How to make the best videoconference presentation to a large audience?
March 5, 2014 1:22 PM   Subscribe

I am delivering a PowerPoint presentation on my scientific research to undergraduates by videoconference. What special considerations should I make for the videoconference medium? Specifically, when should I switch between displaying the slides and video of my face?

The undergrads are at a university in another country, and are probably highly proficient but not native English speakers. They will be watching the presentation on a big screen in an auditorium. I will be able to see the screen and the backs of the heads of some of the people in the audience. We tested the connection earlier and I wasn't able to hear people in the auditorium well. I hope this is fixed but in general it looks like I won't be getting much feedback from the audience during the talk, audio or video. I have set up a Talker chat room so that people can send me questions or comments in the middle of the talk.

We are using an H.323 system to connect. I can control the video they will be able to see: either my talking head (I will be sitting down at a table), or the slides. Unfortunately I can't display both. When should I switch from the slides to showing me? Just at the beginnings and ends of the talk? When I move to new section in the middle of the talk? When I find myself talking about a slide for a while?

I am an experienced presenter, both in person and in teleconferences where I have sent people slides in advance and talk over them. But I've never quite presented something like this—do you have any special tips for this medium?
posted by grouse to Education (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I used to sell Videoconferencing equipment. We do a weekly Skype call with folks from around the world...and I'm still trying to understand what the benefit of seeing my mug is.

I'd treat this more as a WebEx call, with the presentation being at the crux of it, rather than a "video conference".

Unless you're demonstrating the application of make up, there isn't a huge benefit to switching to your face, and then back again to the slide.

If you feel that you must show your face, perhaps at the beginning of the presentation and during Q&A, do this.

Stay still. The more you move, the more the image must refresh. You don't want to look pixelated.

Wear a plain, blue top. White may reflect too much light and wash you out, stripes or patterns will need to be refreshed more frequently, leading to issues with video quality.

Blue is a universally flattering color (light blue) which is why photography backgrounds are typically made blue.

Don't wear any dangly jewelry, ear-rings, charm bracelets, bangles, you get the idea.

Good Luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:30 PM on March 5, 2014

I agree with Ruthless Bunny, do you have to actually show your face or can you just make it more like a webinar? Way easier, and less connectivity problems.
posted by radioamy at 1:32 PM on March 5, 2014

It is definitely an option to have my disembodied voice talking over the slides the whole time and never show my face at all. I feel like I should at least say hello at the beginning and end though.
posted by grouse at 1:35 PM on March 5, 2014

I feel like I should at least say hello at the beginning and end though.

It's over-rated to be honest. Just put a nice picture of yourself as your first slide, if you want the personal touch.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:39 PM on March 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bouncing between yourself and the slides will be really disrupting. Once you start the slides, stay with the slides.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:47 PM on March 5, 2014

I think it could be effective to switch to your face a couple times if you can identify spots where you might lose an audience. Like if you're on one slide for 30 seconds but still have another 30 seconds of talking to do.
posted by mullacc at 1:53 PM on March 5, 2014

I have to agree with everyone else: there's no reason to show your face, except perhaps at the beginning and end. Letting them see your face while you're talking will not help them understand you better, it may distract them, and it may even irritate them if you happen to spirit away a slide while they are still trying to grok it. For several years I conducted long classes over the internet, sometimes up to 35 hours in a week, and I never once received a comment from a student that they would have liked to have seen my face. I would have liked to have seen their faces, but that's something else entirely.
posted by ubiquity at 3:14 PM on March 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you want to see how the "pros" do it, watch streaming lectures from the Perimeter Institute or perhaps some TED talks of interest. Those would give you an idea of what cues are used to cut between slides and footage of the presenter, if any.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:47 PM on March 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Find out what resolution the stream will be presented at, and tailor your slides to that. Worry about small type becoming illegible.

Unless you have the benefit of a camera crew and director on your side of the stream, don't worry about video unless you have to demonstrate something, as others have said.
posted by tomierna at 4:18 PM on March 5, 2014

Thanks for the advice. I just finished the talk (I asked for your advice on short notice but I knew AskMe would come through!). I pretty much only showed my face as I was being introduced at the beginning and thanked at the end. That seemed to work fine. For anyone else who ever needs to do this, here were some things I noticed:
  • The Talker chat room running on a second computer was a very helpful way to get questions and feedback on understanding.
  • I have rarely been so glad that I had "bonus slides" that managed to cover all the questions I was asked.
  • I used a mouse to draw annotations about the things I was talking about. I wished I had remembered to take my graphics tablet from home as I intended. Even nicer would be if I had made little graphical callouts for all of these in advance. That's always something I mean to do (for other talks) but never seem to have the time to.
  • The system was set up so that I could hear myself talk. This was slightly disconcerting and resulted in me talking more slowly than usual. That may have been a good thing.

posted by grouse at 4:20 PM on March 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

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