Pro tip | When all hell breaks loose presenting online

publication date: May 6, 2020
author/source: Ann Rosenfield

I was talking with a volunteer from the Board where we both serve. She is a very senior person at a very large Canadian business. When you think of corporate Canada, this is one of the businesses that would come to your mind. She was telling me about making a presentation for work when suddenly her video went out. So she had to carry on, doing a presentation without being able to see her slides or if people had questions.

Although presenting on Zoom or Webex or any of the online options is new to many of us, it is still true that you need to be prepared for anything that can go wrong with your tech. Just like a live presentation, it is smart to test your tech in advance plus have fallback plans in case something goes wrong.

Get an early start

Planning to present? Try to arrange to login 30 minutes early. You don't have to sit in front of your computer for that time, or let the attendees in early, but by having the room open, you can solve any computer or connection problems and be ready to still start on time.

Have a back-up plan

Recently I was the moderator for a panel. I had arranged for another person to serve as a back-up moderator in case something went wrong with my computer or internet. Having a back-up plan and back-up person will increase the chances that your presentation or panel can continue smoothly.

Hard copy is the ultimate Plan B

Before I present in person, I always have my main points in hard copy form. That way if the presentation fails, I can keep going. The same is true of online presenting. If you have hard copy notes of what you need to cover, even if the presentation fails, or your video fails, you can keep going.

I can see clearly

Many online platforms include chat as part of their platform. Recently, I was on a conference where the sound failed for a moment. The conversation moved over to the chat platform until the sound returned. This is another place where having back up hard copy notes can help you keep going.

Hurray for mods

While Zoom has taken steps to enhance security, you can't rule out the issue of unwanted jerks who decide to be offensive in the middle of your presentation. Having a moderator, separate from the presenter, can make sure that someone can kick out bad actors quickly. As a presenter, you may want to have some notes where you apologize for whatever horrible things the person said or did and note that you view what they said or did as wrong.

We can't control the curve balls that online presenting may throw our way. By being prepared now, we can make sure that technical difficulties don't stop us from sharing important information.

Ann Rosenfield is the Editor of Hilborn Charity eNews and, online, has moderated 2 panels, chaired multiple meetings, and already given a two hour training workshop in the last four weeks.

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