Best Practices for Virtual Presentations

This preparation guide provides details and resources for conducting lectures and seminars online. Topics include:

– Determining a presentation format
– Selecting a videoconferencing tool
– Preparing a slide presentation
– Pre-recording a presentation
– Practicing with videoconferencing
– Preparing for technical complications

Preparation: Format, Tools, and Technology

Best practices for livestreaming and pre-recording material

Preparing Slide Presentations

Pro-Tip: When screen-sharing slides in Powerpoint, change your settings so that your presentation can be shared without going into full-screen mode—

  • Go to “Slide Show” function in menu
  • Click “Set up show”
  • Select “Browse by an individual (window)”

It’s important that your presentation is easy to read and easy to follow. Keep these tips in mind when you design the background and format of your slides:

  • Use a simple, solid colored background throughout the presentation
  • Make sure that the font color contrasts with the background
  • Limit how many colors you use
  • Use a standard text like Times New Roman, Arial or Calibri
  • Don’t use less than 24 point font
  • Capitalize words and phrases only for emphasis
  • Include keywords on your slides
  • Stay away from long, informational sentence

Practice with Videoconferencing Tools

  • Know how your chosen conferencing tool functions in regard to screen-sharing. For example, know the difference between sharing your entire desktop versus an application window (i.e. Powerpoint slides) versus an internet browser tab.
    • If you plan to play any media with audio, be sure you know how to mute your mic while still allowing for shared sound (be sure that your settings enable sound sharing)
    • If you want to use a white board feature during your presentation, consider using the screen-share function to show a txt file or Word doc (as opposed to a whiteboard feature in the conferencing app—unless you are very familiar and comfortable with that feature).
  • Experiment with using conferencing tool on your smartphone (in case you have computer issues on the day of your presentation)

Pre-Record or Go Live?

While you can opt for one or the other, you may also choose to combine the two formats.

For example:

  • Begin with a live introduction followed by a pre-recorded presentation
  • Intersperse segments of live and pre-recorded material, such as presenting a live slide presentation with embedded, pre-recorded video clips
    • You should consider pre-recording material when you are relying on multiple websites to respond quickly. For example, if you are planning to link out to a particular website and show content from that source, it is possible that the site’s server could be down during your live presentation.

The format will depend foremost on the purpose of your presentation and audience expectations. For instance, if the event is a virtual job talk or a dissertation, you should inquire as to the preferred mode of presentation: The committee may expect you to present all your material in live time, or its members may prefer a pre-record presentation (or pre-recorded elements) to avoid technical issues.

Technology for Pre-Recording

  • Webcam
  • Microphone
  • Screen capture and recording tool (Panopto, Zoom, Quicktime or Screenshot on newer Macs)
  • Tool for editing, exporting, and displaying (such as iMovie or it might be the same as your capture-and-record tool, such as Zoom or Panopto)

Prepare a Pre-Recorded Version

Create a fully pre-recorded version of your presentation ahead of time. This will provide you with the opportunity to:

  • Practice with the tools, technology, and software
  • Gauge and refine your presentation time
  • Have a reliable back-up option in case any technical issues occur during the live event. Be sure to share the video file in advance with the host or moderator of the event. That way, that person can play the video if you have a technical failure on your end.
    • If you have computer issues the day of your presentation, you can use your smartphone to conference in and message your host or moderator to play your back-up video on their end.

Presentation Day Checklist

Pre-Event

  • Be sure that all devices you are using (computer, headphones, etc) are fully charged
  • If possible, keep backup devices close at hand. This should include your smartphone, if you have one (be sure it is set to “silent” mode)
  • Close unnecessary tabs in your browser and turn off notifications such as email or instant messaging
  • Be sure to sit or stand in front of a neutral (or, if necessary, virtual) background
  • Make sure your camera is on a steady surface to prevent shaking
  • Rely on someone else (host, moderator, or an appointed attendee) to monitor and manage the chats; have that person read questions in chat for Q&A out loud; if they cannot do that, be sure you read questions aloud before answering
  • Consider recording session in case an attendee has connections on their end or is unable to attend session altogether

During Event

  • Do your best not to multitask or get distracted with other business on your computer.
  • Turn off your camera if you need to take care of business outside of the meeting (ex. someone in-person needs your attention). Turn the camera back on when you are present in the meeting again. (UMN)
  • Mute yourself when you are not speaking AND while others are speaking: “Many of us use words like ‘OK’ or ‘uh-huh’ as confirmation that we’re listening when others are speaking, . . . [b]ut in an online meeting, especially if you’re the leader or a person of higher authority, others often hear that and they stop talking, wondering if you wanted to interrupt to say something or even that they might have said something wrong. If you stay completely silent, it lets people complete their thoughts.” (SHRM)