presentation with.
Another great practice is to actively involve your audience in your talk right from the beginning. Let the tech aid you there.
In his webinar on how to captivate an online audience, Nathan Gold kicked things off with an interactive word cloud : Using one word, describe how you feel about presenting online.
This way, he learned something more about his audience and was able to address their concerns throughout his presentation.
To make it more impactful, he repeated the same word cloud at the end of his webinar to see how his participants’ feelings changed after his presentation. The result was remarkable. Watch it here at 31:30 .
#5. Quiz your audience
A quiz is another brilliant way to start (or finish) your online presentation. Running a quiz is fun for your participants and allows you to connect and “talk” with your audience even if you can’t see them.
Prepare a short, four to six-question quiz on the topic of your presentation and let your participants guess away. You can even motivate your audience to participate by giving away some small treats for the winners.
Tools such as Slido allow you to create your online quiz in a couple of minutes and run it during your online speech, webinar, or workshop.
Read also: Step-by-Step Guide for Hosting a Great Online Quiz
#6. Use a backdrop or a virtual background
Even if the situation forces you to give your presentation from your home, avoid letting your audience peek into your kitchen or living room. You will appear much more professional against a plain wall or a special backdrop that you can install easily in your room.
If your video conferencing tool allows you to set up a virtual background (such as Zoom ), choose one that’s pleasing but not disturbing for your audience to look at.
Canva put together an awesome virtual background library, you can pick one from here .
#7. Position your web camera at eye-level
Even if you can’t always see your audience, that doesn’t mean you can’t be looking them in the eyes.
Nathan Gold advises moving your laptop/phone camera up so it’s approximately your eye level. This way, it will appear as if you’re looking right at your audience which feels much more natural.
You can also play around with tripods and stands to achieve the most comfortable position for you. For example, Nathan has his web camera mounted on a tripod in front of his computer screen which allows him to look at his slides while still being glued to the camera.
#8. Prepare secret notes
Here’s another great hack from Nathan Gold that will help you keep an eye-contact with your online audience.
If you want to keep notes to remind you about some important things you want to mention during your presentation, write them down on sticky notes and stick them behind your camera, close enough for you to read through them comfortably.
This way, your audience won’t even notice that you’re glancing at your notes (as opposed to looking down when reading from your notebook).
#9. Keep engaging with your participants
Throughout your presentation, space out several interaction points that will bring your attendees back in case they tuned out. Take inspiration from Gibson Biddle who likes to break the dynamic of his webinars and workshops by asking his audience questions through live polls .
Live polls offer you a great chance to open a conversation with your audience, get their instant feedback on your presented material, and collect their opinions.
Since people tend to lose attention when attending a presentation online, re-engaging them throughout your talk is even more important. When I present online, I space out live polls every about 5-7 minutes, as opposed to every 7-10 minutes in the live setting.
Another great way to interact with your audience is to let them ask you questions. Collect your participants’ questions using Slido Q&A and then answer their questions at the end of your online presentation.
#10. Have a wrap-up slide to summarize your points
By the end of your presentation, conclude your talk by summing up all the important messages and key lessons on a separate slide. You’ll draw the full circle and your audience will get a nice overview of what they learned.
Or, end your presentation with a call to action or a tangible next step for your audience to do. Encourage your participants to try practices that you shared, provide actionable steps they should follow, and share ways for them to keep in touch with you.
#11. Ask for feedback
Feedback is the best gift your attendees can give you in return for the learnings that you shared throughout your talk. Without it, you don’t know what your audience liked or disliked. In other words, you can’t improve.
Create a simple feedback survey and ask your participants to fill it out at the end of your talk.
Make it easy for your audience to participate in the survey. For example, during his webinar, Gibson had a QR code displayed on the screen and described in detail how the participants should scan the code and take the survey.
The feedback form can be really simple – three questions will do.
Try something like:
- On a scale of 1-10, how did you like this presentation? (Rating)
- What is the one thing that you liked about today’s talk? (Open text)
- What’s the one thing that could have been better? (Open text)
To sum it all up
I hope that by now you’re more confident about presenting online and that the above tips will make you a better online speaker.
See how Slido can help you make your next online talk more engaging for your audience. Try live polls, quizzes, or Q&A and take your online presentation from good to truly great.
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Practice what you learn with interactive exercises, which can be completed in your web browser or VR headset. Take these exercises as part of our courses or standalone.
Practice in online exercises or virtual reality
AI and ChatGPT-enhanced exercises
Get instant feedback on your performance
Roleplay with ChatGPT
Practice difficult conversations, sales pitches, negotiations, interviews, and more.
Deliver a presentation in small meeting rooms and larger conference venues, with AI feedback.
Practice your debating skills on any topic with AI-powered avatars. Moderated or one-on-one debate.
Practice how to deliver successful video-conferencing presentations on Zoom, WebEx, Teams, and more.
Impromptu Speech Training
Practice thinking on your feet by talking about a wide range of random images.
Analyze your Business Writing
Improve the readability of your written emails, memos, proposals, and more with this review tool.
Practice pitching yourself, your company, or your product in two different elevator scenes.
Active Listening Exercises
A variety of listening exercises, including the Goldilocks exercise and a conference call.
Online Sales Pitching
Deliver an online sales pitch, answer client questions, receive feedback and self-evaluate.
Practice creating a relevant story for your audience based on two changing images.
Experience bullying, embezzlement, sexual harassment, misappropriation of funds, and taking credit.
Learning a Speech
This exercise helps you learn your speech, starting with the main points and then the sub-points.
Practice answering interview questions that have been asked at Google, P&G, Deloitte, and more.
Practice delivering a training program to different audiences and venues. Get feedback on your performance.
Media Scenarios Tour
Narrated tour exploring common media situations, from TV interviews to press conferences.
Practice saying 'no' to your customer or boss using methods described by the psychologist Trevor Powell.
Experience being ambushed by the media in a hotel lobby and practice answering hostile questions.
Practice presenting your press statement or other material at a small press conference.
Eye Contact Training
Improve your eye contact and review your performance with gamification and heatmaps.
Sound and Visual Distractions
Learn how to deal with sound and visual distractions, including mobiles phones ringing and lighting.
Deliver a speech in this large lecture hall. Load slides and use the speech analysis feature to track progress.
Interactive activities to get you considering alternative perspectives to situations.
Practice leading a meeting, presenting, and answering questions from the avatars.
In-Person Sales Pitching
Pitch to new sales prospects, answer questions and receive feedback on your performance.
Practice your networking skills and build stronger connections with people at two events.
In-Person Job Interview
Practice concise and effective communication while answering interview questions.
Radio or Podcast Interview
Practice being interviewed for the radio or a podcast. Answer questions and receive feedback.
A strength training workout to warm up your voice and develop your pitch, pace, pause, and projection.
Practice answering interview questions in a BBC-styled TV studio. Learn what to say under pressure.
Learn about key literary techniques you can use in your next speech or presentation.
Practice reading a transcript at different speeds, with just a camera in the room with you.
Linking Objects and Stories
Link objects in each room to the given phrase. For example, a laptop to being a great communicator.
Body Language Practice
Deliver a presentation and then watch yourself back to self-evaluate your body language.
Narrated guides on relaxation and breathing techniques, available in the Workplace Stress course.
Test your Speaking Pace
Exercises to measure your speaking pace and help you understand how different speeds sound.
How to Give Feedback
Practice giving both positive and negative feedback to your colleagues in the workplace.
Sexual Harassment Prevention
Experience common sexual harassment situations from a first-person perspective.
Practice Answering Questions
Practice answering questions after your presentation using a 4 step process.
Pitching at a Trade Show
Practice selling your product to potential customers at a trade show booth.
Employee Feedback Examples
Review a variety of feedback examples to better understand how to give effective feedback.
Selling Generic Products
Practice selling products that lack unique features. Try pitching each generic product for 2 minutes.
Practice Creating Analogies
An exercise to train your lateral thinking skills under pressure by completing analogies.
Pitch Variation for a Speech
Measure the pitch variation of your voice when giving a speech to better engage the audience.
Practice your storytelling by talking about a given topic and incorporating new words as you go.
Practice organizing your thoughts by answering questions under time pressure (game by Toastmasters).
Start practicing your skills with hands-on exercises
How to practice your presentations with powerpoint's presenter coach.
Rehearsing presentations gets easier with PowerPoint.
How the presenter coach helps you with your presentations, what you'll need, how to launch the presenter coach in powerpoint, reading your rehearsal report.
Microsoft PowerPoint now has a Presenter Coach to let you rehearse your presentations before going to the audience. This coach gives you a detailed report telling you how well you did and suggesting areas for improvement. Here's how to use it.
Consider the Presenter Coach in PowerPoint as a trusted friend who listens to you practice performing your presentations . This coach reviews your entire presentation and creates a report detailing your performance.
For example, it will grade you on how fast you speak and how much you use filler words like "um" and "ah." It will also inform you of words you might want to avoid and encourage you not to simply read the words on your slides aloud.
Basically, if you need a second opinion on your presenting style, this is a great way to get it.
Related: 8 Tips to Make the Best PowerPoint Presentations
To use the Presenter Coach in PowerPoint, you must have:
- a Microsoft account or a Microsoft 365 work or school account
- a working internet connection
- a microphone (so that PowerPoint can listen to what you're saying)
Also, the Presenter Coach only works if you use the English language in PowerPoint. Other languages are not yet supported as of April 2021.
PowerPoint's Presenter Coach works for any presentation. You can use it with your commercial, educational, and even family presentations.
To start using this feature, open your presentation with PowerPoint.
In the PowerPoint window, click the "Slide Show" tab on the ribbon at the top of the window.
If you don't see the Slide Show tab, you're probably in Slide Master View. Close this view by selecting "Slide Master" at the top and then clicking "Close Master View."
In the Slide Show tab, click "Rehearse with Coach" to open PowerPoint's Presenter Coach.
Your presentation will open in fullscreen mode. To activate the Presenter Coach, click "Start Rehearsing" in the bottom-right corner of your window. Optionally, enable "Show real-time feedback" if you want the coach to give you tips while you're still presenting.
Now, begin your presentation like you normally would. If you enabled the real-time feedback option, you'll see some tips appear in the bottom-right corner of your window.
Press "Esc" when you're done presenting to exit fullscreen mode. PowerPoint will now open your rehearsal report.
It's important to read and analyze the Presenter Coach's report properly. This will help you find areas for improvement and see whether you're doing well.
The report will vanish as soon as you close the report window. To save the report, take a screenshot of it.
Here's what each section in the report tells you about your presentation:
- Summary : Summary tells you the amount of time you spent practicing your presentation. It also shows the number of slides you rehearsed.
- Fillers : In the Fillers section, you'll see the filler words (umm, ah) that you used during your presentation. Using these filler words makes you sound less confident, and you should try to avoid using them.
- Sensitive Phrases : Sensitive Phrases highlights culturally sensitive phrases that you used in your presentation, which you might want to avoid. It considers the following areas sensitive: disability, age, gender, race, sexual orientation, mental health, geopolitical topics, and profanity.
- Pace : The Pace section tells you the pace of your presentation. If you were too fast or too slow, you'll find that information here.
- Originality : Microsoft suggests that you avoid reading out the text written in your presentation slides, as this makes your presentation boring. Instead, you should use original content in your speech. The Originality section informs you if you only read the text from your slides.
Now that you know where you need to improve, click the "Rehearse Again" button at the top of the report to re-present your presentation. When you're done, PowerPoint will make another report detailing your new presentation performance.
Related: How to Add Music to Your PowerPoint Presentation
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Virtual Presentation Best Practices: A Guide for Online Entrepreneurs
Whether you’re pitching to potential partners or introducing a new product to customers, a presentation can make or break your online business.
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If you’re used to in-person presentations, you’ll realize that virtual presentations have their own set of challenges.
For a start, stage fright can still happen even though the stage might be your own home office.
In addition, your audience is more likely to tune out and disengage from online presentations because they’re not physically present. Plus, there are too many distractions for most people at home or in their remote office.
As a presenter, it’s also harder to “read the room” when you’re presenting online.
In today’s post, we’ll cover virtual presentation do’s and don’ts to help you win over distracted audiences, keep their attention, and get your message across clearly. Get ready to take down notes!
Why virtual presentations are more challenging than in-person presentations
Before learning what you should do (and not do) when hosting a webinar , demo, or virtual keynote, you have to understand why virtual events can be more intimidating for many.
Sarah Gershman , President of Green Room Speakers, describes it well . For her, virtual presentations are unnerving for one particular reason: lack of response and feedback from the audience.
According to Gershman, it’s like you’re one of those birds calling out another bird for mating or to signal danger, but no one answers you back.
As a result, you feel less connected to your audience. You don’t see your audience nodding their heads and there’s less opportunity for you to make eye contact.
“This only makes the problem worse — it both reinforces our anxiety and makes for a poor presentation. After all, the more disconnected we sound, the harder it is for the audience to listen,” shares Gershman.
Virtual presentation tips to make you feel connected to your audience
The golden rule to successful virtual presentations is to make it easier for your audience to feel more connected to you. When you do this, you’re also helping yourself nail your online talk. Who knows? You might even end up building powerful connections with influential people after your presentation.
Here are some specific dos and don’ts to help you get started with a memorable, engaging virtual presentation:
1. Do look at the camera
It sounds so simple, right?
But when was the last time you looked at yourself on the screen instead of staring straight into the camera while presenting?
When you look directly at your camera, it makes your viewers feel more connected to you because you’re (virtually) making eye contact.
Another noteworthy best practice is to put the camera at eye level. Don’t position it too far below or above you. Not only does it make you look weird, but they’re not the perfect spots for maintaining eye contact.
Finally, if you can, consider getting an external webcam. An excellent external camera makes you look “real” to your audience, which in turn captures their attention.
2. Don’t talk like a robot
How do you sound more human?
Imagine you’re having a conversation with a friend. Smile, talk slowly and take pauses in between your talk.
Instead of looking at it as a lecture, think of it as a session to engage with your audience. Share anecdotes or ask participants to share their own experiences as well.
Gershman also recommends asking rhetorical questions throughout your online presentation.
“For the audience, rhetorical questions create open loops in the brain which we then want to close by answering them in our heads. This helps the audience stay active and connected to your content, even when they can’t talk to you”, explains Gershman.
Examples of rhetorical questions you can ask include:
- Have you noticed a pattern?
- Where do you think this is going?
- Are you ready to try something new?
- What would you have done if you were in his shoes?
- Have you been in a similar situation?
3. Do make sure that your lighting is in front of you
As a presenter, you have to make sure that people can see you well.
You can accomplish this by having a good front light that shines brightly on your face. If natural light isn’t an option for you, a steady lamp directly by your face is ideal.
Meanwhile, if your back is to a window with lots of natural light coming in, close the curtain or pull down the shades.
4. Don’t get too close or too far from the camera
You need to strike a balance between staying close or being too far from the camera. If you stay too close, you might look like a floating head. Meanwhile, if you are too far from the screen, you risk looking like your galaxies away from your audience.
Ideally, the camera should frame your face, neck, shoulders, and the upper part of your body. This way, your viewers can see your gestures too.
5. Do stand up
According to Matt Abrahams , author of S peaking Up Without Freaking Out, you need to physically stand up even if you’re presenting online so you can project more effectively.
Furthermore, standing up during your virtual presentation gives you more energy and tells your brain to be in “presentation mode”. It can also help calm presentation nerves .
If possible, use a standing desk when you’re presenting. Alternatively, position your camera or laptop at eye level.
For virtual presentations where you have to sit down, lean forward (don’t slouch!) as if you’re talking to someone in real life. This position makes your audience feel more connected to you.
6. Don’t waste people’s time by presenting for too long
Have you noticed how webinars or online demos seem longer than face-to-face presentations?
It pays to be more mindful of the length of your talk, and you also have to consider time for Q and A.
Kevin Daum , bestselling author of Marketing for Dummies , suggests that each presentation slide should represent about 3 to 4 minutes of your materia l.
While planning and designing your presentation , limit one or two key points for each slide and use visuals to convey the most notable points. Speaking of visuals, this brings us to the next tip.
7. Do use visuals
Whether it’s offline or online, the best presentations include eye-catching visuals.
But here’s the caveat – you can’t just put too many visuals in your presentation. You have to be thoughtful about how you use infographics, charts, graphs, photographs, and other data visualization techniques in your virtual presentation.
Before you add an image or illustration to your presentation slides, Tamsen Webster , keynote business speaker, and presentation strategist, recommends the following questions to ask yourself:
- Do they reinforce the key points?
- Are they leveraging what visuals do better than words? (pictures, processes, visualized data, etc.)
Webster further suggests that your presentation slide should orient your audience to your Big Idea.
Another best practice when adding visuals to your presentations is using the squint test by Duarte, a presentation design agency.
Here’s what they mean with the squint test:
“When you squint your eyes at the screen (as if you needed glasses to see it), ask yourself ‘what’s popping?’ If the text, graphic, or chart you want to pop isn’t doing so, you need to adjust your design.”
The Duarte team recommends using graphics, color, font size, font type, or italics to guide your viewer’s eye to the most critical part of your slide.
8. Don’t be stiff
With virtual presentations, looking stiff will further disengage your audience.
Create a sense of connection by moving your hands and arms while having high energy levels at the same time. For example, Webster suggests that moving your hand gestures “up” into the camera view helps build connection.
Making more gestures will also help you as a presenter because it channels nervous energy into a more positive experience for you.
9. Do take note of your audience’s cultural background
If you’re presenting to a diverse group of people, get to know them ahead of time in terms of sociocultural preferences, particularly with verbal and nonverbal cues.
For example, if you’re presenting a keynote in English and your audience doesn’t have English as a first language, speak with less accent. Visual aids can also help for these presentations because visuals tend to be universal.
10. Don’t be caught unprepared
There are two aspects of preparation you should care about:
- Prepare yourself by practicing and doing a dry run.
- Prepare your tech.
For the first part, Abrahams recommends a technique called focused practice instead of mentally rehearsing your presentation or flipping your slide decks.
“Focused practice is taking one aspect of your presentation — say, the introduction — and delivering it repeatedly until you become highly familiar and comfortable with it. Next, you move on to another aspect of your presentation, such as transitioning between two specific visual aids,” shares Abrahams.
By doing so, you’ll feel less anxious because you do not have to spend a lot of effort thinking about your entire presentation.
The second aspect of presentation involves ensuring that all of the features of your presentation technology work. For example, if you’re presenting in Zoom and need to record the presentation, find out if the recording feature works during your practice.
Finally, check your microphone, camera, and the platform or feature where your audience can interact with you during or after your presentation.
There’s more to virtual presentations than reading your slides on Zoom
Before you deliver your next virtual presentation, take a step back and figure out the answers to these two questions:
- What’s the Big Idea that I want to communicate to my audience?
- How can I build a genuine connection with the audience?
Once you have clear answers to these questions, your next virtual presentation will likely be more than just reading presentation slides on Zoom. Your audience will feel more engaged with you and get more value from your presentation.
Guest author: Kai Tomboc is currently taking care of content at Piktochart , an easy-to-use design tool that helps you tell your story with the visual impact it deserves. She has written for various SaaS brands and publications like G2. When not engrossed in a book, she’s most likely taming tardigrades.
The ultimate guide to content marketing for business, you may also like, how to use attraction marketing to triple your leads, 6 powerful reasons why you should include images in your marketing – infographic, how to promote an ebook when you have no money for advertising.
3 Essential Tips for Online Presentations
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- Many students new to online learning are giving virtual presentations for the first time.
- Options for online presentations include recording a video and screencasting.
- Always be professional — clean your background and use a good-quality camera.
- You should also practice giving your speech multiple times online.
If you're new to online learning, you might still be figuring out how to upload papers and projects, take exams, participate in science labs , and work on group assignments , all through your computer. You might also be required to give presentations in your online classes .
Online presentations can be challenging because you need to master both the material and the technology needed to give them. Whether you're preparing to submit a class assignment or defend a graduate thesis or dissertation online, there are three important steps you can take to ensure success.
1. Understand the Expectations and Requirements
Every online class and assignment will be different. In some courses, you may be given a list of options for completing and submitting presentations. Will you present live to your online class or submit a recording? Should your presentation be a specific length or in a certain format?
Always check the class syllabus if you aren’t sure about the expectations for a virtual presentation assignment.
Always check the class syllabus if you aren't sure about the expectations for a virtual presentation assignment. And ask your professor any questions you might have before digging in.
Here are some examples of the different approaches to presenting virtually. Depending on your class, you may be able to combine several of these approaches to share your work.
You can record your presentation using your computer's webcam, your smartphone, or another camera-equipped mobile device. Video can be helpful if your project includes visiting a specific location or interviewing someone.
Once you've recorded your virtual presentation, you can upload the file to a sharing platform such as Dropbox or YouTube , or use a video application like Padlet or Panopto . Check with your professor to find out which applications may be built into your course or otherwise available from your school.
Your presentation may include slides you've created to share your work through things like text, images, charts, and/or video. Microsoft PowerPoint , Keynote , and Google Slides are all popular online presentation tools. Each program includes options for embedding videos and recording your own narration.
Look online for guides that offer step-by-step instructions on how to add audio or narration . A narrated slideshow can be helpful when you want to combine your voice with on-screen images, graphics, and text.
Another way to capture your voice and presentation materials together is screencasting. You might have already experienced screen sharing in a web conferencing platform, like Zoom . Many online instructors use these online presentation tools to allow you to hear them while also viewing their computer screens.
Screencasts are particularly useful when you need to demonstrate how to do something. Tools such as Screencast-O-Matic , Screencast , and Screencastify offer additional options.
2. Get Organized
Winging an online presentation is bound to result in additional stress and roadblocks you didn't anticipate. This is why preparation is a must. You should get started as soon as possible on your presentation by selecting the right tools and setting up your workspace.
Online Presentation Tools
PowerPoint and Google Slides may be two of the most popular tools for creating presentations, but there are many , many others. Feeling creative? Want to break away from the ordinary? Explore some of the options available in applications like Powtoon , Prezi , Adobe Spark , Vyond , and Canva to create interactions, animations, and more.
Many of these applications have free versions for educational use or free trials. Before signing up for an account, figure out what you already have access to through your school by checking with your instructor. Some tools may offer free or low-cost accounts for students.
For more ideas and recommended presentation tools, the University of Oklahoma's College of Arts and Sciences provides a virtual student orientation for online classes that includes a handy how-to guide for video presentations .
Equipment and Location
If you're going to appear in your presentation, whether it's live or recorded, pay attention to the space you'll be using, and consider adding some tools and equipment to that space. This can be especially helpful if you'll be giving lots of presentations for your classes. These tools can also improve your experience with live class meetings through web conferencing platforms like Zoom.
- Collapse All
Natural lighting is usually best. If you can, position yourself and your computer so that the light from a window is facing you. Having a bright window behind you facing your back can make you appear as a dark silhouette on screen. If you don't have great natural light in your workspace, make use of the lamps in your room.
- Check Circle Set up lamps you already have and try positioning them at different angles to see what looks best on screen.
- Check Circle Use a ring light . These special lights typically use a clip to attach to the edge of your laptop, smartphone, or tablet. Something basic and inexpensive should suffice.
- Check Circle Consider the time of day of your live presentation or recording. You might need to shift your chair or lighting to offset any shadows.
Most newer laptops and tablets have built-in cameras that do a good job of capturing video. If your computer doesn't have a camera, look into your school's library or bookstore for affordable options you can borrow or buy.
- Check Circle Check your camera angle. It's recommended that you have your camera at or a little above eye level. You may need to stack some books under your computer or tilt your screen to achieve this effect.
- Check Circle Clear your background. What is the camera picking up in your workspace? Consider your class presentations as professional meetings and remove any items that might be inappropriate in this setting. Remember that cluttered backgrounds can be distracting.
- Check Circle Look at the camera, not the screen. You can still use your notes, but practice looking ahead to simulate direct eye contact with your audience during your presentation.
You're almost ready! Before you go live or start your recording, take a little extra time to adjust your setting and prepare for a successful presentation.
- Check Circle Alert family and roommates that you're getting ready to give your online presentation, and usher any pets out of the room. Try to use a room with a door you can close.
- Check Circle Put on headphones. They can help filter out background noise and prevent audio feedback . Some headphones also have a built-in microphone, which can provide better audio than your computer's internal microphone.
- Check Circle Turn off on-screen notifications for things like email and Slack before you begin your presentation. This allows you to avoid distracting background noises and flashing images.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice
Whether you're presenting live or through a recording, appearing on screen or using slides, it's a good idea to conduct several practice sessions in advance.
Nitasha Mathayas, Ph.D., describes her firsthand experience defending her dissertation over Zoom . Her advice includes recording your practice sessions for review and critique. The more familiar you are with your material and the technology you'll be using, the more comfortable you will be when it's time to present.
“Try giving the talk a few times to make sure you test everything out. I practiced my talk on Zoom three times with my colleagues and their feedback helped me adjust my pacing and presentation.”. Source: — Nitasha Mathayas, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
It might even be worth practicing in front of an audience. Check with your school and program for possible support. The University of Maryland's Graduate School Writing Center , for instance, offers scheduled practice sessions. You can also enlist a few friends and family members to provide encouragement during a dress rehearsal.
How to Give a Successful Online Presentation
Preparation is the key to a successful virtual presentation. Public speaking and technology skills take time to develop, and each presentation you give is an opportunity to improve those skills.
The time and effort you put into your online class presentations will pay off not only now in terms of your grades, but also in the future when it comes to virtual job interviews and the predicted rise in remote working environments .
Feature Image: fizkes / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Explore More College Resources
10 tips for effective online teaching.
6 Essential Tips for Students Taking Online Courses This Fall
How to Prepare for a Presentation in College
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How to Start a Presentation [+ Examples]
Published: September 13, 2023
The first step in mastering the art of delivering powerful presentations is understanding how to start a presentation properly.
In this post, you'll discover strategies for crafting a solid presentation opening, designing an impactful opening slide, and delivering a memorable presentation.
Table of Contents
Why Your Presentation Opening Matters
How to start a presentation, opening slide examples, best practices for starting a presentation.
The opening of your presentation sets the tone for your entire session.
Within the first few minutes, most of your audience will decide whether they find your expertise, experience, and topic compelling enough to warrant their attention.
Think of it this way: Your opening is a preview of your presentation like a trailer is a preview of a movie. If the five-minute trailer isn’t engaging or impactful, why should the audience bother sitting through the half-hour movie?
Your opening shapes the expectations of your audience and entices them to stay engaged throughout the session.
And although you’ll still need to work to maintain their attention, getting it right from the start will spare you the challenge of re-engaging a disinterested audience right from the beginning of your presentation.
This opening statement is powerful because rather than lead with his “credentials” or “accolades,” as the audience most likely expects, he defies that expectation.
He creates a sense of intrigue that instantly piques the audience's curiosity and compels them to pay closer attention.
In Tom Thum's TedTalk titled Beatbox Brilliance , he sets a lighthearted tone by stepping on stage wearing oversized sunglasses and declaring, “My name is Tom, and I've come here today to come clean about what I do for money.”
As you might expect, this humorous approach not only elicits laughter but also surprises the audience, who are intrigued and pleasantly surprised at the tone he sets for the presentation.
Ask a question.
Graham Shaw's presentation titled “ Why people believe they can’t draw - and how to prove they can ” begins with, “Hi, I've got a question for you - how many people here would say they can draw?”
Seeing as this is a relatively lighthearted question that’s simple to answer, the audience responds immediately.
Now, what makes this a powerful opening technique is that Graham then goes on to say:
“When people say they can’t draw, I think it's more to do with beliefs rather than talent and ability. When you say you can’t draw, that’s just an illusion, and today I’d like to prove that to you.”
By immediately challenging a widely held belief among the audience and promising to debunk it during the presentation, he employs a powerful technique that keeps the audience fully engaged.
This approach makes the audience feel “invested” in the outcome of the presentation and curious as to whether he can back up his claim.
2. Tell your audience why they should be listening to you.
Getting your audience’s attention is just one part of the equation. Once you have it, you must also explain why they should “keep” listening to you. Here are some ways to do this:
Highlight relevant personal experience.
In Phil Waknell’s opening section, he talks about how he’s spent the last ten years helping conference speakers, business leaders, and entrepreneurs prepare and deliver powerful presentations .
This immediately signals to the audience that he’s someone worth listening to and positions him as a credible source of insights based on the wealth of experience he has gathered.
Highlight your expertise.
During the opening section of Dr. Lara Boyd’s presentation titled “ After watching this, your brain will not be the same ,” she says, “I’m Dr. Lara Boyd, and I’m a brain researcher here at the University of British Columbia.”
Sharing her credentials as a brain researcher is crucial to gaining her audience's trust — especially considering the technicality of her topic.
But even while creating presentations outside fields like brain research, sharing qualifications and credentials in your opening section can be a powerful technique.
This helps you position yourself as a credible authority and reinforcing your audience's confidence in your ability to deliver valuable information.
Tell your audience what’s in it for them.
In Mel Robbins’ opening section for her presentation titled “ How to stop screwing yourself over ,” she ends her introduction by saying:
“I’m here for you. I’m going to tell you everything I know in less than 18 minutes about how to get what you want.”
Although she started the section by highlighting her experiences and expertise, she went further by explicitly stating the benefits her audience can expect from her presentation.
Doing this is a great way to create a compelling reason for your audience to invest their time and attention and emphasize the value of the presentation you’re about to deliver.
3. Introduce your topic.
If your topic is relatively simple to grasp or your audience is particularly knowledgeable, introducing your topic can be as easy as “Today, I’m going to be talking to you about how we’ve built a six-figure software company in 6 months.”
However, if your topic is more complex or unfamiliar to the audience, you must do a bit more heavy lifting in your opening section.
For example, Sam Bern’s “ My philosophy for a happy life ” presentation discusses how he lives a happy life despite having Progeria disease.
However, because this condition might be unfamiliar to some audience members, he takes some time in his opening section to talk about the illness before delving into the meat of his presentation.
Similarly, if you’re presenting on a complex topic or to an audience that isn’t knowledgeable, it’s essential to consider this when crafting your opening section.
4. Leverage storytelling.
Stories can create immersive experiences that captivate the audience and convey a core message.
For example, in the opening section of Sam Bern's presentation, he tells a story about his struggles while trying to achieve his goal of becoming a drummer in his school marching band, despite living with Progeria disease.
This sets the tone for his entire presentation by conveying an inspiring message of fighting against and succeeding despite the odds.
Another great example is the opening section of Josh Kaufman’s presentation, titled “ The First 20 Hours — how to learn anything ,” where he tells a story about his experience as a time-strapped first-time parent.
This story enhances the presentation as Josh eventually shares that this experience triggered his interest in studying how to become an efficient learner.
Finally, Amy Morins’s presentation “ The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong ” is another excellent example of leveraging storytelling.
Amy starts her presentation with a thought-provoking story about observing a Facebook friend's seemingly perfect life.
She then highlights how such comparisons can lead to negative thought patterns and emphasizes the importance of cultivating mental resilience.
This relatable story not only resonates with her audience but also sets the stage for her message on building inner strength.
All these presentations are great examples that highlight how incorporating story-telling in your openings can be a powerful tool for creating memorable and impactful presentations.
Your presentation slides play a crucial role in determining the impact and effectiveness of your presentation.
In this section, you’ll find examples of 8 powerful opening slides across various use cases that not just support but enhance the presentation openings:
1. “ Blackboard is Getting an Upgrade ”
Although these are very different methods of injecting humor at the start of a presentation, they show how infusing humor can be a powerful tool for adding a touch of personality and creating a more enjoyable presentation for the audience.
4. Keep it short and sweet.
While it's important not to rush through the start of your presentation, keeping your opening concise is equally important. But remember, concise does not mean sacrificing substance; it simply means delivering information efficiently.
Essentially, you want an opening section that allows you to create a solid initial impression without losing the audience's interest.
So, how long should this opening secretion be?
Most successful presentation openings are under three minutes, and many are shorter, often clocking in at under one minute.
5. Embrace authenticity.
Contrary to popular belief, there isn't a specific personality that makes someone a better presenter. In fact, the most impactful presentations have been delivered by individuals with diverse characters.
Take, for instance, the contrasting styles of Tom Thum’s irreverent humor and animated mannerisms and Sam Bern, who adopts a relaxed and conversational approach. Despite their differences, both speakers have garnered millions of views for their talks.
So, rather than emulating or mimicking their presentations, the key takeaway is to embrace authenticity.
Allow your personality to shine through, lean on your strengths, and be human in your delivery.
Mastering the Art of Captivating Presentations
Starting a presentation is a skill that is as much an art as it is a science. Thankfully, it is also a skill that can be learned and honed.
By implementing the strategies in this guide and refining them through experience, you’ll become a master at delivering impactful presentations that command attention and leave a lasting impression.
All from the moment you step onto the stage.
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