3 Mistakes I Made While Presenting Remotely

3 Mistakes I Made While Presenting RemotelyTwo years ago I wrote about my experiences presenting a webinar for the first time. I learned a lot that day, and it helped me prepare for presenting remotely. But, a webinar is not the same as a remote presentation. And as much as you prepare and rehearse, you just won’t be prepared for every little thing that might happen until you’ve experienced them. So in addition to the advice I shared in my other blog post, here are 3 of my mistakes you don’t want to make if you’re planning to start presenting remotely :)

I didn’t ask the organizers enough questions before I started presenting

How many people are attending? What does the room look like? Is the screen large or small? Are people sitting close to the screen or in the back of the room? Can you see my webcam? Where is my webcam placed on the screen that the attendees see? Will I see your webcam?

I should have asked the organizers to spend 5-10 minutes with me before the session started so I could get a better idea of who I was presenting for and what they would see. When presenting live, I walk to the back of the room to check how much I need to zoom in during demos. I can see what everyone else sees on the screen. I can adjust to different room layouts. When presenting a webinar, I know that everyone will see the same as me on their own screens. I can watch my own webinar on a second screen so I can adjust to the lag. When presenting remotely, I don’t know anything about what the attendees see unless I ask. Maybe my webcam covered parts of my demo? Maybe I clicked too fast through my slides? I don’t know, but I should have known.

I didn’t test running all my software at the same time

We did a test call and Skype, my camera and my microphone all worked. But generating SSIS packages from Biml in Visual Studio at the same time as sharing my webcam plus my sound plus my screen? Uh, yeah, that didn’t really go too well on my old and tired laptop. Demos that usually take 2-3 seconds ran for nearly 30 seconds. Demos that usually take 30 seconds (and make my Visual Studio stop responding just long enough for me to grab a sip of water and joke about it) ran for several minutes. It felt like an hour. I don’t have that many jokes! I ran short on time because of this.

Waiting... Waiting... Still waiting...

I should have tested more before starting my presentation. While asking the organizers questions before the meeting (see previous point), I should also have asked them to do a quick dry run with me. They could have given me feedback on the most important part of my demos: Was everything visible from the back of the room? Is the call quality good enough to present in regular speed, or do I need to slow down more? And most importantly – does everything actually work with all the software I’m running at the same time?

I stared at my microphone while presenting

I used a Jabra speakerphone, that flat, round gadget that looks like a hockey puck. It was next to my keyboard, and I kept staring at it all through my presentation. Because, you know, all the attendees were sitting inside it, and I was presenting for them :)

I should have looked more into the camera. I didn’t, I looked at where the sound came from. I also leaned down several times to hear questions better, which must have looked rather funny. I’ve only presented with headphones in the past, so this was a new experience for me. I should have rehearsed more with this camera and microphone setup to get used to where to look and what gestures to make.

I made these mistakes so you won’t have to!

Well, ok, I didn’t do it on purpose ;) But I do hope you can learn something from my mistakes, so you will become a way better remote speaker than me! I also hope you can learn something from my previous experiences. What advice would you give to new speakers who are presenting remotely?

Who is Cathrine Wilhelmsen?

Cathrine is a Microsoft Data Platform MVP, BimlHero, speaker, blogger and chronic volunteer. She currently works as a Community Evangelist for PASS and coordinates all SQLSaturdays around the world, but has previously worked as a SQL Server Data Warehouse architect and Business Intelligence developer. She loves sci-fi, chocolate, cat gifs and smilies :)

4 thoughts on “3 Mistakes I Made While Presenting Remotely”

Hahaha, I love watching group conference calls when everybody stares at the microphone and gestures at it. Fun psychology experiment.

To help with looking at the camera, put the webcam monitor window right under the webcam itself. (Assuming your webcam’s on top of the monitor.) Your eyes will be drawn to the moving human being on the screen. Takes some getting used to, but it ends up being really infectious – you see yourself grin, and you grin even bigger.

I know, right? It’s so easy to gesture at the microphone without thinking about it, especially for those of us who don’t have thousands of hours experience in front of a camera :D

That’s great advice on moving the webcam monitor window. I didn’t see my own webcam while sharing my screen, and I didn’t have time to change it this time since we jumped right into my presentation. Definitely something to remember for next time, thank you!

Thanks for sharing this Catherine, being vulnerable helps others people to understand that they can also make mistakes and help them to learn from yours.

Awesome tips. I tend to turn my camera off so that, I can focus only on the screen. I tend to also try and use jabra Bluetooth for ear. Like a phone call to avoid surrounding sounds distracting me. Great article though.

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