Declutter your online presentations

2012

When you think of presenting online and what makes things difficult or easier, you probably think about the technology. Will you be using WebEx, GoToMeeting, or one of the dozens of oddly named products on the market (really, Prezi?)? Will the internet go down in the middle of your presentation? But it is far more likely that the things that will annoy, distract or bother you have nothing to do with the presentation and everything to do with what's on and around your desk.

I'm amazed how many people don't pay attention to their workspace, yet it is a primary source of problems for the online presenter. Let me give you some examples:

Is your workspace uncluttered? By this I mean both physically and visually. Have you closed any applications on your computer that might pop up and be a distraction? What about your desk? Do you have room for a notepad and pen? Is there anything there that might prove too tempting to resist (like squeeze balls, or a second computer on which you can play Solitaire instead of listening to Bill from Dallas rattle on)?

Is it private? Whether it's annoying co-workers, ringing phones, or (in my case) a noisy cockatiel and a hound-dog puppy there are a million things that can provide unwelcome distractions to both you and your audience. Even if you can muddle through without losing focus (the bird I can ignore. The puppy looking askance at the rug in my office, not so much) it can make it hard for your audience to pay attention or even take you seriously.

Cubicles are great for working together, lousy for presenting. Find some place with a door and don't be afraid to use it. If you're working from home, move the critters somewhere else.

What about the audio? One of the hardest things about presenting and taking part in online meetings is our reliance on the auditory, rather than the visual. This means a couple of things. First, if you're using your computer's audio, use a headset rather than the mic and speakers. This will prevent feedback and echo. If you're using a telephone , use a landline rather than a mobile if at all possible. Again, use a headset so your hands are free to gesture, y our neck isn't contorted uncomfortably, and the speaker phone isn't picking up every annoying noise. Keep your cell phone handy in case of trouble, but it should be your plan B, not your default audio tool.

What about a copy of your presentation or at least an outline? One of the most underrated things you can have is a hard copy of your presentation printed out and sitting beside you. You can use it to scribble notes on, use it as a reference to stay on track, and remember where you are when the inevitable brain freeze occurs.

I am really old school, I print out my presentation either as a handout or in notes form (with all my notes so I can read them). Some people say they use the "PowerPoint Notes" feature in their web platform. Yes, you can see your notes in the corner of the screen, but my 50-year-old eyes are incapable of making it out in real time. Just print it out. Kill a tree but save your presentation.

Is your webcam situated properly? Properly in this case means it actually looks at you, you can make eye contact with it, and most importantly, is the lighting good? If the light behind you is brighter than the light in front of you, your face will be in shadow and you'll look like someone in witness protection. Does the camera show everyone your room could use a good picking-up? If they can see it, do you want them to see it? Test this before going online.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

Wayne Turmel is a speaker, writer and co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute. He’s passionate about helping people present, sell and lead people and projects using today’s virtual communication technology. His books include Meet Like You Mean It - a Leader’s Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings. Wayne is based in Chicago, IL.