Tips for Remote Presenters

I was recently interviewed for an article on GigaOm’s Web Worker Daily site. Their articles specialize in giving tips to workers who telecommute. Since I’d recently delivered a webinar for VizThink, I pulled from that experience to contribute to the GigaOm article.

For the presentation, I draped off the windows of my office (because I felt silly), posted pictures of employees (so it felt like a real audience), stood up clicker-in-hand and delivered the presentation. Here are the tips I submitted to GigaOm’s Judi Sohn.

My fake audience

High stakes communication is handled best with everyone in the same room. But we all know with gas prices going up, and spending going down, it’s likely that your critical proposal will end up being communicated via an online presentation. So how do you make the most of it and connect with your audience?

For the webinar I delivered recently, I wanted to be ultra-prepared because the registered attendees were at an all-time high. I was comfortable with the content but I wanted the remote delivery to come across well over the phone. The webinar went very well, and even went viral with roughly 10,000 viewers. Below are the principles I used to keep the audience engaged.

Stand Up

Body posture influences the projection of your voice. If you’re scrunched at your computer, or huddled by the phone, your voice may not come across with authority, and you risk be perceived as unprepared. Pretend you’re in a real presentation environment. Give yourself some privacy, tape up photos of people to make eye contact with, stand up, and even use a clicker. It makes a huge difference.

Burst the Content

People will multitask during your presentation. It’s the nemesis of the medium. Instead of ignoring it, use it as motivation to communicate differently. Create presentations so visually rich that they won’t cover up your webinar with their Inbox. Varying the volume and tone of your voice will create auditory bursts, and to add auditory emphasis to your content. Humor is a great way to capture interest. If you sound like you’re having a good time, they’ll want to hang out with the cool crowd. (Wouldn’t it be great if you could add a laugh track to your presentation?)

Present with Two

When two people share the responsibility of presenting, the audience’s interest will be piqued each time the presenter changes. A new person usually means a new topic, and the audience will tune in to hear about it. Granted, if you can’t sustain the interesting content they may drift again, but the first few seconds after a transition are great opportunities to reengage interest. Take advantage of those moments by planning them ahead of time.

Make it Interactive

Take advantage of nature of the web to collect feedback and interact with your audience during the presentation. Most applications have installed extensive feedback mechanisms so the audience can float questions, chat as a community, and give live feedback. If it’s a large online audience, it’s best to have an administrator handle the incoming questions and comments. You can also extend the reach of your presentation by recording it and posting it. Then the audience can watch it (and pause it), in their own time frame.

Understand the Technology

When delivering a presentation online, each application used to display your content is very different. Host a dry run of your presentation in which you click through ALL your slides. Many of the applications lose transitions, builds, and animations. What works in PowerPoint may not work in the application hosting your presentation.

Nancy Duarte


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  • These are great tips. Your voice becomes even more important during a webinar, and standing up help you project and keep your voice crisp.

    I have been experimenting with a Wacom graphic tablet during webinars of late to allow me to write on the screen and highlight points. It really grabs the attention of the audience becuase it is unexpected.

  • Tina

    thanks so much Nancy for the insight. Just started my own design business and doing lots of remote work, so the tips are very timely.
    Much appreciated.

  • Excellent Nancy! I conduct 30 to 40 interactive training webinars a month and I heard a true ring with your every point! 95% of my audience is directly involved with advertising sales so I add emphasis on key words (see caps) and use a two statements and a question. Like a cha-cha-CHA! Statement-statement-Question!

  • Cole Stephens

    I telecommute & webinars are a regular item on my Outlook calendar. I have 3 additions to your already great suggestions:

    1 – get a good hands-free head-set. Don’t go cheap here. I talk with my hands…even during a webinar & people hate feeling like they’re on speaker.

    2 – Get a second laptop and log onto your own webinar. Nothing is more annoying than saying, “As you can see here…”, but the presentation hasn’t updated for your remote attendees…so they can’t “see here” & your point is lost.

    3 – Use dual monitors. When you share your screen, it only shares your primary monitor. It’s great to have some notes up on the 2nd monitor as a cheat-sheet. I’ll often put names of customers up in big letters so I don’t forget who I’m talking to.

  • Greg Sweet

    With the right equipment and a media player that works from the task bar you can add a laugh track to your webinar. See my WebEx User Community post here for detailed instructions on how you can add sound FX to your webinars:

  • One other area to consider is numbering slides. We all know that people will be distracted and once you have lost someone in this virtual world it’s hard to pull them back. Having numbers on the slides will at least allow you to call out the number and if it’s a small audience ask each to say they are at the same stage. This maintains some control of the audience and at the same time it allows you to judge the speed of each connection, assuming your audience is in different locations. You can then pace you delivery on the ‘last’ one.

  • These are great tips

  • Jonathan

    Nancy, thanks for sharing these — awesome! I actually coach people that when presenting virutally to have a stuffed animal or two… This can make you giggle, but they sure are not intimidating.

  • Thanks for that great post!

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  • Nancy for the insight.Thanks

  • Get a second laptop and log onto your own webinar

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  • I have attended a lot of webinars and just a few ‘real’ conferences.
    To me one of the very important factors is to ensure that audio and video works properly.

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