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5 lessons from 6 video presentations in 2 weeks

In my attempt to use this unfortunate global shake-up to try out some new platforms for engaging with my audience, I’ve done the following in the past few days: 1 Facebook Live, 2 video conference presentations, and 3 webinars (which were also live streamed on Facebook).

As many of us make the quick transition from in-person engagement to working remotely, I thought I’d share some observations and tips from these experiences. Whether you’re making big, formal presentations or simply speaking on group calls, here are five lessons:

1. There is a difference between a webinar and a video conference. Webinars are generally frontal occasions geared toward lectures for larger audiences, while video conferences are more conducive to conversations. There are pros and cons to both. Webinars lend more control to the organizer (imagine not needing to shush or mute people every few minutes!) but video conferences allow for a higher level of engagement with the audience.

2. Set expectations at the beginning. If you want people to interact and not just watch, let people know what’s expected of them. No one likes surprises and if they think they’ll be watching passively in their PJs and are then put into a breakout room (more on that below), there’s a chance they’ll X out of the screen and not come back. On webinars, people are more likely to respond to polls than type in answers via chat or Q&A. On video conference, they’re more likely to jump in when invited.

3. If you’re live streaming, up your entertainment game. Presenting by live stream on Facebook is like speaking from a soapbox on a crowded street. People are strolling (or scrolling) by and some may only stay for a few seconds or minutes if they’re not entertained. Based on feedback I’ve gotten, I’m going to get into the habit of stopping every few minutes to welcome newcomers (thanks for the tip, Rachel) and catch them up on what they missed.

4. What’s on screen matters a lot. One thing that’s occurred to me while reviewing the last week-ish of presentations is that it’s time to rethink my slide deck design. If someone is scrolling by on Facebook and only sees my tiny face in the corner of the slide, will it be intriguing enough to make them click to see what’s going on? For the FemJLM talk, I redid my presentation on Canva and will keep tweaking it. I’d love your thoughts on how it looked.

5. Breakout rooms! In one of the talks I gave, I played around with breakout rooms so that there could be discussion in smaller groups. It was fabulous – the most interactive session of them all, by far. If you don’t know this option exists on Zoom, now you do. You can divide your participants up randomly by size or assign them to specific groups.

If you were signed in for any of my six sessions, I’d love your thoughts and feedback. Likewise, if you’ve watched (or given) other sessions this week and have tips to share, comment below! It’s always important to me to continue improving and for us to share our wisdom with one another.


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