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Preparing for a Virtual Presentation

The key to a successful virtual presentation is the same as the key to a successful face-to-face presentation: preparation. Consider the following guidelines to ensure that you're ready for your virtual presentation.

Knowing which nonvirtual rules apply

Always remember that a virtual presentation is still a presentation. The following basic rules for making an effective presentation apply:

  • Identify the purpose for the presentation. Make sure you know why you're presenting. No one wants to hear a presentation, virtual or otherwise, that has no real purpose. Identifying the purpose of your presentation is critical for knowing how to construct it and deliver it.
  • Know your audience. Find out as much as possible about your audience. .
  • Organize your presentation. Choose a pattern that suits your topic (for instance problem and solution; past, present, and future; theory and practice; or whatever works). Make sure that your audience can easily follow your message. .
  • Write an introduction and conclusion. Just because a presentation is virtual doesn't mean it doesn't need an opening and a close. The introduction has to preview and lead into your talk. The conclusion has to wrap it up.
  • Provide materials in advance. This allows audience members to become familiar with the proceedings beforehand and get more out of them. You can easily distribute materials via e-mail. Consider giving out the following:

Agenda: The audience wants to know what will happen and when.That's the purpose of an agenda. So provide one. An agenda makes it easier for audience members to keep track of the presentations.

Support material: Providing support materials such as presentation notes and outlines in advance also helps attendees get more out of your presentation. These can be sent easily and cheaply through e-mail.

PowerPoint slides: For presentations given on the Web, it may be smarter to distribute PowerPoint slides beforehand rather than using PowerPoint during your presentation. .

Contact information: A list of all audience members' names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses should be distributed so that they can reach one another in the event of a technical problem.

  • Check the room(s). It's standard advice to check the room in advance of a presentation. You want to make sure that it meets your needs: Check to be sure that it has enough seats for the people participating in the meeting, that the room layout is conducive to discussion, and that the equipment you plan to use is in working order. In the case of a virtual presentation, you won't be able to visually inspect all the meeting rooms, but do check the one that you'll be presenting from.

Considering unique factors

Because of the differences between virtual presentations and face-to-face presentations, you need to consider the following special factors:

  • Timing: Unlike an in-person presentation, a virtual presentation can span several time zones. You need to take this into consideration when scheduling the presentation. If possible, give the presentation during normal business hours for all audience members. Be aware of when audience members at various locations usually take breaks or eat meals. Try to plan a presentation time that is convenient for all of them.
    If you have a regularly scheduled virtual meeting (weekly, monthly, and so on) that includes people from several time zones, rotate the starting time. That way, no one has to get up early or stay up late every time.
  • Technology: Make sure that all audience members have the equipment necessary to receive your presentation and that they know how to use it. Test the equipment beforehand. Then test it again. If the equipment doesn't work, your presentation doesn't work. Have a backup plan ready in case the equipment fails during your presentation. (Will you call everyone? E-mail everyone? Shout out the window?) If audience members are using a phone to connect with others, they need to make sure the line doesn't have the call-waiting feature or that call waiting is temporarily disengaged.
  • Appearance: If you appear on screen via a Web or videoconference, then you should consider how your appearance will affect your message. Here are a few ways to improve your electronic appearance:

• Wear a conservative outfit that doesn't draw attention away from your face.

• Wear pastel colors rather than bright colors, because pastels broadcast better.

• Avoid striped, checked, or patterned clothing.

• Make sure your clothes contrast with your background colors.

• Use a solid-color background.

Remove objects from the background that may distract your audience, such as pictures, posters, and so on.

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