There’s one fundamental rule to virtual presentations. If it can go wrong, it will go wrong. Learn the most common technical issues and show up prepared to deliver a flawless talk.
PART 1 – AUDIO
Background Noise Is the Not-so-Silent Killer of Audience Experience and Presentation Recordings
Unplug the fridge
Fridges like to randomly emit a steady stream of unwelcome white noise that can ruin a virtual presentation recording. If you have one in your vicinity, consider unplugging it while you present, but set an alarm to remind you to plug it back in.
Beware the laptop fan
Certain laptops—I’m talking about you, MacBook Pro—get angry when they feel overworked, destroying recordings. Close all unnecessary apps and if possible move it 6ft or more in front of you and use a wireless or mounted microphone that won’t pick up the noise.
Close the windows
You can almost guarantee there will be an ambulance or fire truck blasting past your home, right in the middle of your talk. And then there’s Dave next door with his leaf blower and lawnmower.
Change noisy clothes
Surprisingly, your clothes can also ruin your audio. Loose clothing and certain fabrics can create scratchy sound that are unremovable from your recordings, and irritate the audience.
Don’t wash your clothes
I’m not saying you should never wash your clothes, but the time to do it isn’t when you have to present. The rumbling sounds awful, not to mention that irritating 5 beeps when it signals it’s done.
Shhh your roommates
Hang a sign on your door to prevent roommates and family members from bursting in on you unexpectedly.
Don’t wear heels
Heels of any kind (high heels, and men’s dress shoes ) can make a distracting tapping sound if you’re presenting standing up and shuffling nervously. This is especially important on a real stage.
PART 2 – VIDEO
The Right Camera for Live Broadcast vs. Virtual Presentation Recording, Eye Contact, & Looking Great on Camera.
4K vs 1080p webcam
If you’re doing a live webinar/event, 1080p is the best setting to prevent audio lag. When recording, switch to 4K mode, and re-sync the audio in post production if needed.
Have a tidy background
Creating an attractive—and uncluttered—background, helps improve the professionalism while removing distractions. And no, you shouldn’t use a Zoom background (except in a regular meeting). They’re the opposite of professional.
Make eye contact
Making eye contact with an invisible audience is hard. Add a sticky note beside the webcam encouraging you to keep your eyes on the lens and not on your slides.
Raise your camera to eye level
Presenting sitting down from your laptop makes you look down on your audience. Use a riser or a standing desk to bring your screen and camera to a friendly direct eye-to-eye-level.
Use video lighting
Create a two-light setup with a key (main) light and a fill light. Set them at 45 degree angles to you, one on either side, and dim the fill light to 50% power to create a slight shadow on your face.
Add an accent light
You can make your background look better by adding a small accent lamp on a shelf or cupboard. A soft warm light is often best, or get creative with a coloured light that matches your wall colour.
PART 3 – MAKEUP
This Goes for You Too, Gents. Just a Little, Can Make a Big Difference.
Blot away sweat
Blotting sheets are fantastic at removing oil and sweat from your skin which helps to reduce shiny skin that’s very reflective to light and can cause overexposure.
Use setting powder
Setting powder helps create a matt finish that further removes shine. This is your secret weapon for being on camera.
PART 4 – CLOTHES
Dress for Success Like You Would if You Were Speaking on a Real Stage.
Have a stage outfit
One of the best ways to get in the zone is to have an outfit you wear when presenting. When you put on those clothes you switch into performance mode. Use it for practicing too!
Lay out your clothes
Your stage outfit represents part of your mojo. Lay them out the night before your talk (on a sofa, extra bed, side table or even the floor. This ritual removes the stress of figuring out what to wear at go time.
PART 5 – YOUR LAPTOP
Prepare Your PC – It Can Fail & Crash if You Don’t Treat It Right
Reboot the night before
Over time our computers get bogged down with stuck processes and filled up memory. Restarting is a good way to make a clean slate. HOWEVER, don’t do it right before your talk as it may start installing a big system update that take hours.
Close those apps!
If your browser has 42 tabs open, and you’re running Photoshop, PowerPoint, and Spotify, you run the risk of crashes, audio and video lag, and overheating. Close down anything that’s not essential to your presentation.
Turn off notifications
If your computer has a “Do not disturb”mode, make sure you turn it on so you don’t get a sexy text message popping upon your shared screen, in front of 500 people.presentation.
PART 6 – Software
Here Are Some Choice Options for Audio, Video, Recording, Editing, and Virtual Presentions
If you’re on a Mac, QuickTime is a great way to record your screen (and audio at the same time). On a PC PowerPoint has a screen record feature what’s pretty awesome. You don’t even have to be using it for your slides.
Most of the time, your microphone will be the only audio input that virtual presentation software can handle, cancelling out any audio in your slides. To solve this you can use virtual audio software like Loopback (Mac $99) or VB Audio Cable (Mac/PC free or by donation) to combine the system audio with your mic.
Your goal should be to create a pro-grade recording of your presentation, which will require that you edit your audio, screen, and webcam together in post production. You can use tools like Final Cut Pro X (Mac), Camtasia (Mac/PC) or DaVinci Resolve (Mac/PC). Final Cut and DaVinci both have an auto sync feature to make sure your audio and video are in perfect sync. You can find a deeper dive into how to edit your video together in The Ultimate Guide to Giving Virtual Presentations on Zoom.
If you’re using a DSLR or mirrorless to record you, that’s what you’ll edit together with your screen and audio. But if you’re using a webcam, you might need to record it using the software that came with it. If you have a Logitech Brio you can use the Logi Capture software. Alternatively, you can use software like ScreenFlow (Mac) which can record many inputs (webcam, screen, audio) making editing easier.
I’ve found that the best way to record audio is to use the software you’re using to capture your screen. This lets you sync with your webcam footage more easily, as that will also have an audio track (from the built-in mic of the webcam). Note, you won’t use the audio from the webcam, that’s just to help you sync with the screen recording video.
Virtual event platforms
All virtual event software is different. Grab a free trial of the software and explore the features.
Test event software
Similarly, you should do a dry run of your talk using the virtual event software that you’ll be using for the event. This will help you understand how to start your slides, how the interface will look (there might be panels you need to close so you can see your slides), and most importantly, you can check if your audio and video are playing properly and how any animations look.
PART 7 – MONITOR
The Right Size, Type, Position, and Angle of a Virtual Presentation Stage Monitor Can Make a Big Difference
Set up a second monitor
If you don’t have a wireless microphone to create space between you and the camera, set up a second external monitor, place it out in front of you and mount the webcam to that. This decreases the angle of view from cam to slides, making it appear as if you’re making eye contact.
Watch from the attendee’s perspective
Sign into the virtual event software with a second account to see how the broadcast looks and sounds to attendees. Put it up on your monitor so you can modify your position, movement, and background until it looks as good as possible.
PART 8 – EQUIPMENT
Find the Right Combination of Audio, Video, and Wireless Clicker to up Your Virtual Presentation Skills
Get a wireless clicker
Presenting standing up is the best way to add energy to your presentations, and a wireless clicker is an essential part of doing that. I recommend the Logitech R800. It has a timer on it and buzzes when there are 5 and 2 minutes remaining. Even if your microphone forces you to stay at your desk, the clicker is quieter than a mouse or keyboard.
Upgrade your microphone
Bad audio is the #1 reason someone will leave your presentation or stop watching the recording. Ditch the laptop mic and buy a Blue Yeti, or a Rode Wireless GO with the bonus lavalier option.
Upgrade your webcam
The webcam in your laptop isn’t great quality and creates weird angles when you move the screen. The Logitech Brio 4K is a great cam choice.
PART 9 – PRACTICE
The Absolute Best Thing You Can Do To Become a Better Virtual Presenter Is to Practice.
Do a dress rehearsal
Always practice like a real dress rehearsal, with the exact same setup you’ll use when you’re live. It’ll give you a new level of confidence when the day comes because you understand all of the tech setup, and your environment will be ready to rock.
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