Wowing Your Audience : Tips for online presentation


This post may be way past the deadline, but certainly needs to be written, especially as my point of reference for any future online presentations.

When I first heard about the RSCON 2013 E-Conference, I was awestruck by the idea of 10 keynote speakers, 3 panels, live musical performances and 100+ presentations (by educators from all around the world) convening on a single platform for a straight 72 hours in the virtual world. The entire idea seemed almost surreal.

So when I received an invitation to present at this conference, I was absolutely thrilled. But what do I present? Where do I start? How can I engage my audience? How do I even find audience? These were the questions that drove me along this technological journey. And I can tell you one thing for sure : it was an unforgettable experience!

With that in mind, I’d like use this post to share my observations on what (I think) are some of the most invaluable lessons that can help infuse the WOW factor into our online presentations. This post has been divided into 3 parts : Pre-Training, During Training and Post-Training (as how I see it), and the contents of each part are not in the order in which they need to be carried out; They’re just actions that need to be completed. I do hope it would be beneficial to you as how it was to me!

PRE-TRAINING
A. THINK OF AN ENGAGING TITLE AND ABSTRACT
The first thing that catches the audience eye is the title of your presentation. Think of a catchy title that would instantly grab your readers’ attention. Titles should be between 5 – 7 words; the shorter, the better. Use adjectives that ‘çapture’. The same goes to writing the abstract. The best abstracts are ones that are compact, concise and interesting to read. There is absolutely no necessity to explain your entire presentation in your abstract. Just remember that : your abstract is the first impression of your presentation. If the audience love your abstract, they’d most certainly attend your presentation. These links provide some useful insights on writing abstracts for presentations at conferences:

http://www.cgu.edu/pages/865.asp

http://academic-conferences.org/abstract-guidelines.htm

http://blog.tesol.org/tips-on-writing-successful-conference-presentation-proposals/

And a link for some sample ELT abstracts:

http://narva2008.wikidot.com/abstracts

B. ATTEND TRAINING TO FAMILIARIZE WITH ONLINE PLATFORMS
If you’re part of an online conference, the organizers might be kind enough to provide training to get your familiarized with the online collaborative platform that they’d be using for the conference. Attend at least 1 training, and read up the user guide on how you can make the most of the provided platform. Yes, we’re all busy with work and are probably pressed for time, but these trainings definitely helps familiarize you to the platform. I find that as an online presenter, I’ve got to work extra hard when engaging and increasing interactivity with my audience. For one, you don’t really get to see them face to face (maybe you do, but that would only be in the initial stages of the presentation) and most of the time (80%) PTT – Presenter Talk Time would definitely be high. So, how can we engage our audience,? We need to use some of the features provided by the platform which help increase interactivity, and these are some of the areas that are usually covered in the training.

C. GET REGISTERED, EXPLORE AND DO TEST RUNS OF THE PRESENTATION
This is one of the best things that you can do for yourself as a presenter. Register for a trial version of the platform (Blackboard Collaborate allowed a 1 month sign up), and try to spend some time exploring the platform and performing trial runs of your presentation. These trial runs are really helpful in several aspects: it helps you improvise on the visual aspects of your slides, the timing of your presentation, the intonation of your voice, familiarity with the platform, and most of all, to build your confidence as a first time presenter. You can also decide on how you want to increase interaction with your audience (which can be done by the features provided by the collaborative platform – features where audience can “type” on the slides, “raise” their hands, “smile” to show agreement, “speak” their question into the mic, etc).  Try to get some friends to help out as audience (there seemed to be a limit with my trial version, I only managed to have 3 people being participants) and to give feedback after the trial run. I found that to be really helpful to me. Also, convert your PowerPoint slides to a version that is supported by the collaborative platform. It makes life a whole lot easier as the slides take lesser time to be uploaded back to the platform! 

D. CONTACT AND PRACTICE WITH YOUR MODERATOR
In large conferences such as RSCON, lots of individuals volunteer as moderators. Moderators are those who will help out with the technical aspects while you focus on the presentation itself. I consider myself very very lucky because a lovely person named Deborah Tebovich got in touch with me and offered to be my moderator.I more than gladly accepted! I was so privileged because Debbie was such a passionate, focused and hardworking moderator; Although we were at opposing time zones, we worked things out and managed to practice the presentation at least once. Debbie gave me some wonderful feedback on things I had to improve on, and I could never thank her enough for this.

E. READ EVERY EMAIL SENT BY THE CONFERENCE ORGANIZERS
Sometimes I found my mailbox swamped with emails from the conference organizers. It was overwhelming, but I did my best to read all of them up (I may have missed some). I’m glad I did that!

F. AVOID WORDY SLIDES – VISUAL IS THE WAY
When I was preparing the slides, my husband asked me a question which set forth the wheels of thoughts in my mind: “Are your slides information packed or information based?” My initial slides were full of words and I didn’t realize that. Once I attended several other sessions of the conference (which I highly recommend!), I panicked and realized that my slides were too wordy. I completely changed the layout of my presentation to be more visual (not too much of it though) so that my audience would be able to understand what I’ve got to say by just watching my presentation. Of course, there’s more room for improvement (My slides can be found here)

G. BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP
This is something that is most often overlooked by us. We take things for granted; we assume that everything will go smoothly and all will be well. Wrong. Positive thinking is great, but pragmatic thinking is even better. Technology can sometimes stab you in the back at the most unexpected time! So, always remember : backup your PowerPoint slides, and save it in different medias (thumb-drive, external hard-disks, Google drive). Better still, send a copy to your moderator. This really really helps to avoid problems of missing or dysfunctional PowerPoint slides. I’ve learned this from some very painful experience in my past. Trust me on this one!

H. PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE YOUR PRESENTATION
The organizers do their best to promote our presentation, but that really isn’t enough. As a presenter, we’ve got to do whatever we can to promote our presentation and reach out to the audience. I’m sure you know how to : facebook, twitter, posting on various ELT SIG groups on facebook, and most of all, doing it consistently; people tend to forget, it’s good to always remind them!

DURING TRAINING
A. BE PUNCTUAL

No matter how many times you’ve practiced, it’s always good to be punctual. In this case, ideally try to enter the room about 30 minutes prior to scheduled presentation time. This would give you time to load your slides, test the sound and microphone, deal with sudden fixes, and welcome and get to know the audience as they “enter” the room. Just imagine having a home, and having guests streaming in. Wouldn’t it be wonderful being a graceful host?

B. PRESENT WITH ENTHUSIASM
Some of us may not be privileged with high-speed broadband in our areas, in which we’re advised to disable the video function for the presentation to be smooth flowing. This means that our audience may only be able to hear our voice. It can be a challenge sometimes. Our voice, then becomes, THE tool of our presentation! Show the audience that we’re enthusiastic about the presentation; try to sound as natural as possible (I had some keywords written, but because I practiced several times prior to the real thing, I was a lot more confident and learned how to modulate my voice to hold my audience attention). Practicing really helps.

C. CONTACT DETAILS
Remember to add your contact details on the last slide, extending support to audience in the case where they’d like to experiment with the ideas from your presentation.

POST TRAINING
RE-WATCH YOUR PRESENTATION – I found various areas that needed improvement when I re-watched my presentation. Next time, perhaps?

And there you go! I hope this post would be helpful when you decide to conduct a webminar. If I’ve left anything out, please feel free to add them in the comments section, and it’ll be my pleasure to re-edit the post.

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6 thoughts on “Wowing Your Audience : Tips for online presentation

  1. Dearest Auntie Debbie,
    I’m so thrilled to know that people are still talking about wanting to try
    my ideas! You’re so right; We’re indeed blessed to have worked together!
    I really felt your energy like an anchor for me; someone I could definitely
    rely on. Thanks so much for getting in touch with me to work together.
    Now we know that we’ve both got ourselves moderators in upcoming online presentations 😉

    Love,
    Ratna

  2. Thank you for reading, Barbara!
    I’m so glad that you enjoyed my presentation,
    coming from yourself as an experienced presenter,
    it is such an inspiring compliment! Thank you very much
    for all the opportunities and doors that you’ve opened
    for me as a language teacher…

    Warm Wishes,
    Ratna

  3. Dear Ika,
    Thanks so much for reading my post, Ika!
    It was truly my pleasure to be there for you when you most needed someone to help!
    Don’t worry about being bad in Tech, we sometimes need to have ‘bad’ experience in life
    because these are the ones that we’d remember forever, and be careful off in the future!
    I must tell you that I really admire you because you stayed calm despite being in that
    situation, this is what matters!

    Warm wishes,
    Ratna

  4. Dear Ratna,
    Your presentation was so exciting. I still find and read posts in social networks where people are sharing they want to try your ideas. Your energy is more than positive and that made you a real perfect presenter.
    Thank you for sharing these tips. I think they are super useful for presenters. And I feel we were really blessed to have been working together, helping each other and learning from each other.
    Hugs to my soul niece
    Auntie Debbie (wink)

  5. Hi my Angel moderator! Thank you so much for posting these great tips. Your tips are very useful for us,for me especially. As you know that I was very bad in Tech. I had ‘a crazy’ time at the beginning of my presentation because I had no back up in my files. Thank God I found you as my moderator. You are great Ratna and very kind.
    You did great.

    Squid hugs^^

    Ika Chieka

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