By the end of this chapter, you should be able to
- Identify points to consider in selecting an app for online presentations and meetings
- Explain best practices in for online presentations and meetings
Presenting online is different from presenting in person. You need to think about tools and lighting as well as structure and delivery.
If you are arranging an online meeting or event, you can choose from different apps, including: Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, Webex and MS Teams. When deciding which one to use, consider the following:
- Security: Some workplaces or institutions have restrictions on what apps you can use due to security and privacy concerns.
- Familiarity: Try to choose the app that’s most familiar to you and your attendees.
- Ease of use: Choose an app that’s easy to use.
- Fees and limitations: Some services have fees or limitations on number of participants or maximum times.
- Features: Make sure the app has the features you want, such as polls, surveys, reactions, whiteboard, chat, an option to phone in, and conference vs. webcast (2-way vs. 1-way communication), and ability to record the meeting
Download the online meeting app you’ll be using onto a second device, for example your phone, in case your main device crashes.
- Use headphones, earbuds, or a mic. These tools help isolate your voice from background noise and prevent audio feedback.
- Minimize background noise. Close windows and doors, turn off anything making noise, put pets away, and ask anyone nearby to keep their sound to a minimum.
- Mute yourself when not speaking. Muting is especially important if you are an audience member or part of a presentation but not actively speaking.
Camera and Lighting
Your camera and lighting should create a polished, professional visual. Here’s how to do that:
- Centre your camera and raise it to eye level. Put your camera or device on a book or cardboard box if you need to.
- Put your view of the audience as close as possible to the camera. Placing the camera close helps you seem to be looking at the audience.
- Clean up! Or use a virtual background. What’s behind you counts. Make your background tidy and professional (we’d rather not see your dirty laundry or roommates wandering around in their underwear). Some apps let you use a virtual background.
- Avoid backlighting. Have more light in front of your face than behind it. Otherwise the audience can’t see your face.
- Laptop and Desktop applications are best. These typically have more features and stability than tablet and mobile versions.
- Keep devices and apps up to date. To ensure security, reliability, and availability of all features.
- Close non-essential apps. This helps your device run more efficiently and reduces the possibility of lagging or crashing.
- Be empowered. Plug your device in or make sure the battery is fully charged.
Internet Connection and Wi-Fi
- Do a speed test ahead of time. Many platforms, like Zoom, recommend minimum bandwidth speeds for various meeting types, typically starting at 2.0 Mbps for a single screen.
- Reduce bandwidth hogging. If someone else in your home is streaming video or online gaming, your connection speed will slow down.
- Ensure Wi-Fi strength. If you’re far away from your router, the Wi-Fi connection may be poor. Move closer to the router or use a hardwired connection.
Best practices for online presentations and meetings
Oops! By now many of us have laughed or cringed at the “Zoom fails” videos we see online. They’re entertaining, but many people have been fired, embarrassed, or damaged their professional reputation because of unprofessionalism in online meetings. Make sure you remain professional.
- Don’t let your tech embarrass you. Clear your desktop and any unnecessary open windows or browser tabs. Turn off notifications (use do not disturb mode). Always assume that your mic and camera are live.
- Set your environment. Alert housemates, put pets away, and tidy your physical background. Never attend meetings from bed.
- Dress appropriately. You probably don’t need to dress formally, but it’s important to wear appropriate attire
- Pay attention to the meeting. Act as professionally in an online meeting as you would in person, meaning no sleeping, browsing, facebooking, cooking, vaping, driving, or anything else that competes for your attention. Keeping your camera on is a great way to show that you’re paying attention
- Connect 3 minutes early. Punctuality is very important.
Many online meeting platforms allow you to set your name and a professional picture in your meeting profile. Use a small professional headshot and change your name to what you want people in the meeting to call you.
Attending a meeting
Even if you’re not running the meeting, you still need to be professional.
- RSVP: Reply to all invitations – let them know if you plan to attend.
- Prepare your tech tools. Update or download any required apps. Do a practice call with a colleague or friend if you’re unsure of the app or your equipment.
- Use the mute button. Always keep yourself muted when you’re not speaking. Know how to unmute yourself quickly (some programs like Zoom allow you to hold down the spacebar to temporarily unmute yourself).
Hosting a meeting
Great news! Your boss asked you to host a meeting with some important clients. But how? Here are some tips.
- Choose the app. See the app section above
- Decide the agenda and structure. Is this a formal meeting or more of an informal discussion? How long will it be? What items need to be discussed? Who will be speaking or presenting? How long will each speaker have? Will you share the agenda ahead of time?
- Send meeting invitations with clear instructions. Make sure you invite all speakers and participants well in advance of your meeting. Invite the audience as soon as possible too. Send reminders a week before, and the day before. Include the meeting link, instructions on how to connect, and offer help to anyone who needs it.
- Plan and practice. If possible, get a colleague to act as co-host. Decide who will admit people, start the recording, take notes, watch the time, watch the chat, show visuals, share polls, create breakout rooms, manage tech problems, etc. Whether or not you have a co-host, do a practice a day or two before the event.
- Start the meeting. As the host, you’ll start the meeting at least 5 minutes early. Wait 2-5 minutes after the official start time to allow for late arrivals.
- Welcome the group. Warmly welcome everyone, introducing yourself and any guests that attendees may not know. In smaller meetings, you may introduce all of the attendees.
- Provide agenda and norms. Remind everyone to stay muted unless speaking. Do you want to invite people to comment and ask questions during your presentation, or should they wait until the end? Do you want questions asked verbally or in the chat?
- Keep it as brief as possible. Online meetings are tiring so be efficient and respectful of everyone’s time and energy.
- Take notes. You or your colleague can take notes during the meeting, or you can write a brief recap immediately after.
- Thank and summarize. Send the guests and attendees a thank you and brief summary of the meeting. Include next steps, action items or information on the next meeting.
Tech problems happen. No matter how prepared we are, sometimes things just don’t work.
Don’t panic! If the problem is minor, just keep going. If it’s major, stop and address the issue. Thank everyone for their patience.