Remote success - a failsafe remote presentation guide

It’s never as simple as turning on a webcam, and continuing as before. Here’s a guide to giving a successful, inclusive, enjoyable remote talk!


1 – 3 weeks before the talk

Know your audience
Figure out who might attend. As your write your talk, keep your audience in mind at all times.

  • Cater to their  skill/interest level in the talk’s topic
  • Plan any online activities based on attendance numbers, and the audience’s skill level with online tools

Write your talk:

  • Avoid a talk that is 100% slides + narration
  • Plan parts of the talk where you are looking at the camera and talking. Human faces are engaging!
    Include interactive activities, such as group discussion, quizzes, voting, online games. You’re aiming to simulate a feeling of togetherness and collaboration

Write a run-sheet.

  • Break the talk up. E.g 10:00 – 10:10, 10 min for intro; 10:10 – 10:30, 20 min for first topic . . .
  • Include both the duration of a section, and the clock time. This allows for easy recalculating on the fly when sections inevitably run over or under-time.

Write a code of conduct

Everyone should be clear on how to behave during your talk. Post the code of conduct as part of the talk’s invite, and introduce it again at the start of the talk.

  • How do you want the chat to be used during your talk? Do you encourage participants talking to each other during the talk, or is that chat solely for raising questions to the presenter?
  • How will people ask questions?
  • Do you expect webcams on or off?

Find a facilitator
The facilitator’s job is to monitor the chat to ensure it’s following the code of conduct, and keep track of any questions for the speaker. The facilitator can also fairly distribute chances to talk. This frees up your brain to focus on presenting.

Organise your notes
Think about how you’d like to access the notes and run-sheet for your talk. You may want to print them out, or have them on a separate screen or device.

Remind people about your talk

Post in slack, DM key people, make a lot of noise! Buffer for the fact that it seems to be easier to forget about a remote presentation

The day before the talk

Set up your hardware and software. Don’t skip this! It can be tempting to leave it to the last minute, but by then, it’s too late to fix any issues, and you’ll start your talk flustered.

Set up your webcam

  • Position your webcam to show a clear, will lit view of you face
  • Webcam backgrounds and blurring can slow down your computer. Ideally, find a plain or tidy background in your house.
  • Position your webcam so that you can comfortably face it without craning your neck up or down. If you’re using a built in webcam you may now need to source an external keyboard and mouse to comfortably interact with your device.

Set up your audio

  • First choice is a headset, second is headphones with a microphone.
  • If you’re recording the talk, download and set up recording software. Give it a test! It can be tricky to configure settings to record both your mic audio, and the participant’s audio.

Set up your device

  • Make sure your device is plugged in, don’t rely on your battery.
  • Call your facilitator and get them to peer review your A/V set up

1 hour before the talk

  • Have some water on hand, but set up in a way that even if you knocked it over, it wouldn’t spill on your hardware!
  • Close all non essential programs on your device. Make your computer as squeaky clean as possible.
  • Turn off all notifications e.g on slack, phone, calendar
  • Join the video call 10 min early with your facilitator, and do a last minute A/V peer review

During the talk

  • People like to feel orientated in time and space. Explain the run sheet, get the facilitator to post it in the chat.
  • Explain the role of facilitator.
  • Explain your talk’s code of conduct, get the facilitator to post this in the chat

Be prepared for the disconnected feeling of presenting remotely.

  • As you’re talking, you will not get the subconscious vibe feedback you would normally get from a room of people. People will tend to mute their microphones, so won’t hear people politely laugh at your bad jokes, and it will be hard to see physical feedback like encouraging nods.
  • If you’re presenting your screen, expect to feel strange to be talking alone to yourself.
  • You can combat this perceived isolation by giving regular opportunities for your audience to ask questions, and including interactive activities

You can do it!

Remote talks present unique challenges. But these are easily overcome with some simple preparation. A remote talk can be a great introduction to presenting, as there’s not the pressure of standing up and facing a bunch of people. Good luck!