Beyond attending from bed: virtual presenting

One of the aspects of the covid lockdown is the sudden rise in virtual teaching, conferences and talks. This comes with its own set of challenges and positives. In this post I will share some of my own experiences over the last few months of virtual presenting and attendance and discuss some of the lessons learned. As you may pick up on as you read through, there is one area that is worth highlighting repeatedly.

Having done my undergrad at UHI I am in the lucky position that lectures are done over video conferencing, so I am familiar with what works and what does not. One of most important lessons I have learned from this is that if you are not talking, mute your mic. This can make or break a virtual presentation.

It can take more time to prepare than a non-virtual presentation. This took me slightly by surprise. I had thought with being able to make a presentation and then present it all from home it would be much easier and smooth to run. Increasing familiarity with software makes it easier, however put aside time figuring out how to share any slides or other media. It is not always as intuitive as you think.

[Mute Your Microphone When You Are Not Talking]

Which leads me on to my next point, test everything. Make sure your microphone works and is clear. Test your webcam and any media on the software you will be presenting over. There is often a record function with video conferencing software, which can be an excellent tool to test your presentation and ensure you can be heard. This will also ensure you can access the software. I had the situation recently where I found out the afternoon before I was due to present that I did not have access to the software the conference was being held over. Expect technical issues.

[Mute Your Microphone When You Are Not Talking]

Learn what features the software has that can help. For example, with Zoom you can draw shapes on your shared screen, meaning you can highlight sections of an image. Presenting virtually can add complications, but also make sure and take advantage of what you are able to do.

[Mute Your Microphone When You Are Not Talking]

Rethink etiquette. What you know to do and not do in person is not always transferrable. In an informal or familiar setting, you may be able to make quick comments that interrupt the speaker without stopping the flow of the presentation. When attending virtually, this can cause things to break down and be incredibly disruptive. People talking over one another is usually intelligible for anyone listening. Remember not to jump in when someone is talking, but also if you are talking and not hearing anyone else do not assume people are not wanting to talk.

[Mute Your Microphone When You Are Not Talking]

Without having the body language of your audience to bounce off it can be difficult to be engaging. Think about videos of things being presented that you have enjoyed, be it a documentary or YouTube video or whatever you enjoy watching. See how they talk to an audience they cannot see and pick up tips.

[Mute Your Microphone When You Are Not Talking]

To round up, presenting and attending virtual presentations can be great (you can attend from bed) but it comes with its own set of pros and cons. Expect unexpected technical hitches and the potential for things to go wrong. A lot of people are new to this and will be supportive when there are issues. With anything it takes time to get good at it. If you find it hard and a slog that is normal, be kind to yourself!

I would love to hear any of your own experiences or any tips you might have in the comments or over on twitter.

Would you like to write a blog for us? Email Neil.Ackerman@glasgow.ac.uk

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