Up high on the list of ‘Worst things a presenter can do’ for an in-person session is to lock eyes with just one part of the room. With real live people we will look around trying to make eye contact with as many different individuals as possible, to make them feel involved. This is the complete opposite for many virtual presentations. In general, for larger presentations, broadcasts and pre-recorded sessions delivery should be straight down the webcam. This will feel comfortable for the person watching, even if it feels a bit odd for you. People’s eyes are drawn to faces, so as a presenter, you will automatically find yourself either looking at your own image or the other people on the call. Whilst it is fine to look at those windows from time to time, try and keep the majority of your delivery down the lens. If it helps, put a little picture or smiley face next to your webcam to remind you and help train your eyes to find it naturally. It is also worth reminding yourself of where the webcam is when you need to show anything to the audience. Practice your positioning and know where things go in and out of focus, again try not to cover your face unless you are going for a certain effect and never cover your mouth when speaking. If you do need to look away, perhaps to read comments in the chat, I have observed that it looks most slick if the presenter announces that they are about to do so. This helps to explain why they are now breaking ‘eye contact’ with the camera and keeps the audience with them.
Stand up (if you are able)
Simple right? I didn’t think of it either. An amazing presenter I work with suggested getting adjustable standing desks and it was a lightbulb moment. Most of the presenters I have seen in-person have been standing, moving around, projecting to a room, showing off their engaging body language. By sitting down, without considered rectification, our movement is more limited, we’re huddled over and our energy is likely to reflect that. If you are able, and it works for you, find a way to present standing up. Boxes and old DVDs propped up on desks can help create a suitable laptop stand, but make sure they’re stable!
Depth of field
An engagement tool that we don’t have in our arsenal when presenting to a room of people is the ‘depth of field’ of the camera. It can be incredibly engaging watching presenters vary their depth of field to tell a story or hook an audience. This might be coming in closer to the camera to whisper a ‘Top Secret Mission’ for a class, or leaning off camera as if to joke with an imaginary member of the crew or even just holding props at different levels in the background to convey meaning. Experiment with this, recording it to watch back and refine placement and be careful not to overdo it!
Video and Audio Limitations
Whilst depth of field is an additional tool for virtual presentations, there are a few aspects of using a webcam that could become limitations if not considered and accounted for. One of the presenters I worked with lately has the most infectious, glorious energy on camera, but they were always bumping the desk or laptop in excitement. This can leave us as viewers feeling a little sea-sick. Try to ensure the webcam is not likely to wobble and avoid bumping the desk. I have also seen that with increased movement, audio popping is likely. I expect it is something to do with the technology compensating for varying distances between the sound and the microphone. On these occasional, it was simply solved with a headset. When using any media with audio, allow the sound to finish playing before attempting to comment, this avoids the different sources competing and becoming garbled.