Online Presenting Best Practices

WRITTEN July 22, 2020 Author: Rich Atkins

It’s been a few months now of living in lockdown. In the past, we have offered some online learning sessions, but now, it’s the entirety of what we do. Since “The Great Pause” started in March, the number of online sessions we give has increased exponentially.

The online-learning format means that we (like you) use web-based video conferencing tools that allow users to meet online, with or without video. Improving Communications online classes use video, audio, and screen-sharing, as well as instructor/facilitator led, activity-based learning.

By conducting lots of online learning offerings, we have discovered some things that work well and keep participants engaged in classes, meetings, and webinars. Here they are:

  • Have attendees write something in the meeting chat when they arrive as a way of “signing in.” This will show that they know how to find and use chat, and that a portion of their technology is working.
  • Include a 5-10 minute break every hour to keep people fresh.
  • Limit the amount of lecture to no more than a few minutes at a time.

Participants should be engaged to do something every 5 minutes or else they tend to gray out”.

  • Use polls and reactions (e.g. “applause” or “thumbs up”) to keep online audiences continuously engaged.
  • Use chat for questions, answers, and idea sharing. Encourage the audience to respond to questions via chat. This can spark or enhance discussion.
  • Use breakout rooms to facilitate one-on-one practice and small-group discussion/exercises. Move participants to them automatically, (not as an option for them to choose). Have participants/attendees coach each other through activities to ensure that they are engaged and actively listening.
  • Require participants to raise their virtual “hand” or enter questions into the chat. This allows the host/facilitator/organizer or others to respond at an appropriate break in the program.
  • Allow information sharing by using annotation on the whiteboard and/or collaboration tools so that multiple people can work on files.

To avoid problems during online presenting:

  • Send the materials well in advance to avoid firewall/“I didn’t receive it” issues. Check with each attendee as they arrive that they got the materials for the meeting.
  • Check each participant’s technology (microphone, chat and device placement) at the start of the session.
  • Ensure that phone login is available to overcome audio issues (microphone or sound problems).
  • Turn off the camera for 3-5 seconds when there are video problems. This will reset the data stream.
  • Log out and back in again when there are lots of video and audio problems. In extreme cases, power down the device and start again.

Online presenting will never the have same impact as meeting in person. Today’s virtual meeting technology cannot recreate how people interact with others face to face. However, for now, it may be all we have. Use these tips to keep people engaged, and make it work.

This information is from the Improving Communications Advanced Presentation Skills training class. If you’re looking for ways to improve your overall communication skills, register for one of our upcoming public classes in NYC.

Other Resources Online Presenting:

The Most Maddening Part of Working From Home – The Video Conferences

The Do(s) and Don’t(s) of Video Conferencing

Virtual Meetings: How to Run One from Start to Finish

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