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?

Presenting a webinar for the first time

Cathrine Wilhelmsen First WebinarPresenting online is a completely different experience than presenting in-person. When you present online you lose the interaction with the audience, you are unable to read body language or facial expressions to see if they are interested or bored out of their minds, and you get absolutely no feedback on whether or not they understand what you are trying to explain. You have to trust yourself, talk to a screen for an hour, and hope that the technology does not suddenly decide to throw a tantrum and stop working for no reason.

I recently presented my first ever webinar. It went quite well, but there are many things I want to do better next time. Writing down what I learned will help me improve my own presentation skills and slide decks, but I also hope it can help other new speakers prepare for their first webinar. Please feel free to share your own tips and tricks, I would love to learn from you! :)

Continue reading →

Help! My computer is dead and I’m supposed to do a demo-based presentation!

You’ve worked for days, weeks, maybe even months on your session. You’ve rehearsed, rehearsed, rehearsed, triple-checked every single demo, memorized ZoomIt keyboard shortcuts and timed your presentation. You have all your programs open and ready, cleared all personal information from your start screen and turned off notifications. You’ve brought power, USB hub, adapters to HDMI and VGA, mouse, wireless presenter with laser pointer, tablet with stopwatch, water, swag for attendees and even notes on paper so you won’t forget the things you don’t have in your slides. The room is full of people staring at you. You’re all set and ready to present.

…and then your computer won’t connect to the projector.

Your computer does not want to connect to the project with your HDMI adapter. Your computer does not want to connect to the projector with your VGA adapter. Your computer does not want to allow remote connections even when you’ve told it to. Your computer is all “yes, I do in fact notice I’m connected to a second screen, but I’d prefer some personal time right now, thanks”.

HELP! PANIC!

Sheldon Panicking

What would you do? Have you been in the same kind of situation? What did you do?

This happened to me during my second ever SQLSaturday presentation, which was my first SQLSaturday presentation in a foreign country. I was nervous and excited and really looking forward to presenting something I think is truly awesome, and then nothing went as I had planned.

Luckily I had a backup plan. I had hidden slides with screen shots and explanations in my presentation and I could go through the slides instead of doing live demos. However, I had not rehearsed or timed my presentation without live demos. Since I had already lost 10-15 minutes at the start of my session, I rushed through my presentation a bit too fast and had 10-15 minutes left at the end.

I decided to ask who were interested in seeing the demos on my computer, and I was happy to see quite a few hands in the air! I finished my presentation and thanked the attendees for being so patient, and then those who wanted a break could leave early while those who wanted to see the demos came up on stage.

Backup plan: Show demos on your computerIt was not the best way to do a demo, for sure! But it worked out better than not showing anything. I sat on the floor so the attendees could look over my shoulder while I showed them how things actually worked. (And I even got to show my new Zoomit skills!)

I was happy to hear “oh!” and “aaah!” while doing the demos, and I was also happy to get a lot of questions. I think it was less scary for attendees to ask questions in a small group than raising their hands during a presentation. It was also great to hear attendees discuss with each other and share ideas on how to use Biml!

Hopefully the attendees learned something even though things didn’t go as planned. And for me? I definitely learned a lot!

Always:
– Have screen shots of your demos in your presentation
– Have a backup of your presentation on a removable drive
– Rehearse your session without demos to get your timing and transitions right
– Ask organizers if you can try to set up your laptop as soon as you arrive, don’t wait until right before your session

If possible:
– Create videos of important demos and keep them on the removable drive
– Have a second laptop with your presentation and demos
– Team up with another speaker to set up your demos on each others’ laptops

And of course, don’t forget the obvious:
– Power
– Adapters to HDMI / VGA
– USB hub
– Mouse
– Wireless presenter with laser pointer
– Printout or notes on paper
– Water
– Tablet with Stopwatch / Watch / Friend with Watch

PASS Summit 2015 Lightning Talk

On October 28th 2015, I presented a Lightning Talk at PASS Summit 2015 called Help! I’m Supposed to Present Now but My Computer Is Dead! It was inspired by this blog post and my experiences in Portugal :)