Living in the middle of nowhere and working most of my hours in the evenings I have few opportunities to attend events in person, let alone deliver presentations. As someone who likes to share knowledge and present at events this is a problem. My work around has been presenting remotely. Many of my talks are available on playlist on my youtube channel.
I’ve been doing remote presentations for many years. During this time I have learned a lot about what it takes to make a remote presentation successful.
When scheduling a remote session you should make sure there is enough time for a test before your scheduled slot. Personally I prefer presenting after lunch as it allows an hour or so for dealing with any gremlins. The test presentation should use the same machines and connections you’ll be using for your presentation.
I prefer using Hangouts On Air for my presentations. This allows me to stream my session to the world and have it recorded for future reference. I review every one of my recorded talks to see what I can do better next time.
Both sides of the connection should use wired connections. WiFi, especially at conferences can be flakey. Organisers should ensure that all presentation machines are using Ethernet, and if possible it should be on a separate VLAN.
Tips for Presenters
Presenting to a remote audience is very different to presenting in front of a live audience. When presenting in person you’re able to focus on people in the audience who seem to be really engaged with your presentation or scan the crowd to see if you’re putting people to sleep. Even if there is a webcam on the audience it is likely to be grainy and in a fixed position. It is also difficult to pace when presenting remotely.
When presenting in person your slides will be displayed in full screen mode, often with a presenter view in your application of choice. Most tools don’t allow you to run your slides in full screen mode. This makes it more difficult as a presenter. Transitions won’t work, videos won’t autoplay and any links Keynote (and PowerPoint) open will open in a new window that isn’t being shared which makes demos trickier. If you don’t hide the slide thumbnails to remind you of what is coming next, the audience will see them too. Recently I worked out printing thumbnails avoids revealing the punchlines prematurely.
Find out as much information as possible about the room your presentation will be held in. How big is it? What is the seating configuration? Where is the screen relative to where the podium is?
Tips for Organisers
Event organisers are usually flat out on the day of the event. Having to deal with a remote presenter adds to the workload. Some preparation can make life easier for the organisers. Well before the event day make sure someone is nominated to be the point of contact for the presenter. If possible share the details (name, email and mobile number) for the primary contact and a fallback. This avoids the presenter chasing random people from the organising team.
On the day of the event communicate delays/schedule changes to the presenter. This allows them to be ready to go at the right time.
It is always nice for the speaker to receive a swag bag and name tag in the mail. If you can afford to send this, your speaker will always appreciate it.
Need a Speaker?
Are you looking for a speaker to talk about Drupal, automation, devops, workflows or open source? I’d be happy to consider speaking at your event. If your event doesn’t have a travel budget to fly me in, then I can present remotely. To discuss this further please get in touch using my contact form.