Part 1: Your Best Online Self & The Ultimate Desktop Studio

Our producers share expert online presention tips to help you prepare, rehearse, and deliver a presentation that is polished and professional every time.

Worktank has produced hundreds of complex virtual meetings for global audiences in the last year alone, and we’ve helped thousands of executives look and sound their best. In this series – Your Best Online Self & The Ultimate Desktop Studio – we’ll tackle common and avoidable mistakes that Worktank has solved for hundreds of presenters and broadcasts. We’ll also share our expert advice on the right gear and setup to custom-fit your home studio.

Presenting Your Best Self

“Is my mic on?”

“Can you see me?”

“Sorry, I was on mute.”

“The lighting isn’t great in my office.”

In the opening moments of an online event, these seemingly minor disruptions can keep you from establishing much-needed rapport with your audience and worse, potentially risk your ability to set positive expectations and credibility. Yet with the right preparation – a proper technical check and rehearsal, and a seasoned Worktank producer by your (virtual) side – you can keep your focus on delivering an impactful presentation and show up with a clear message to your audience: bring it!  

Expert Tips for Online Presenting

Most of us are uneasy presenters. Layer in the new-world expectations of presenting live on camera and under television mini-studio conditions, and the game just got a lot tougher and more complex.

There are a lot of things you’re unable to control while presenting in a live environment – like your kid hogging internet connectivity in the next room – so the key is to triple-down on what you can control: presentation prep and readiness. The better rehearsed you are, the more you can mitigate the pressure relating to the things you’re unable to control, like a blip in the audio, or inbound distractions, like questions and commentary.

Presentation Prep & Readiness

First, before you practice in front of your desktop studio and camera setup, know your presentation as best you can, and lock in your content at least a day or more before delivering it. At Worktank, we coach our clients to follow these readiness steps:

  • When content updates are dependent on other stakeholders, set firm and clear deadline boundaries so you have time to read, rehearse, and become fluent with the presentation itself.
  • Begin to layer in the production elements one by one: begin speaking to the lens of the camera you’ll be using; add a microphone and a light; record test video to see how you will appear to others.
  • Rehearse and time your rehearsals within your studio setup more times than you think necessary.
  • When you’re satisfied with the test videos of your presentation, invite a trusted colleague to watch your rehearsal end-to-end, and return the favor when it’s their turn.
  • Seek out at least five critical points (notes) from your reviewer, and consider how to tweak your presentation based on their feedback.

At Worktank, we stress-test all events we produce with a full technical rehearsal – so the presenter can see all of the moving parts and understand the end-to-end support a producer provides, as well as how the overall event is organized and executed.

Connecting with Your Audience: Camera Eyeline and Teleprompter

When you feel your presentation is successfully prepped and rehearsed, try the following exercise. Record video of yourself reading for about two minutes, but don’t look at the camera. Next, record the same segment, and this time keep your eyes fixed on your webcam lens. Now replay both versions and you’ll instantly understand that the camera is your most critical prop. The webcam is effectively the eyes of your audience, and the best way to secure your viewers’ trust and engagement.

Your second most valuable prop is your laptop or monitor. Position it as close to the eyeline of the camera as possible, so your eyes stay on the same level as the lens, rather than shifting over or down to reference your notes or script. If using a laptop, we recommend using a separate webcam and placing it at the top of the laptop lid/screen, as close to the bottom of the lens as possible. That way when you check your notes, the eye movement is slight, if not undetectable.

If you prefer to use a verbatim script, there are excellent and low-cost tools available that will turn your laptop monitor into a teleprompter. Microsoft’s Virtual teleprompter PRO helps you maintain your eyeline to the webcam in a very natural manner. If you use a camera separate from your laptop (like a DSLR or a third-party webcam) you can convert an iPad or Surface Tablet into a teleprompter with a device like the Parrot Teleprompter V2 Kit from Padcaster. Success with a teleprompter takes lots of practice and patience – so carve out time for multiple rehearsals and record each to chart your progress.

Getting Ready for Go-Live

Get plenty of rest the night before your presentation, so you have reserves to tap while presenting. On the day of, prepare your desk with the things you need to inspire confidence and comfort. Maybe it’s simply an ergonomic mouse to drive the presentation, or perhaps a stress ball and an off-camera diffuser with calming essential oils, like lavender and bergamot, to remind you to maintain an even and calm breath as you speak.

To counter the effects of anxiety-induced dry mouth, drink a liter of water an hour before your presentation, and keep a large glass of water and slices of lemon on your desk just in case. Avoid scheduling any meetings or commitments at least an hour prior to your event and take that time to sit quietly. Practice easy breaths by sitting comfortably with the palms of your hands on your knees, eyes closed, and inhaling through your nose for a count of five, and then exhaling for a count of five.

More Tips to Present Like a Pro

Every content owner/presenter is unique in how they prepare for delivering an online presentation. Some are ultra-rehearsed and prepared, while others fly loose with bullet points and a healthy dose of bravado. With today’s new normal, however, the most seasoned presenter must contend with a fresh set of hurdles and distractions – virtual production workflow, systems, platforms and technologies – all with the expectation of delivering with news anchor-level panache.

Unlike a college exam, you cannot cram for an online presentation. Give yourself the runway you need. Prepare, rehearse, and stay committed to the boundaries and deadlines you set for your comfort at go-time, and you’ll be rewarded with an online presentation that is polished and professional.

To learn more about our virtual meeting management services and how Worktank can help you become a better presenter, contact us online or give us a call at 877-975-8265.

Next: Setting Up Your Home Studio with the Tech You Already Own

In Part 2 of Your Best Online Self & The Ultimate Desktop Studio, we’ll explain how to test and optimize the tech you already have on hand. Rather than immediately replacing your camera, microphone and other peripherals, we’ll help you determine if the gear you’ve got is any good, and educate you on how to set it up properly.

Evan Evan

Evan Sadler, Director of Content Solutions

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