5 Tips for Virtual Presentations

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

May 26, 2020

Many of you may be preparing virtual presentations that you will give to your library team or upper management. You may also be preparing virtual training sessions for employees in your organization or for library users outside your workplace. 

Lately, I have been reworking presentations for a virtual format that I originally planned to give in-person. Typically, my presentations include discussion, audience polling, and activities such as think-pair-share*. I like interactive presentations, and I prefer not to do all the talking. However, in a virtual format interactivity is much more challenging. Despite the fact that giving these presentations online is not my first choice, thankfully, I have facilitated multiple webinars throughout my career, and have learned how to develop interaction online. Here are my recommendations:

  1. Know your audience: This is true no matter the format of the presentation. However, in a virtual setting it is harder to make adjustments. During in-person presentations, it is possible to see body language, and adjust pace, tone, and even some content based on the feedback received from body language. In a virtual presentation, this feedback is missing. Therefore, it is necessary to know as much as I can about my audience before starting the presentation. Personally, I like to use polls at the beginning of virtual presentations where I ask the audience questions that help me focus the presentation. These questions can include a Likert scale question of how comfortable the audience feels with the topic; if they have worked with the topic previously, etc. 
  2. Explain the agenda: I recommend including a slide that is dedicated solely to the agenda for the presentation. This helps me stay focused as I create the presentation, and also helps attendees know what to expect. For those taking notes, an agenda can provide initial organization. 
  3. Stay focused: Include key terms on slides to help viewers keep track of what is important. Without being able to see my body language, attendees can miss cues that help them know what is particularly important in my presentation. 
  4. Maintain interaction: I do my best to engage the audience. I use interactive features such as polling, multiple choice questions, and breakout rooms for discussion. 
  5. Support just-in-time learning: Just-in-time learning is training that is available at the time of need. In a virtual presentation, I try to support just-in-time learning by answering questions throughout the presentation instead of waiting to answer all questions at the end. There are arguments to be made for keeping all questions at the end of a presentation. However, I feel strongly that when possible, answering questions throughout is beneficial for learning. Waiting to the end to answer questions separates the question from the original content, and removes context. 

As many of you are preparing virtual presentations it is my hope these five tips are beneficial. 

*Think-pair-share is an active learning exercise where learners are asked to think about their response to a question, pair up and share their response with a neighbor, and then neighbors share responses with the whole group. 

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri. Please learn more about Lauren and read her other posts about skills for special librarians; then take a look at Lucidea’s powerful ILS, SydneyEnterpriseused daily by special librarians to empower their users.

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