8 Best Practices for Delivering a Killer Presentation, Virtually



Get the most of this new format from setting the scene for your presentation space to securing authentic engagement long after the event.


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The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our way of life in many ways, forcing people to innovate and find new ways to connect via remote channels. In the events space, this has led to conferences like SMW going fully remote. The remote format comes with challenges, for sure, but it also comes with benefits and opportunities.

This article is designed to help you make the most of this new format from setting the scene for your presentation space to securing authentic engagement long after the event.

In this article you will learn how to:

  • Create a professional studio-like experience
  • Optimize your presentation for a virtual audience
  • Use video to bring your presentation to life
  • Drive audience engagement using interactive tools
  • Host a breakout for deeper engagement
  • Distribute recaps, recorded video and takeaways
  • Dial up your energy and project through the screen
  • Integrate social media for greater reach 

Create a Professional, Studio-Like Experience

Just because you won’t be in the same room as your audience, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider the space you’ll be in for your remote presentation. In addition to looking the part, here are a few quick tips for creating the ideal backdrop.

  • Lighting and filters: A simple ring light can help avoid backlight and create a more professional shot. Amazon offers one for $30. For added professional flair, Zoom is equipped with settings you can use to enhance your appearance with an overall smoother shot.
  • Camera position: Prop your laptop on a sturdy and elevated surface such as a couple of books so that the camera is eye-level.
  • Declutter: Give your space the Marie Kondo treatment to free the area of distracting objects. As far as ideal areas go, living rooms are generally the most conducive, but a kitchen could work just as well.
  • Get some privacy: Ensure your space is quiet and void of any buzzes, pings, and background voices. At the same time, understand that people understand we’re all at home with families. If you should have a BBC interview moment, just shake it off. Part of the new normal is embracing each other’s humanity.

Optimize Your Presentation for a Virtual Audience

In an era of social distancing, people are multitasking more frequently. What this means in the context of participating in a virtual conference is that experiences must be designed for engagement over time with multifaceted touchpoints. In this vein, tighter and shorter bits of content will resonate more than a presentation duplicated in a traditional stand-alone and deliver approach.

Authenticity, context, and humility are important characteristics to note. In the context of a virtual presentation, bringing these into your session requires a blend of links, images, screen sharing, videos, and slides. In other words, a dynamic message is an effective message. This mix of media and content will ultimately allow the audience a forum and space to post their own stories about your content long after the event.

Below are a few sources for you to consider as you build your presentation:

  • Prezi: Host of templates and drag-and-drop designs
  • SlideDog: Handy for combining media such as PDFs, video, websites, and spreadsheets into a cohesive presentation package
  • Visme: Easy-to-build infographics and interactive content

Use Video to Bring Your Presentation to Life

Without being in person it can be hard to break up content and seeing someone on camera can help ease some of this burden.

From keynote-style talks to firesides with live-note taking, to two-handers or small group discussions with a moderator, video can fuel collaboration from numerous angles. The real value of the discussion, similarly to in-person presentations, is the community building that transpires from the insights shared. In a virtual setting, breakout sessions, hangouts, and virtual demos can all bridge the divide between digital screens and bring that excitement of being in an exhibitor hall or lounge to your home. More on how to create these human-first experiences in the rest of the tips and practices.

Drive Audience Engagement Using Interactive Tools

There may not be that perfect substitute for bringing everyone together under the roof of a venue, but doubling down on interactivity is an effective way to drive excitement in a virtual setting. The ways you can deliver interactive sessions will vary based on the size of the audience, but there are several examples you can start with that are available across many event platforms.

For instance, polling features, live chats and Q&As. These are a fast and simple way to directly connect with attendees that will engage their minds and get them focused on the topic of conversation. As an added bonus, you may learn something yourself. Be sure to flesh out the process at the beginning of the conversation.

To prevent drop off, answer some during the conversation and pocket the rest for the end. Moderators or community engagement specialists play a key role here and can be used to facilitate this process from prepping people in advance of the session to hosting any necessary prep calls and managing the clock throughout the panel.

You should also build pauses in which you can check in on the chat and any submitted questions too. This will give you a chance to pulse check the room for engagement. Following the session, underscore ways participants can keep the dialogue alive and share additional feedback.

Host a Breakout for Deeper Engagement

Well-planned breakout sessions can greatly benefit a larger program, primarily by allowing attendees to participate more actively compared to when their tuning into mainstage sessions more passively throughout the day.

More specifically, breakouts afford a deeper look at the material and can lead to better engagement with content through heightened collaboration and idea-sharing. The most effective breakouts are planned with an objective, but that isn’t to say you shouldn’t welcome ideas — crowdsourcing may be a viable option if you want the attendees to have more control and ensure the discussion will resonate and have the desired impact.

This is a valuable opportunity for people to ask questions and comment on the topics discussed in the mainstage sessions in greater length. Often just a few interesting and well-formulated questions can do the trick. To ensure the longevity of the breakout, consider using a moderator to take notes, or if you’re relying on your own materials such as a video or separate presentation, share these with the group and encourage them to continue the dialogue on their social platforms. Using live chat to exchange resources such as links to case study material is another way to bring energy to this smaller setting and maintain consistent engagement.

Distribute Recaps, Recorded Video and Takeaways

Networking aside, another integral part of a conference experience are the tangible takeaways you provide attendees with to bring back to work. This is especially relevant for in-person events but even more critical for virtual conferences. Reports, session recaps, videos, and presentations that can be shared post-event are just a few examples of additional value-adds that can enable attendees to grow their career and their business. These are also an opportunity for you to build a positive personal brand that gives your insights a digital megaphone.

As far as the presentation itself, include a recap slide at the end. If the audience takes away nothing else, this slide should contain the key points or themes they should remember. Don’t simply save these for the end, however. It’s also worth repeating and reiterating these throughout the talk. Again, people are likely multitasking.

Dial up your energy and project through the screen

Depending upon your virtual meeting platform, audience members may not be able to see you, so it is even more important in virtual meetings that you convey energy, interest, and excitement when you speak.

There are a few simple ways you can practice your delivery before your actual presentation. To help pace yourself so that you can maintain your energy throughout your presentation, use a voice recorder. This will help you identify any fixes in inflection you may need to make.
Aside from your tone, your overall presentation including your hand gestures are important. Use your laptop to do a dry run-through of your session and target areas where you may want to make some adjustments.

Finally, when using sources like Zoom to host virtual events, consider that some of the nuances of communication get lost. The concept of “use your words” applies here. Find a balance between articulation, volume and gestures so you aren’t solely relying on your nonverbal cues.

Integrate Social Media for Greater Reach

In the event world, “promote it and they will come,” is a powerful phrase, especially when you offer people an incentive to tune in. Now more than ever, social media is the most important utility for gaining attention and connecting in the moments that matter.

Use this opportunity to think outside the box. Never created an event countdown in Instagram Stories? Now is the time to step out of your comfort zone and test the waters. Create a Facebook event for your session or list it on Eventbrite. Send a personal note with a link for how someone can register to hear your session. If you go the paid route, ensure you’re targeting strategically and have carefully thought through the format. Whichever platform you choose, and whether you go paid or organic or a mixture of both, clearly communicate the value proposition as this will be your main selling point.

The world is now a different place and it is our job to help our audiences navigate these unprecedented circumstances with humanity. When used appropriately and for the good of society, technology is a critically important part of our lives serving as a pathway through unprecedented times.

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