Your content is well-prepared and you are ready to start your online presentation. Do you also consider the technique check, to ensure that you are heard and seen just as optimally by your online audience?
If your technology fails, if sound and images are not perfectly broadcasted, your chances to connect with your audience will be very limited or even non-existent. In the worst case your audience will focus on other things and you will not be able to continue your presentation as planned.
It is therefore vital to eliminate potential faults in advance or at least keep the risk to be interrupted as low as possible. At the top of the list is the fact that laptops, tablets and smartphones only run on battery power and the battery will eventually switch off by itself. Hence always connect your device to a power cable and switch off all programs still running in parallel. This way you can reduce the amount of transferred data. This increases your chances for sound and video transmission without latency, i.e. without any time delay. For this reason alone it is worth using animations rather sparingly.
In case you want to add videos to your presentation, you can save further data volume if you download the videos as separate files beforehand. Instead you can play them directly from your internal data storage.
Video recordings in which objects are filmed on site are on the rise. Usage of a gimbal or stabilizer lets you move freely without blurring the image. Outdoor movement provides additional dynamics and is – provided it is well staged – a real eye-catcher.
Online video: How do you draw attention?
With high resolution, a well-lit online stage and a tidy image background, you will visually stand out. Let’s start with the camera: if using a laptop-internal camera, you should be aware that most images transferred in this way are comparatively pixelated. To achieve a higher resolution, an externally installed camera is more suitable. You can install it directly above your device and at eye level. Alternatively you can use your smartphone. Smartphone videos are usually of high resolution and good quality even when they are transferred to large screens. Again, make sure you look at eye level, for example with a height-adjustable table tripod.
With a well-lit online stage, you can draw attention to yourself. Follow the simplest rule: if your face is illuminated by frontal or slightly lateral light, you are already well-lit. You can achieve this by using diffuse and soft light. One option is to supplement daylight entering through windows with two desk lamps. You should be able to adjust their brightness in a flexible way.
You will appear even more professional with additional lighting from above. This third light source provides a bright contour. Thus you gain additional spatial depth, which appears as more realistic online. Ideally, set the lighting in a way that no or only a small shadow is cast on the wall behind you.
Besides the lighting, your background image comes into play. If you decide against sharing your private environment, a green screen is suitable and can be combined with a virtual background. For the green screen you can use a green blanket, green paper or a green roll of sufficient size to cover your background. If it is well-lit, you can work with virtual images projected onto the green background. Programs such as Zoom allow to easily adjust your appropriate background with special video functions.
Now the question is whether and how you share files, videos and virtual whiteboards with your audience. Ideally, your file is already open and prepared for presentation mode. You know in advance what exactly you want to present (and what not). However, when sharing the screen, you are faced with the challenge that only your voice or additionally a small image is discernible for your audience. Your shared slides should be of the same high quality and be quickly understood – just as you know it from live presentations. In addition, you cannot see what your audience sees: the screen you are sharing, yourself, the whole group in small mirrors, or a mixture of all of these. Here you can guide your audience to your desired setting. It is important to avoid changing media too quickly. Especially when changing media, delayed transmissions of video and audio are common. Your audience might see and hear them at different times.
In some presentations I have experienced speakers not deactivating the status messages of their devices. Messages like “Honey, are you picking up the kids from swimming today at 6 pm?” quickly distract the audience from the actual topic and do not leave the very best impression.
How do you want to be heard by online audiences?
No sound, no presentation – or a presentation with only limited impact. So far, so clear. The internal microphone of the work equipment is standard. This almost covers the acoustic channel of communication. It becomes more challenging as soon as you move away from your laptop or tablet. Of course, the sound transmission suffers with increasing distance from the microphone: Interruptions, choppy sound syllables and a soft tone hinder understanding at the other end of the communication channel.
Because you should make the most of your stage during the presentation, your headset should always be close at hand. Using a headset ensures that your voice is transmitted with the best quality and understood even at further distance from your laptop. The headset has the advantage that you can position its microphone just in front of your mouth thus directly transmitting your sound. At the same time, it conveniently absorbs a lot of background noise, so that your online audience can understand you much better.
Alternatively, a lavalier or clip-on microphone can be used, which you can attach just below your shirt collar for use with a smartphone. Make sure that the microphone head does not interfere with your clothing or ear jewelry. Unpleasant rubbing noises would unnecessarily impair the quality of your sound.
I am a frequent participant in hybrid meetings: while I see the majority of the audience online, one or two other participants are in the same room as me. If you are speaking to your online audience now, it is especially important that the sound of the current speaker is transmitted only, while everyone else remains muted. Otherwise echo noise and unpleasant backcoupling will occur.
In order to ensure a successful online presentation, a stable internet connection is crucial. Virtually any expert will recommend that you opt for a secure stationary connection instead of a wireless connection. That way you minimize the risk of sudden disconnections. Moreover, as few people in your household or office as possible should have simultaneous access to the internet. Otherwise the transmission capacity will be quickly used up.
Online presentations are the future
Online communication will certainly not decline in the future, as it already offers numerous advantages nowadays. To name just a few of them: Cost and time savings through absence of costly business trips. They significantly reduce travel and accommodation costs. Associated follow-up effects are: Financial resources can be used for other projects, while the saved time can be used for other important tasks. Online channels such as Zoom and Skype are quickly refinanced in view of the high costs of live events.
The earlier you engage with all the facets of online presentation, the better prepared you will be for the future. Digital natives who are now entering the job market have grown up with exactly that – it’s part of their DNA already. My forecast is that we will enjoy a mix of live and online presentations as well as hybrid meetings. One thing remains to be said: In the future, working life will no longer be conceivable without online presentations. This makes it all the more important to learn how to enrich the facets of successful rhetoric with the facets of the online world.
This post is also available in: German