The first time you give an online presentation can be an absolutely terrifying moment. But you can massively increase your odds of a successful debut by following some very specific steps.
Here are 10 things you should do to get ready for your big day.
This video is taken from our upcoming show, The Speaker Sessions.
Test the platform you’re going to be using on your big day
Whether you’re using GoToWebinar, Webinar Jam, Live Storm, you absolutely must try it out before your live presentation. Each will have specific nuances that can throw you off. If you don’t know how to control them. There’s almost always a run through with the event organizer a few days in advance, but you should take it a step further and jump on the platform as soon as the gig is confirmed.
Most platforms will have a free trial to let you try it out, and you’ll want to set it up in two ways. The presenter experience, which is what you’ll be seeing/using, and then using a separate PC or device to see the audience perspective.
Some things to look out for when testing the software:
Practice your intro 400 times, and then practice one more time
I can’t stress this enough. Your intro is the single most important part of your talk.
Not just because it’s the only time you have 100% of the audience’s attention, but because if you nail it, the confidence boost will help you sail through the rest of the presentation.
You should also practice different chunks of your talk by themselves, not just the whole talk. This helps you regain confidence when you arrive at a well-rehearsed section because you know you’re prepared and you know how to deliver it.
Practice in the clothes you’ll be wearing when you’re presenting
Now this might sound silly, but it’s an important ritual to get you in the zone and to help you visualize the big day. It’ll also let you see how you’ll look on camera, giving you time to adjust the camera angle and lighting so you look your best.
Make a recording and watch it back
This will help you identify any areas where you’re struggling to communicate your point and it’s a fantastic way to uncover any potential A/V problems such as background noise.
Make sure you listen back to the recording wearing headphones, so you can pick up subtle audio issues.
Background noise can be caused by fans lighting, washing machines, fridges and the rustling of your clothes. You can watch a video on how to prevent clothes from ruining your audio here.
Let others know to leave you alone while you’re presenting
If you have a roommate, partner, or child wander to the room while you’re presenting, it can throw you off, and cause an audio disturbance that can hurt your recording.
If you live in a shared apartment stick a notice on the door saying not to disturb you until you’re done, and list the time that you will be done.
Ask the organizer how they will introduce you
This can help you understand how the transition from the event organizer to you will go.
It can also prevent any secrets from being given away, which might spoil your intro.
For instance, if you’ve got a personal anecdote that you use for storytelling purposes in your intro, it sucks when the event host—through no fault of their own, they’re just well researched— tells the story for you because they found it online and thought it was cool.
Know how to take control of your slides
It’s common that the organizer will switch control from themselves to you at go time.
You may be a co-host in which case you’ll already have control, which is the best situation. But if the organizer insists on being in control and switching over, make sure you run through the process with them in a practice session so you know what to expect and how it works.
Fumbling around with an interface when you should be presenting can really impact your confidence and flow.
Print out a go-time checklist
After doing all of the things in this post, print out a one-page list of things you should do in advance.
Start with the 10 in this list and add any of your own observations that crop up while you’re practicing.
Put a sticky note on or near your webcam
A little bright yellow square will help grab your attention and remind you to maintain eye contact with the audience.
You can’t actually see people’s eyes, so you have to work on looking at the webcam.
I often have a sticky note that says “look up here, idiot” to get my attention.
Read more tips on how to maintain eye contact in a virtual presentation.
Upgrade your microphone
This can make a huge difference to the audience experience and more importantly, it can improve the recording of your talk that you should be making.
You can see and hear a video comparison of different mic options here.
Armed with these tips, you’ll absolutely crush your first presentation.