Webinars, conferences and presenting in the virtual world may have become the new norm, however getting it right is not as easy as just turning up on the day - you wouldn’t do that for a live event would you?
We have put together some guidance and a checklist to help make your presenting experience a triumph.
Making sure that your equipment is up to date and your connections are both strong enough and stable enough is as important as making sure that your slides are in order and complete - test your connection and equipment a couple of days before the event:
- Speed check - test your speed. For presenters the optimum speed is 10Mbps+ - ensuring sharing webcams, microphones and presentations is as smooth and interference free as possible.
- Location - if possible, a wired connection is a much more stable option for your connection and will help keep interferences to a minimum. If this is not feasible, then positioning yourself as close to your router as possible would be best, avoiding WiFi extenders (as these may extend your signal, but can make the connection less stable).
- Equipment - make sure that your equipment is up to date - not only the internet browser you will be using, but the PC or Mac you will be using it on. The more up to date your equipment is, the better prepared it will be for the tasks you wish to undertake on it.
- Type of Equipment - avoid using mobile devices (iPads, mobile phones, Android tablets etc.) wherever possible. A lot of online webinar and conference platforms are not designed for use on small mobile devices, especially for presenting, so can and will cause you connection problems. Check with the event host as to what devices are best suited for the platform they will be using, so that you can plan ahead to ensure you have the right equipment at hand for the day of your presentation.
- Browsers - Google Chrome (insert Google Chrome webpage link) and Firefox (insert Firefox webpage link) have proven to be the most stable browser platforms for interactive events - make sure you have the latest version to avoid any last-minute warning messages from the event platform on the day.
- Firewalls - many organisations, such as the NHS, may have a firewall in place to monitor and protect the network (a virtual security system for the organisation). Ensure you are able to access the event platform from wherever you will be presenting from, and if required please contact your IT department who will be able to assist with overcoming these security barriers - make sure you give yourself and your IT department plenty of time and notice.
- VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) - many individuals and organisations also use VPNs as an additional security measure or to be able to access company data when working remotely. These can cause interference issues with your connections when attempting to present, so please check that the platform works whilst connected to your VPN, or if it is safe to do so please disconnect from it to ensure your connection can remain as stable as possible.
- Slides - if the event host has asked for your slides in advance and in a certain format (PowerPoint, PDF, with or without animations etc.) make sure you give yourself the time to prepare them and send them prior to the event. And keep them simple and clear for all to see - avoid mass text, blurry images and mountains of data. (We will do a future blog on slide creation tips).
Some things to go over and check on the day of the event:
- ‘Hogging’ - if you are presenting from home, make sure that other members of the household are not ‘hogging’ your internet connection - if possible try to ensure that no other members of the house are online. Netflix/YouTube/Spotify/FaceTime calls/Games console streaming will all heavily impact the stability and speed of your connection and will cause your presentation to freeze.
- Close Everything Else - to give the event platform and your connection the best chance of remaining stable make sure you close everything else on your PC or Mac - this includes email applications, other internet browsers, music streaming services, messaging and social media apps, all of the other tabs you may have open in your internet browser. Not only will it reduce the interruptions of notification bells, and the opportunity for distraction, but it will reduce the stress on your connection and any possible interferences or chances of freezing.
- Power - if you are using a laptop PC, make sure that it is fully charged with enough power to last the duration of the event and ideally plugged in to avoid any worries. The same applies for your keyboards and mice - if they are wireless or require batteries/charging, make sure they are fully charged.
- Webcams/Microphones - check that these devices are plugged in and/or connected correctly to the PC or Mac that you are using. If they have power switches or covers, ensure that these are turned on and opened.
- Clothing - if you have pre-recorded your presentation, try and wear the same clothing when you join any live element of the event - this will maintain continuity and avoid confusion for the attendees.
- Backgrounds - try to find a plain background to present in front of to avoid distracting the viewer - you want them to be looking at you, not the plant appearing to grow out of your head, or the amusing movie artwork hung on your wall.
- Virtual Backgrounds - unless you have an incredible internet speed (60Mbps+), or have tried and tested using a virtual background on the event platform you will be presenting on, try to avoid having to use them as they can cause glitching and freezing. This will then cause distractions for the viewer, when they should be focussing on you and your content.
- Distractions - unless you are expecting an urgent call or message, leave your phones and other devices out of reach. It is clear to see when somebody is distracted, and therefore becomes a distraction for those viewing the event. If you need to have your devices at hand, make sure that they are on silent and not too close to your microphone - even gentle phone vibrations can be heard and can cause distractions.
- Pets and People - having a virtual catch up with a colleague/friend is vastly different to presenting to dozens, hundreds or even thousands of attendees who have likely paid to be there. If you are presenting from home make sure that pets and children cannot disturb you or those viewing. Likewise, if you are presenting from work or a more social space, that your colleagues/work neighbours are aware of your commitments and what they need to do to ensure that neither you nor the attendees are distracted - mention it in the morning briefing, team meeting, a quick email around the team, or even a sign on the door informing everybody of what you are doing and what you need from them.
- Links - have the link to the event saved somewhere easily accessible on the day to avoid the stress of having to locate it or having to communicate with the event host in order to get a new one sent. When you receive the link copy it into your calendar entry for the event, so you know when the reminder pops up that with a couple of clicks you are on your way.
- Slides - if you are sharing your slides yourself whilst you present, make sure that they are open, complete, spell checked and ready for when it is your turn to present.
- Hydration - presenting and talking for an extended period of time can take its toll on your vocal cords and your overall hydration. This can be solved by having a drink at hand - just be mindful of how much noise you make, make sure you are on mute, and try and avoid large and complicated drinks bottles that may make you the focus of distraction.
- Stationery - have a pen and paper at hand for any notes you may wish to take to avoid rummaging through drawers or around your desk mid event - you may wish to refer to something another presenter has mentioned later in the discussion, or even take note of the other presenters names or credentials so you don’t forget them.
Enjoy yourself! Smile, show enthusiasm and keep your energy levels high - this will be clear and visible to see and will encourage your audience to stay focussed and interactive.