How to Give a Presentation During a Meeting (Without Screwing Up)

Tips and tricks for being persuasive and keeping your audience engaged.

How to Give a Presentation During a Meeting (Without Screwing Up)

A methodology for amazing meetings. Say goodbye to boring, long, and unproductive meetings.

Giving a presentation during a meeting may seem easy on the surface, but many factors can get in the way of being effective.

You may be shy and stumble over your words. You may get nervous and rush through things too quickly in hopes of “getting it over with.”

You may even confuse your audience by sharing information in a scattered or illogical way.

It happens to the best of us.

The good news is, with thoughtful preparation, even the shiest among us can give killer presentations that captivate our coworkers.

Here’s how:

  • How to start a presentation
  • Effective presentation skills ‍
  • When to use PowerPoint ‍
  • Presentation tips and tricks

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<span class="h-circle">1</span> How to start a presentation

The best presenters capture audience attention from the beginning. They know that a lackluster start to anything will immediately sow seeds of disengagement.

Whether or not you believe human attention spans are like goldfish , the fact is, a strong start to your presentation will fill the room with energy that perks people up, while a weak start paves the way for staring off into space and discretely checking email.

Here are a few tips to start your next meeting presentation right:

Ask a question

Everyone likes feeling heard. One of the easiest ways to hook an audience from the start is by inviting them to respond to a relevant prompt. If a VP of marketing were giving a presentation about the company’s upcoming brand refresh, they might start by asking something like “How many people here feel like they have a good sense of how we’re perceived as a company?”

Share a story

As humans, we’re wired to pay attention to stories. They’re especially useful when the subject matter at hand isn’t particularly interesting on its own. If a CEO were giving a presentation aimed at motivating the entire company, they might share a story about how many people it once took to operate a battleship.

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<span class="h-circle">2</span> Effective presentation skills/techniques

Effective presentations are usually the result of careful preparation. Here are a few skills to refine during the preparation phase:

Knowing your audience

Giving an effective presentation means knowing your audience. To earn and sustain their attention, you need to assess what they already know about the subject and how much they care about it.

Use this information to calibrate your approach. You don’t want to assume they’re enthusiastic experts if they’re not, but you also want to respect their intelligence by meeting them where they are without lecturing them.

It’s a delicate balancing act, but when you get it right, you’ll leave them enough room to figure some things out on their own.

WHAT Ask questions that anyone in the audience could answer. ‍ WHY This allows you to engage the room and keep the audience energy level high.

Framing your story

If you’ve ever watched TEDTalks, you know firsthand that many of the best presentations unfold like a detective story. The speaker presents a problem, describes the quest for a solution, and leads the audience to a collective “aha” moment where their perspective shifts and they become even more engaged. 

Take the time to plot your points in a meaningful way so that your message is not only easy to follow, but also easy to remember. That means eliminating any diversions that don’t serve the story. 

When framed correctly, even the most serious and complex subjects can be riveting.

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<span class="h-circle">3</span> When to use a PowerPoint and when not to

PowerPoints have become the de facto tool of choice for meeting presentations. You can share visuals, advance slides with the click of a mouse, and they don’t take a ton of technical or design chops to look pretty.

The problem is, people tend to hide behind them. While it’s undeniably handy, PowerPoint isn’t the best vehicle for every presentation.

You should use a PowerPoint when:

You shouldn’t use a PowerPoint when:  

If you’re still on the fence about whether you should use a PowerPoint for your next presentation, consider the goal of the meeting.

When your meeting goal is something straightforward, like assigning action items or reviewing team performance, go for the PowerPoint. 

If you’re aiming to convey something less cerebral—and potentially more emotional—don’t distance yourself from the message. Leave PowerPoint (and all technology) out of the equation.

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<span class="h-circle">4</span> Presentation tips and tricks

There are a few universal tips that will make your next presentation more effective no matter what it’s about:

Follow a logical structure ‍ Even if you can’t think of a relevant story, the information you present have a clear structure to keep people on track.

Slow down ‍ Speaking too fast breeds boredom and confusion. Even if you think you talk slow, talk slower.

Use questions as segues ‍ In addition to being great presentation starters, asking questions enables the presenter to shift from one topic to another without losing momentum.

Build your confidence ‍ Letting your personality shine through is a surefire way to convince people they should listen. Practice your presentation until it feels like you’re talking to a friend.


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How to Give a Presentation During a Meeting

Feb 07, 2022 - dom barnard.

Presenting at a meeting, even for the most experienced speakers, can be a scary experience. Some people react with panic when they hear the word 'presentation'. Keeping track of the time and managing visual aids while speaking is hard enough for most professionals.

It is crucial to impress the audience with credibility and confidence in the information being shared, whether addressing colleagues, clients, a board of directors, or business partners. Rather than just getting by, a few practical tips can you successfully present in a meeting.

Develop an audience-focused perspective

It is vital to shape a meeting for the specific audience it is addressing . This requires a thorough understanding of them. For instance, a presentation for technical developers would differ greatly from a presentation targeted at CEOs, even if it is the same project.

The presenter should take into account what the audience already knows and what they are looking for from the presentation. When planning a business meeting, the speaker must reckon with:

The audience is always right. If a new product fails in the market, prospective customers did not make a mistake in refusing to buy it. It is better to place faith in the wisdom of the target audience when preparing a presentation. Then they can judge what will resonate well with them. After all, it's theirs to gain.

When addressing a new audience, it pays to research the demographic and perhaps consult with other leaders before the meeting to explore the agenda. Investigating an audience helps to know better their needs and interests. The ultimate goal is to make a bid, motion, or proposal that's focused on the listeners' perspective.

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Manage your nerves

The fear of public speaking, also called glossophobia, is a common phenomenon. According to Psychology Today , an estimated 25% of the world population has this problem.

Even mild glossophobia can have severe implications in some individuals. Even some experienced public speakers get anxious when presenting a business idea. In short, the most challenging part of making a business presentation is managing the nerves. A few tips would help overcome anxiety.

1. Silence voices in the head

Some voices in the head can damage one's confidence, suggesting that the presentation is boring, embarrassing, and not good enough. Such voices of insecurity only make the presenter self-conscious.

The important thing is to identify and dismiss them as lies. Practising this attitude will eventually lead to more confident presentations.

2. Focus on the point, rather than oneself

Some people are so afraid of public humiliation that they end up messing up and embarrassing themselves. They forget the meeting is not about them but the matter in question.

The best approach is to stop perceiving the presentation as a contest or a source of judgement. Shifting the attention from oneself to the main objective eliminates the anxiety.

3. Turn anxiety into excitement

Nervousness and excitement are closely related. Proficient business presenters see themselves as excited rather than nervous moments before getting on stage.

4. Use notes as shorthand reminders

Notes should guide the presenter on what to cover and in what sequence. The points should be used as support, not scripts. It is about delivering the ideas, not reading them.

5. Authenticity

Many business presenters mess things up by trying to fake things. An audience will respond best to authentic behaviour, even if it's not perfect. By contrast, a presenter who sounds artificial damages their reputation, breaks the connection, and reduces audience engagement.

Being audible enough is critical to passing a powerful message during a meeting. Loud voice projects confidence, authority, and leadership.

Body language

Business leaders use body language to their advantage. This is a preeminent visual that the audience needs to see. It is how the body communicates non-verbal, i.e., through posture, gestures, stance, and facial expressions.

Depending on the body language, which can be conscious or unconscious, a presentation can evoke confidence, frustration, boredom, anger, or excitement. Some of the most powerful board meetings have been delivered by applying body language tips highlighted below.

Audience participation

Most people don't like lengthy presentations. When bored, they start murmuring to their neighbours or checking their phones. To avoid monotony, the audience must be involved . Ice breakers and introductions, for instance, re-energise attendees so they can concentrate. Some of the effective ways to engage the audience are as follows.

The first five minutes of a business presentation is the perfect time to ask people in the room to raise their hands and answer simple questions. This is probably the best moment to capture their attention and spark interactions.

A killer opener is the fastest way to convince a crowd. If the audience can respond to a poll or agree with the underlying premise, they are more likely to accept the call to action.

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Streamline the PowerPoint

While having text on PowerPoint (or similar software such as Keynote) is the easiest way to recall points, it is easier to lose the audience when reading directly from the slides. Many executives make this mistake in their first year of running a company.

Instead, they should create simple, clean visuals with consistent colours to explain concepts. Images must be relatable to the audience's perspective. Text must be less than 10 words per slide and in bold font, if necessary.

Visuals should illuminate rather than misrepresent an explanation. Pictures and graphs showing percentages can be more effective than text. However, complex imagery gives the viewers a hard time trying to fathom the agenda. Some attendees may be short-sighted, so there's a need for larger and clearer fonts. All in all, simplicity and consistency are fundamental to helping the audience follow along.

No matter how complex a business presentation seems, it is of utmost importance to capture the attention of the audience and keep them hooked till the end. The advice on this page can take a formal meeting from merely good to great. The tips above can be used by all presenters across the board, regardless of their experience level.

Glossary of Meeting Terms

What is a Meeting Presentation?

A presentation is when a person communicates an idea to others. The term can be adapted to various speaking situations, such as talking to a group, addressing a meeting or briefing a team.

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11 Tips for presenting at a conference

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How to deliver an effective conference presentation (and beat those presenting nerves).

Presenting at a conference is a core part of scientific communication for any researcher or academic. Finding the right conference with the right audience and successfully communicating your latest findings is a great way to enhance your career prospects and, in turn, learn about the newest developments in your research field.

Before we jump in, an important note on fake conferences. There has been a growth in the number of predatory conferences in recent years, so before you register to attend and present your work at any conference, familiarise yourself with ways to tell a predatory conference from a legitimate one .    

Developing a conference presentation is no different to developing any other presentation – you need to be well prepared, consistent throughout and ensure you’re able to resonate with your audience.

One of the biggest challenges in giving a good presentation is managing your nerves. Even the most experienced and respected speakers and performers get a bundle of nerves before they start, so you’re in good company. The good news is that the techniques of an effective presenter can be practised. So how can this be accomplished? Here are 11 tips that will help you give an effective conference presentation.

1. Don’t touch that slide deck just yet

The first thing you need to know about creating an effective conference presentation is not to dive head first into your slides.

It’s hard to beat the feeling of getting an email letting you know that the proposal you worked tirelessly on for a conference has been accepted. Finding out that your work has been well received by a committee can mean a huge amount, especially when you’re driven by your passion for it, like the majority of researchers out there.

So it’s super easy to just start adding slide after slide to your presentation. When I first presented at a conference, I ended up with 40 slides for a 15-minute presentation. I was lucky enough to be working with some more experienced researchers that reeled in my confusing and inconsistent slides.

I started again and made a clear outline first. I simply sketched it out, slide by slide and got back into a flow,  but this time it was in a much more controlled manner. Take your time and make a strong outline to keep you on track. Use this checklist to keep you on the right road.

2. Build your presentation within time constraints

Ensuring your timing is right is so important when presenting at a conference. If you have ten minutes to present, prepare ten minutes of material . No more. If you don’t practice your timing, you may not get a chance to highlight your findings and recommendations – the most important part.

In my experience conference organisers are usually quite clear about how much time you have allocated. The best presenters know exactly how much time they have to work with, then they tailor their presentation to fit the time and keep an eye on the time throughout.

And if you are running out of time, stop. Jump past a couple of slides if you need to make one last point.

3. Use visuals to illuminate, not obscure

Images are key elements to any presentation. Whether it’s a pie chart to show percentages, or a strong image to convey a point, visuals can be much more effective than words. They help reinforce or complement the ideas or points you’re trying to get across. Your audience may be able to understand your message a little easier when it’s presented with visuals that relate to it.

But remember to keep your visuals clean and simple. Some of the worst conference presentations I’ve seen are ones with complex imagery that forces the audience to try and figure out how the image and the speaker’s point are related.

4. Aim for simplicity and consistency

Don’t be afraid of using some text and bullet points if you need to make a point that isn’t easy to communicate visually, or if you’re discussing steps or sequences.

But use them to communicate your point to the audience, not as a prompt for what you want to say. That’s what your speaker notes are for. You want your audience to listen to you instead of reading from your slides, so less is more in terms of the text on the slides.

Inconsistency in slides is a subtle thing but can take away from a presentation very easily. While slides with different colours may look nice, they may be distracting to your audience. Use a consistent template with the same fonts to make it easier for your audience to follow along.  And remember, your audience will view your conference presentation from a distance, so use large clear fonts and as few words as possible in your slides.

5. Know your research audience

One of the most common mistakes I have seen being made by conference presenters is presenting a roomful of people with information they already have . A great way to make this mistake is spending the majority of your presentation going over the existing literature and giving background information on your work.

Just like when you’re in the audience at a conference, researchers are there to learn about your new and exciting research, not to hear a summary of old work. The worst speakers assume that the audience doesn’t know anything and need educating.

Before you begin speaking to a group, find out what they already know and where they are up to with your topic. It’s not easy to get details on all delegates but you will know the plenary sessions and whoever you have networked with before this. Most conferences use mobile apps now, and these are a great way to get an insight to exactly who is attending the conference and what their speciality topics are from the programme.

This can give you a good idea of how much background you need to give so that your key presentation points will make sense. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re giving a 15-minute presentation, by the 6th minute you should be discussing your data or case study.

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6. Rehearse your presentation

I shouldn’t even need to include this on the list, but so many people fail to do enough of this. Rehearsing is crucial to making you feel comfortable with every word you are going to say. Rehearse your paper aloud in private and in front of a friend. This can feel a bit embarrassing, but reading it through in your head never corresponds to the time it takes to read it aloud in public. The more times you say the words aloud, the more you will be familiar with it. And if you are familiar with what you’re saying, your confidence in your conference presentation will increase.

When I’m practising for a conference presenting slot, I rehearse out loud in my bedroom. It feels strange but it works. If you’re feeling self-conscious about this (or don’t want your housemates to overhear) you could play some music at the same time.

Another strategy that works well is recording yourself . This lets you see where you’re doing well and where you need to improve. And if being recorded makes you feel under pressure, this helps mimic the actual feelings you’ll have while presenting in front of a real live audience. So you’ll get a good idea for how you will perform on the day.

After I’ve recorded myself, I usually ask a friend or colleague to listen and be critical of my efforts. Getting grilled beforehand really helps ease any presenting nerves or anxiety you will get if you’re unlucky enough to get grilled after your presentation.

7. Prepare, prepare, prepare

Preparation for anything is key, especially for conference presentations.  You’ve prepared enough to find the right conference , and to submit a proposal worthy of acceptance, now you need to prepare to present it.  

Know your slides inside out. You should use them as a guide for your presentation, not an autocue.

Think about your clothing. Wear something that makes you feel comfortable when facing your audience. If you’re not sure what clothes are appropriate, check the dress code with the organisers or with colleagues.

Conference session rooms can get stuffy, so if you’re someone who sweats when they’re nervous, choose clothing that won’t show it. And don’t wear something that’s awkward and restrictive, even if you think it will project a confident image. If you’re not comfortable, you won’t look or feel confident.

Try to get a good night’s sleep before your presentation; everything looks better and more manageable when you’re well rested.

8. Back up your backup

A good way to think about your presentation technology requirements is this: any tech you want to use can and will fail. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility for your memory card or flash drive not to work when the big moment comes. Or for your laptop to decide to reboot. Or for the conference’s presentation facilities to fail.

Arm yourself with a back-up plan so you aren’t left stranded if things go awry. As well as following the conference instructions to submit your presentation online or at their drop-off desk, copy your slides to an online deck service and upload a copy of your presentation to Dropbox . Then email yourself any links you need so they’re within arms reach if you need them. Take no chances.

And if you have any specific audio-visual requirements, make them known to the conference organiser well in advance. If they don’t ask, tell them anyway. Never assume that they’ll just know . Not all conference venues can accommodate the latest technology.

9. Get to know the presenting space

One thing presenters often forget to do before starting a presentation is sussing out the room they’ll be speaking in. If you get the opportunity, get down to the room where you’ll be presenting ahead of time and check it out. This will save you from the last-minute panic of running across an unfamiliar campus, trying to find the room you’re supposed to be in.

Most rooms will be kitted out with everything you need to present, but there’s no harm in making sure all the equipment you need is there and works. Take no risks and you’ll eliminate nasty last-minute surprises.

Get comfortable with the presentation area, walk around it until you feel familiar with the environment in the room. This will save you the shock of unexpectedly being faced with a large/tiny room. Bring your set of notes with you, and make sure you can read them in the lighting conditions in the room. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need – if there are open windows that are bothering you, ask for them to be closed.

10. Use body language to your advantage

Body language has an important role in presentations, especially at academic conferences. There are usually a lot of facts and findings to be highlighted in a conference presentation, and you need to use all the presenting tools available to you to remain interesting and effective throughout. Your gestures, tone of voice and positivity can be seen through your body language and may determine how engaged your audience is.

When you’re speaking, a few body language tips can help improve your rapport with your audience. For your audience to engage, it’s important that they can see you and that you look at them and make eye contact. Try to spread your gaze, rather than staring at one person. And avoid focusing intently on your laptop screen, your notes, or the floor. This can give the impression that you’re nervous or uninterested, and can also prevent you from projecting your voice clearly.

If possible, don’t stand behind a lectern or hold any notes. Instead, keep a straight, relaxed, open posture, and feel free to be comfortable with the full stage and move around the stage a little as you speak.

The great presenters use gestures to emphasise their points and to highlight their visual material to guide the audience’s attention. When you see a speaker rooted rigidly to the spot and without positive body language the presentation loses a lot of its emphasis. Avoid other distracting movements, such as repeatedly putting your hands in and out of your pockets, jingling coins in your pocket, or fiddling with pens, clothing, or props such as laser pointers.

11. Encourage questions and discussion

If you manage your time well, you’ll have sufficient time left for questions and an open discussion after your conference presentation. Expect questions, but don’t worry if there aren’t any. If your audience is reluctant to ask questions, a good session chair will usually pose a question. Presentation questions are a good thing . They give you a chance to elaborate on something that wasn’t clear or address the topic that everyone wants to know but you forgot to include.

Answering questions can be nerve-wracking because of the fear that you might not be able to answer them. But when the audience is asking questions, it’s generally out of genuine interest, not to trip you up, so see it as a good opportunity to explore how you can expand your work.

Though the majority of questions in a conference Q&A session are fairly benign, like me, you could find yourself at the end of a grilling (perhaps from someone who’s research you’ve had the temerity to challenge) after you present at a conference. If you think this might happen to you, it’s worth doing some reading on how to respond to destructive criticism from peers.

And if you’re feeling nervous about facing tough questions, here’s something that might help: if you’re attending with someone you know (and trust), ask them to ask you a question. Some people even like to agree in advance what the question will be. This can simply help get the ball rolling and boost your confidence.

And finally, a trick I learnt from an experienced researcher is to keep a notebook and pen handy and to make notes of the good questions to reflect on later.

Presenting skills are for life

Once you’ve mastered the tips above, you’ll be all set to give a great conference presentation. And the more you do, the easier they’ll get. Until you’ll reach a point when you can’t remember how nervous they used to make you.

One final note on audience size: never take it personally. Some of the best papers out there were presented to small audiences. Nobody ever asks how many people were in the audience, and you don’t have to state it on your academic CV. No matter what size the audience, a great presentation is a great presentation.

Brian Campbell

Brian is a data-driven marketeer, and responsible for helping people find Ex Ordo. He works part-time as a lecturer at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and loves quizzing his students on the latest business trends and insights. Brian enjoys hanging out with his little nephews, and playing and watching sports. He also likes to keep a keen eye on the scholarly research space, and has co-organised an academic conference to boot.

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Top 5 Presentation Tips You Can Use in Your Next Meeting

Presentations happen every day. You may be tasked with presenting information to a few of your colleagues or a room full of potential clients. No matter the content, it’s vital that you quickly capture the attention of your audience and keep it throughout.

There are countless fun presentations ideas you can use to ensure your audience stays engaged. As you’re preparing for your next meeting, try these 5 tips:

1.Use fun images

Since 65 percent of people are mainly visual learners, include fun images and colors in your presentations. Great images serve as visual cues, which helps the audience follow along. The right pictures and colors can influence a person’s emotional reaction and instantly build rapport and trust.

2.Ditch the PowerPoint presentation

PowerPoint presentations are effective tools, but are not always necessary. As you’re preparing for your next presentation, ask yourself if you really need to use slides. You may find the answer is no. If you feel slides will not add any extra value to your presentation, don’t use them.

3.Provide several ways to connect

Businesses have gone global. Colleagues and clients are not always going to be located in the same office building or town. You may find yourself communicating with people from all over the world on a daily basis. As a result, it’s a great idea to give people the option to join your meetings virtually. Online meeting tools like iMeet ® and GlobalMeet ® make it so simple for people to attend meetings from anywhere . Both products integrate best-in-class audio with crystal-clear HD video so you and your guests are able to get together anytime.

4.Tell a story

Who doesn’t love a good story? Instead of simply presenting information, weave a story into your presentation. This will help develop and organize your thoughts. It will also make it easier for others to follow along and remember what you’ve said.

5.Make it interactive

With attention spans only lasting around five minutes , it’s important you keep your audience engaged. Turn the presentation into more of a dialogue by getting feedback and asking questions throughout. In doing so, you will help lighten the mood and make everyone feel more comfortable. Also, by making guests active participants in your conversation, it becomes easier for them to retain the information they’ve learned.

These are just five of many fun presentation ideas. Maybe you’ve seen some of these used or you’ve used some yourself. Do you have any favorites?

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Virtual Presentations, Meetings Require New Approaches for Success

Members may download one copy of our sample forms and templates for your personal use within your organization. Please note that all such forms and policies should be reviewed by your legal counsel for compliance with applicable law, and should be modified to suit your organization’s culture, industry, and practices. Neither members nor non-members may reproduce such samples in any other way (e.g., to republish in a book or use for a commercial purpose) without SHRM’s permission. To request permission for specific items, click on the “reuse permissions” button on the page where you find the item.

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​As more people work from home, many are being asked to take on tasks and use technologies with which they have only a passing familiarity, such as leading team meetings and presenting online rather than in person.

SHRM Online spoke with experts about the different strategies required to succeed in those scenarios, as well as how to use the features embedded in videoconferencing and Web conferencing platforms.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Managing Organizational Communication ]

Presenting Online

Giving presentations online rather than in person requires thinking about how to design PowerPoint slides, keep remote audiences engaged when they're facing more distractions and troubleshoot technology snafus that arise in these situations.

Pick up the pace. Attention spans dwindle during virtual presentations. "That doesn't mean you need to cut the amount of your presentation content, but rather that you spread it over more slides so there is more frequent on-screen change for audiences," said Roger Courville, a Portland, Ore.-based speaker and trainer who teaches people how to communicate online and is the author of The Virtual Presenter's Handbook (CreateSpace, 2009).

Be proactive in guiding audience attention. Presenters should assume that some people are multitasking during an online presentation, Courville said. "You have to ask what the audience is taking away if at times they only glance at what you're presenting," he said. "One thing you can do is make sure the titles on your slides are more descriptive and capture the main point of the slide."

Virtual presenters also should use their voices to guide viewer attention, Courville said.

Don't rely only on slide pointers or annotation tools provided on Web conferencing platforms.

"What happens if some people aren't looking at their screens for a while?" he said. "A presenter might say something like 'What do you see below the picture of the woman on this slide?' or 'Look at the data on the right-hand portion of your slide.' "

Courville said presenters should monitor audience attention levels by checking whether people are actively participating on chat features or submitting questions during a moderated Q&A. Some Web conferencing platforms also have a feature called an attention indicator that detects the active application on audience members' screens. If a conference participant has switched to checking e-mail, for example, that tool would register the change. Courville said that while the tool shouldn't be used punitively, it can help presenters get a read on when attendees may be drifting away so they can switch tactics, such as by introducing an audience poll or a short Q&A.

Unnecessary flair can cause technical problems. The use of animation and complex transitions on slides might work well in person, but they can cause problems online, said Bethany Auck, founder and creative director of SlideRabbit, a presentation design and production company in Denver.

Web conferencing platforms handle slide upload and display differently, and experts say it's best to go simple when designing slides, keep file sizes low, and avoid the use of animations or complicated transition techniques between slides.

Consider slide contrast issues and viewer screen size. Assume that many will be viewing your online presentation from smaller laptop screens or even on mobile devices, said Ken Molay, president of Webinar Success, a Web conferencing training and consulting company in Cary, N.C. "Design your slides as if you're creating them for viewers in the back of a large auditorium," Molay said. "Use larger fonts and plenty of white space, and don't put things near the edges of your slides."

Keep in mind that you won't be able to see how your slides display on your audience's screens, and your viewers' computer settings for contrast, brightness and color may vary widely. "Remember that light colors can easily wash out online. Stick with high-contrast color designs, and avoid using subtle tone variations that can be difficult for virtual audiences to see," Molay said.

Leading Small-Group Virtual Meetings

Many of us have been conditioned to hold hourlong meetings, but experts say that standard should be reconsidered with today's new reality.

"One of the most powerful tools built into videoconferencing solutions is the instant meeting," Courville said. "You can easily set up virtual meetings and collaboration sessions in short blocks of time as needed. There are product development teams I know who hold 15-minute videoconferences every morning. The medium can be used as flexibly as a phone call."

Leaders, mute yourself when others are speaking. "Many of us use words like 'OK' or 'uh-huh' as confirmation that we're listening when others are speaking," Molay said. "But in an online meeting, especially if you're the leader or a person of higher authority, others often hear that and they stop talking, wondering if you wanted to interrupt to say something or even that they might have said something wrong. If you stay completely silent, it lets people complete their thoughts."

Not all technology platforms are created alike. If you haven't yet purchased a videoconferencing or Web conferencing platform (most major providers are offering discounts or free trial versions of products during the coronavirus outbreak), Molay said it's important to understand the differences between systems.

For example, the videoconferencing platform Zoom is among those that Molay said have a useful "push to talk" feature that is handy for small-group virtual meetings.

"Everyone enters the meeting in a default mute mode, but when they hold down the space bar, it opens up their microphone," he said. "It only stays open while it's pressed and people are speaking, like the old walkie-talkie."

Molay said the feature is good for group discussions in which everyone wants a chance to participate but a leader doesn't want all microphones open at once, since they're likely to pick up background noise when participants work from home.

You also may want to compare audience polling tools in different systems, Molay said. "Some only allow for a few response choices, while others offer more," he said. Many users will also likely want a polling feature that allows participants to select the best answer rather than all that apply, he said.

Question management tools—a helpful feature for more-structured and moderated Web conferences—also can vary by platform. These tools give session leaders a way to prioritize audience questions.

"If you have 100 people in a Web conference, you'll want a way to mark that certain questions might be a high priority to address on air versus a lower priority that you can follow up on later," Molay said. "Some platforms are better than others in how they allow you to reorder and organize questions."

He added that other key system features to evaluate are the number of participants allowed on video calls, ability to automatically record Web conferences for later viewing, and tools that allow you to easily edit recordings or create transcripts of online meetings.

Watch how you position yourself on webcam. Don't position yourself in front of bright windows, which will place you in shadows. Raise your laptop so the camera is at eye level or higher.

"Laptop webcams are sitting lower and often shoot straight up into your nostrils," Molay said. "That's not the best look for most people."

Troubleshooting Technical Problems

People will inevitably experience problems with video, audio transmission or other functions in virtual settings. "The first thing to do is isolate whether it's just that person having the issue or everyone," Courville said. "In most cases it's just one person, but you usually don't want to stop the whole meeting or presentation just because one person is having a problem."

Molay said leaders can afford to spend only a limited amount of time trying to fix an individual's issues. "It's easy to focus on squeaky wheels in online settings, but you don't want to slow down 30 people to satisfy one person."

Meeting leaders also can mute and unmute participants on most platforms if people are having technical issues and bothering others, Courville said.

Auck, SlideRabbit's founder, said one tactic she uses when leading virtual presentations or workshops is to keep a second computer in view and log in as an attendee. "It won't account for all of the variables of people logging in remotely, but you'll have a tighter view of any lag in how your slides are advancing for viewers," she said.

Mike Fasciani, senior research director at research and advisory firm Gartner, said employees who reside in bandwidth-challenged areas can take steps such as turning off video and joining meetings using dial-in audio options while still seeing the content that's being shared through a browser.

Remote workers also can use their 4G-enabled smartphones rather than laptops or desktops in virtual meetings, he said. "Many video-meeting and workstream collaboration applications were built with a mobile-first design intent and so work as well as, if not better than, the desktop and Web client access," he said.

Dave Zielinski is a freelance business writer and editor in Minneapolis.

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