Now more than ever we are having to adapt to where we work, how we work and ultimately how we engage with an audience and our colleagues alike. A presentation no longer comes with the worries of finding a space to accommodate an audience, or coordinating delegate passes and coffee breaks; but instead finding that perfect lighting, or ensuring your internet connection doesn’t cut out half way through. In light of these new challenges, follow our 10-step guide and you’ll be presenting from home like a Pro in no time.
The first step to ensuring you present like a Pro is making sure you maximise your internet connection. A poor internet connection could make or break your performance; everybody has tuned in to see and listen to you, the last thing they want is to see is a buffering screen. To ensure your internet connection is as strong and stable as possible many factors can be taken into consideration:
- Wired connections from device to router usually experience better bandwidth and reduce the chance of connection loss and so where possible try to connect via a cable.
- If a wired connection is not an option try to find somewhere with the strongest WIFI connection. Bear in mind that WIFI signals decay as they get further away from the router and can be blocked by things like walls and other electrical devices. Try to keep line of sight between your router and device to ensure a strong signal.
- Your home will have a limited amount of internet bandwidth available and you may be surprised just how many devices you have connected to your network. Most people these days have some sort of smartphone, laptop, or tablet and even smart tv’s and wireless doorbells connected to the same network. If you can, try to reduce any unnecessary load on your internet by turning off excess devices and asking family members to avoid things like streaming videos whilst you are presenting.
2. Set up your ‘Home Studio’
Now you have your internet connection maximised, next up is your presenting space. Very few people will have the luxury of a Home Studio, however with some careful thought you will certainly be able to transform your dining room or home office into a presenting space worthy of a ‘Home Studio’ title.
- Try to choose a quiet location where you are comfortable and won’t be disturbed. If you have family members at home remember to let them know in advance to minimise interruptions.
- Pick a backdrop that isn’t too personal, but not sterile. A wall with some lightly adorned shelves, a bookcase or some houseplants works well.
- Camera placement is key. Setup your camera so that it has a clear, unobstructed view of your face and then take a minute a look at what else is visible in the shot around you. You don’t want anything showing that isn’t work appropriate, or anything that might draw your audience’s attention away from you.
- Try to find a place where you can keep your device plugged in, there is nothing worse than your laptop dying halfway through.
Whilst being able to find a suitable backdrop can be relatively easy, lighting however is arguably the most difficult aspect of a home setup to change. Yet any small changes can make a world of difference to visual quality. The aim of the game is to make sure you are well lit with soft, even lighting across both sides of your face whilst carefully balancing the light levels so that the subject (you) is slightly brighter than the surroundings. A few things to consider:
- Cameras tend to struggle with extremes of light or dark, so you want to avoid any direct sources of light in shot. For instance, a window or bright ceiling light positioned behind you will cause the camera to adjust to that light level and make your face look dark.
- Although some light on your backdrop is helpful to provide balance, try to ensure the majority of the light comes from behind the camera.
- Seek out natural lighting from a window source, providing that the sun is not pointed directly at your face or too harsh on one side. The alternative is using artificial lights positioned behind the camera.
- Consider investing in some affordable specialist lamp options (dimmable diffused lighting) if virtual presenting if likely to become a regular occurrence. If this isn’t the case, then a desk light will do a perfectly good job if positioned correctly. Consider bouncing the light off a nearby wall which may provide a softer more flattering effect than pointing it directly at your face.
4. Optimise Your Device
Not only do you need to set the scene with regards to your environment but you also need to ensure your device is optimised for use as live streaming can be quite demanding for your hardware. You want to ensure that your device is able to focus purely on your call or live stream and not anything else in the background. In order to reduce background distraction for your device you could:
- Close down any unnecessary applications as this will help with performance.
- Turn off any notifications to avoid pop ups during your presentation.
- Turn off your screen saver and any power save functions.
The last thing you want when presenting virtually is for people to struggle to hear you. However, there are several ways you can optimise your audio quality; either via the use of external microphones, headphones and even room choice.
- External microphone
For optimised audio, the ideal scenario is to have a microphone as close to you as possible so that it can pick up your voice clearly and minimise background noise. There are lots of inexpensive, wired microphones available to purchase online but if this isn’t an option then the microphone built into a set of smartphone headphones would be an alternative.
Wearing a set of headphones rather than using your speakers will reduce ambient noise in the room and eliminate that annoying echo effect. This echo effect can often be caused by your microphone picking up the audio from the call and looping it back through the system.
- The room
The room will have a huge effect on how you sound. Try to avoid spaces with lots of hard, flat surfaces such as the kitchen or a conservatory. If you have no choice, then temporarily adding some soft furnishings or a rug to cover hard floors should help to reduce the echo.
- The power of mute
Know when and how to mute your audio. Muting your microphone when you are not speaking can help contribute to the overall sound quality of the presentation as it minimises any background noise. However, just don’t forget to turn it back on once you need to speak again!
For a successful presentation, what people see can be as important as what they can hear. Most laptops will come with a built-in camera which is mediocre at best. If possible, invest in an external device such as a webcam.
- Ideally position this camera directly in front of you, slightly above eye level. This provides a more flattering, natural angle and let’s face it, no one wants to see up your nostrils. If you do have to use the built-in camera then try to position it in a similar way.
- Think about what you need to look at the most frequently and make sure this is positioned directly below your camera. Whether you need to reference notes, a script or the video window itself, positioning this directly in front of you (just below the camera) will help create the impression of eye contact and makes it less obvious that you are referencing another screen.
7. Explore ways to engage your audience further
With the rise of virtual events and demand for people to present from home, there is a growing trend and capability to add further dimensions to your virtual presentation. An assortment of software options enables presenters to incorporate live interactive Q&A sessions, opportunities to conduct audience polls and even interactive breakout sessions. Adding more to your presentation can not only help to engage the audience but also bridge the gap between that of the virtual and in person experience. Ways for you to engage your audience further include:
- Live Q&A session
- Audience poll
- Use of multiple screens
- Breakout sessions
- Recording the presentation so that audience can play back at a later date
8. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
One of the great advantages of virtual events is that the commute to your venue is dramatically reduced; if not eradicated all together, and if you plan ahead there is no waiting for set up to conclude before you can rehearse. However, without the advantage of onsite technical support and with the need to perhaps adapt your presenting style preparation is key.
- Make sure that you set everything up and check it works correctly well in advance so that you have time to seek technical help or make adjustments where necessary.
- Download and familiarise yourself with the software you need to use, ensure that you are familiar with the interface and controls.
- Check your audio and video quality ahead of the presentation/ talk. It might be useful to recruit the help of someone else and maybe even have a trial run to ensure your audio and video quality are as expected and desired.
- If there is more than one presenter make sure that everyone is clear as to how the transition will happen from one person to the next and who will be in control of this process.
Like with anything, it doesn’t matter how well you prepare there is always the potential for something to fail. How much redundancy you can build into your event will very much depend on the specifics of your setup however here are some ideas to consider:
- Phone backup in case the video feed or internet fails.
- Backup hardware, e.g. if your microphone failed do you have a spare.
- Duplicate slide content and videos on a separate machine, ideally in a different location.
- Can any of your presentation be recorded ahead of time? Either to use as a backup or as a way of reducing the risks of presenting it live.
10. Upgrade your presenting
Finally, if you feel you have taken in all of the above and are now presenting like a Pro, but you fancy an upgrade look no further.
Looking for a bigger presenting space? Feel you would benefit from some professional lighting or audio equipment? Or would just like to upgrade from your newly created ‘home studio’ why not contact us today regarding the hire of our ‘Sterling Studio’.
Or if you would simply like to explore further presenting tips and options available, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with our friendly team of industry experts today!