3 Essential Tips for Online Presentations
- Many students new to online learning are giving virtual presentations for the first time.
- Options for online presentations include recording a video and screencasting.
- Always be professional — clean your background and use a good-quality camera.
- You should also practice giving your speech multiple times online.
If you're new to online learning, you might still be figuring out how to upload papers and projects, take exams, participate in science labs, and work on group assignments, all through your computer. You might also be required to give presentations in your online classes.
Online presentations can be challenging because you need to master both the material and the technology needed to give them. Whether you're preparing to submit a class assignment or defend a graduate thesis or dissertation online, there are three important steps you can take to ensure success.
1. Understand the Expectations and Requirements
Every online class and assignment will be different. In some courses, you may be given a list of options for completing and submitting presentations. Will you present live to your online class or submit a recording? Should your presentation be a specific length or in a certain format?
Always check the class syllabus if you aren’t sure about the expectations for a virtual presentation assignment.
Always check the class syllabus if you aren't sure about the expectations for a virtual presentation assignment. And ask your professor any questions you might have before digging in.
Here are some examples of the different approaches to presenting virtually. Depending on your class, you may be able to combine several of these approaches to share your work.
You can record your presentation using your computer's webcam, your smartphone, or another camera-equipped mobile device. Video can be helpful if your project includes visiting a specific location or interviewing someone.
Once you've recorded your virtual presentation, you can upload the file to a sharing platform such as Dropbox or YouTube, or use a video application like Padlet or Panopto. Check with your professor to find out which applications may be built into your course or otherwise available from your school.
Your presentation may include slides you've created to share your work through things like text, images, charts, and/or video. Microsoft PowerPoint, Keynote, and Google Slides are all popular online presentation tools. Each program includes options for embedding videos and recording your own narration.
Look online for guides that offer step-by-step instructions on how to add audio or narration. A narrated slideshow can be helpful when you want to combine your voice with on-screen images, graphics, and text.
Another way to capture your voice and presentation materials together is screencasting. You might have already experienced screen sharing in a web conferencing platform, like Zoom. Many online instructors use these online presentation tools to allow you to hear them while also viewing their computer screens.
2. Get Organized
Winging an online presentation is bound to result in additional stress and roadblocks you didn't anticipate. This is why preparation is a must. You should get started as soon as possible on your presentation by selecting the right tools and setting up your workspace.
Online Presentation Tools
PowerPoint and Google Slides may be two of the most popular tools for creating presentations, but there are many, many others. Feeling creative? Want to break away from the ordinary? Explore some of the options available in applications like Powtoon, Prezi, Adobe Spark, Vyond, and Canva to create interactions, animations, and more.
Many of these applications have free versions for educational use or free trials. Before signing up for an account, figure out what you already have access to through your school by checking with your instructor. Some tools may offer free or low-cost accounts for students.
For more ideas and recommended presentation tools, the University of Oklahoma's College of Arts and Sciences provides a virtual student orientation for online classes that includes a handy how-to guide for video presentations.
Equipment and Location
If you're going to appear in your presentation, whether it's live or recorded, pay attention to the space you'll be using, and consider adding some tools and equipment to that space. This can be especially helpful if you'll be giving lots of presentations for your classes. These tools can also improve your experience with live class meetings through web conferencing platforms like Zoom.
Natural lighting is usually best. If you can, position yourself and your computer so that the light from a window is facing you. Having a bright window behind you facing your back can make you appear as a dark silhouette on screen. If you don't have great natural light in your workspace, make use of the lamps in your room.
- Set up lamps you already have and try positioning them at different angles to see what looks best on screen.
- Use a ring light. These special lights typically use a clip to attach to the edge of your laptop, smartphone, or tablet. Something basic and inexpensive should suffice.
- Consider the time of day of your live presentation or recording. You might need to shift your chair or lighting to offset any shadows.
Most newer laptops and tablets have built-in cameras that do a good job of capturing video. If your computer doesn't have a camera, look into your school's library or bookstore for affordable options you can borrow or buy.
- Check your camera angle. It's recommended that you have your camera at or a little above eye level. You may need to stack some books under your computer or tilt your screen to achieve this effect.
- Clear your background. What is the camera picking up in your workspace? Consider your class presentations as professional meetings and remove any items that might be inappropriate in this setting. Remember that cluttered backgrounds can be distracting.
- Look at the camera, not the screen. You can still use your notes, but practice looking ahead to simulate direct eye contact with your audience during your presentation.
You're almost ready! Before you go live or start your recording, take a little extra time to adjust your setting and prepare for a successful presentation.
- Alert family and roommates that you're getting ready to give your online presentation, and usher any pets out of the room. Try to use a room with a door you can close.
- Put on headphones. They can help filter out background noise and prevent audio feedback. Some headphones also have a built-in microphone, which can provide better audio than your computer's internal microphone.
- Turn off on-screen notifications for things like email and Slack before you begin your presentation. This allows you to avoid distracting background noises and flashing images.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice
Whether you're presenting live or through a recording, appearing on screen or using slides, it's a good idea to conduct several practice sessions in advance.
Nitasha Mathayas, Ph.D., describes her firsthand experience defending her dissertation over Zoom. Her advice includes recording your practice sessions for review and critique. The more familiar you are with your material and the technology you'll be using, the more comfortable you will be when it's time to present.
“Try giving the talk a few times to make sure you test everything out. I practiced my talk on Zoom three times with my colleagues and their feedback helped me adjust my pacing and presentation.”
It might even be worth practicing in front of an audience. Check with your school and program for possible support. The University of Maryland's Graduate School Writing Center, for instance, offers scheduled practice sessions. You can also enlist a few friends and family members to provide encouragement during a dress rehearsal.
How to Give a Successful Online Presentation
Preparation is the key to a successful virtual presentation. Public speaking and technology skills take time to develop, and each presentation you give is an opportunity to improve those skills.
The time and effort you put into your online class presentations will pay off not only now in terms of your grades, but also in the future when it comes to virtual job interviews and the predicted rise in remote working environments.
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