How to Be Effective and Keep Participants Engaged When Presenting Remotely

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Whether you’re doing a more traditional presentation via Zoom, giving a live interview, or conducting a webinar, the experience is very different from doing so in person. There won’t be a physical audience in front of you, and sometimes timing is extremely challenging to sync up — people often try to talk over others during conference calls. What’s more, it can be just as difficult to convey the appropriate emotions and body language, especially when just the top half of you — or sometimes even just your head — is visible.

It makes one wonder: What are some things you can do to prepare for the presentation or conference? Are there any tips you should keep in mind during the live event? What else should you know?

How to prepare your Zoom presentation

The planning phase is one of the most critical, as it’s where you’ll decide your topics, your major discussion beats, and where you’ll elaborate. You may not be using a teleprompter, but you will be creating a loose script. In addition, you’ll need to create the media that will go along with your presentation, which should be error-free, captivating, and on point.

Here are some tips to improve planning and design:

1. Design for everyone

While creating your media — the slides — understand that you are creating for a wide audience who will likely be tuning in from multiple devices and platforms. The media is going to look very different on a large, HD-ready computer monitor than it will on a smartphone or tablet. Design the content, images, and layouts so that they are compatible and friendly for all. Someone browsing on their phone should be able to see precisely the same information as someone on a laptop or computer.

Be sure to test out your presentation on different devices and resolutions. Also, try to remember that too much screen time can cause focus and stimulation problems in both children and adults. Try to limit the total presentation time, so that it’s accommodating for everyone.

2. Tone down the visuals

Yes, every presentation needs captivating visual content to go along with the text and audio. But you don’t want it to take away from the meat of the experience. It’s okay to use maps, charts, graphs, videos, photos, including stock images, GIFs, memes, and more.

Just don’t overdo it on a single slide. Try to keep it relatively confined so your audience doesn’t go into a stimulation overload. If they’re trying to read a ton of text, listen to you speak, and process several images — especially animated ones — things can get really hectic.

3. Get your area ready

On a live stream, everything around you is as much the star of the show as you. Figurines, pictures on the wall, and even clutter will all feature prominently unless you alter the background — which Zoom allows you to do. Be sure to tidy up your space before the event and remove anything from the frame that you don’t want your audience to see.

4. Brighten up the room

Webcams, even UHD cams, tend to work much better in bright conditions. If you haven’t already, open your blinds to let in some natural light. Test out the camera conditions beforehand to see whether it’s too bright, or not enough. If you’re using a laptop, you can move around your home to find the best spot.

Audiences should have a clear view of your face. Most importantly, they should be able to see when you’re speaking and what gestures you’re making.

5. Test your equipment

You can make a test call to a friend or family member, or just test out the equipment locally, but make sure everything is working. Check your audio and your microphone, be sure the video is clear and bright, check your internet signal and speeds, and ensure all equipment is plugged in and not running on battery power. You should be doing this as close to the conference or event as possible. It doesn’t help if you check out your equipment days in advance and then run into issues the day of.

People do not like to encounter technical errors. For instance, when a page’s load speed increases by just 1-3 seconds, the bounce rate also increases by 32%. A 5-second increase boosts that bounce rate to 90%. So, the longer it takes to set up your presentation and get things moving, the more likely it is that people will tune you out or leave altogether.

6. Rehearse

Practice in front of a mirror, or hop on a call with friends and family and allow them to provide feedback. Never go into a presentation unprepared, especially if you’ve never given one before via Zoom or anywhere.

7. Create a checklist

A checklist is always a good way to review what you need to get done before an event or activity. Professionals use them to avoid costly mistakes, and you should be taking inspiration from that.

Try to remember every small detail or requirement that you need to complete before the presentation. You can even create a multi-tier checklist that deals with before, during, and after the big event.

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Hosting the Zoom presentation

So, you’re all ready for the big event? Now, it’s time to make sure everything goes smoothly during your presentation. Here are some helpful tips.

1. Speak plainly

It helps if you write the script or guidelines similar to how you will be presenting, however, you should speak plainly and enunciate as much as possible. Unless the subject matter explicitly calls for it, try to avoid industry or specialized jargon. That will also mitigate how much you need to explain or move off-topic. Furthermore, it ensures your entire audience can follow along, regardless of skill level or expertise.

2. Minimize potential interruptions

You can’t control what happens on the other end of that presentation, but you can certainly control things on your side. Try to mitigate potential distractions as much as possible. Put your phone on silent. Wear headphones so there’s no audio echo or distortion. Close your door or isolate yourself so no one comes in to interrupt. You might also consider turning on Do Not Disturb mode on your computer to pause notifications during the meeting.

3. Keep your materials handy

Two points. First, you want to keep your notes or script handy so that if you get stuck you can continue with little to no pause. Second, those materials should be in a place that has you facing the camera. If you have a document up on a monitor, for example, you don’t want to be glancing sideways all the time to read what’s next.

Situate the screen and camera so they’re at the same angle, so you’re constantly looking at the camera while you read. It’s a lot easier to do with a laptop because the camera is usually in the top bezel. With a desktop, you might have to move your display(s) around, or reposition your webcam. If you’re using a phone or tablet, you should have those propped up on a stand or tripod to keep them stable.

4. Dress to impress

Dress just as you would if you were paying a visit to the office or making a presentation in public. Put on the whole outfit too, and not just the shirt, because you never know what’s going to happen. If the camera falls, you don’t want it to expose that you’re just wearing underpants along with that collared shirt.

5. Have your media ready

It’s a simple tip, but a crucial one. Have your slides and other media ready to go and queued up for sharing. Don’t wait until the presentation to get things in order. You should be able to swap to the necessary screen, share the content, and go. Have all hyperlinks, videos, and interactive elements prepared beforehand, as well.

6. Pause for effect and questions

After each major beat, pause for a moment to allow your audience to ask questions, raise concerns, or ask for you to reiterate the message. This is much more difficult when you’re dealing with a large audience, but most Zoom meetings are relatively intimate with a local group.

7. Pay attention to chat

Alongside every Zoom event or meeting, there is a live chat window that can sometimes be forgotten if you’re busy focusing on your presentation. Don’t neglect it. Your audience may be asking more questions, providing valuable feedback, or even pointing out something wrong — like your mic cutting out.

8. Record your presentation

Make sure you’re recording the presentation to reference later, not just for everyone else but for yourself too. It allows you to rewatch the feed to review questions and commentary, and also to perceive your mannerisms and dynamic content. You can use that information to build a better presentation later.

9. Leverage the Zoom tools

There’s a host of tools you can use with Zoom, including screen sharing, annotations, live polling, and much more. Incorporate them into your presentation whenever possible, and don’t forget they exist! They can help make the experience more fun, engaging, and memorable.

10. Keep it interesting

It’s easy when you’re talking, especially about dull subjects, to lose your audience. One way to keep them invested and interested is to add the occasional “boom” moment. It’s an impactful instant, like a shocking statistic, joke, or alarming point, that ties together everything you’ve been talking about up until that moment.

The follow-up

After the presentation is completed, don’t make the mistake of thinking your work is all done. The first thing to do is make the media and the recording of the presentation available so that anyone who wants to can go back and review the experience.

Next, you need channels in place to collect feedback. People will have follow-up questions and concerns, and they may want you to clarify certain points. Also, you’ll want people to share their experiences. What did they enjoy? What did they dislike? How could you have improved as a presenter? Don’t be too scared to ask these questions, as they’ll help improve your Zoom presentation skills.

Finally, consider wrapping it all up with a nice bow by giving away free content or materials to those who attended the event, like a free e-book written by you or your colleagues, or a promo code to your storefront.

With these ideas in mind, you’ll be ready to knock your next Zoom presentation or remote meeting out of the park!

Eleanor Hecks
Posted in Management