Tsahi Levent -Levi
Tsahi Levent-Levi is an independent analyst and consultant for WebRTC.Tsahi has over 15 years of experience in the telecommunications, VoIP,and...
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Tsahi Levent -Levi | May 26, 2010 |


How To Deliver an Effective Presentation over a Video Conference

How To Deliver an Effective Presentation over a Video Conference Focus on your presentation, not how you look, and remember: Someone will eat.

Focus on your presentation, not how you look, and remember: Someone will eat.

I wrote a few tips about creating good presentations for presenting via video conference over at my VoIP Survivor blog, but I had something more to discuss--the aspect of the presenting itself, that I believe deserves its own discussion. This is why I decided to write the post below.A few years ago (at least 5), RADVISION decided it was time to promote its own video conferencing systems and eat our own dogfood. To that end, they gathered the relevant people, the ones who were going around the world giving presentations, and tailored a training program for them on effective presentations over video conferencing sessions. I participated in such a training program.

The main themes of the training were issues like standing up during the session, maintaining eye contact and other great ideas that are very relevant to presenting in general, but just don't work in a video conference. It also didn't really have the added value of collaboration, as the industry was still young in that regard and in its use of standards like H.239 for data sharing.

Assuming you've read and implemented my suggestions on how to create a presentation for a video conference session, we now move on and deal with how to effectively deliver it to your audience:

1. Come Early Video conferences are a bit more complex than their voice counterparts. It means that the preparation time required until the session starts can be a bit longer. To that end, try joining the meeting a few minutes earlier if possible--just to make sure all is well.

Why? * Because if you are not delivering the presentation from your room, you might need to connect your laptop to that RGB cable that connects you to the video conferencing unit. You don't want to have that "where is the darn cable?" question a few minutes into the session.

* Because if you are delivering your presentation from a dedicated conference room, you will need to set it up--play with the room's controls, find the correct remote control, etc.

* Because if you are delivering your presentation over a software client, it might actually want to start housekeeping once you start it. Or your laptop might decide it's the best time to fire up the antivirus and eat up your CPU. In an unknown PC environment--better expect the unexpected.

* Because technical problems might arise which will require you to end up sending your presentation by email or to call an IT manager to check out why the number being dialed doesn't work or why the quality of the video sucks. It will take time...

2. Don't Wear a Cool-Design Shirt Video encoders have a hard time trying to figure out how to compress the video that the camera captures in the best way without losing too much on quality. If you can, wear a single colored shirt for the occasion.

Why? Striped or checkered shirts give a headache not only to your viewers but also to the endpoint you will be using. In short--it won't look good.

3. Camera Focus If you are using a room system, focus the camera on yourself, and leave it be--don't play with it once you start your session. If there are others in the room with you, delegate the "camera control ownership" to them by handing them the remote control.

Why? * While people on the far end might play with the camera, it will not happen in most sessions, so better have it done locally instead of not at all.

* Because during the session itself you want people to focus on the presentation and the ideas in it and not on you.

4. It's the Presentation, not You This one is a bit different than face-to-face presentations. In face to face presentations, people need to focus on you. You need to look them in the eye, deliver the message, etc. For a video conferencing presentation, you don't really know where your audience focus is--and don't really expect eye contact. You will need to deliver your message and make sure your voice is dominant enough and your speech interesting enough to keep people following you.

Why? * Because if this is a multi-party conference, participants are most likely to look at a layout that includes multiple participants and not only you. A smaller you in a larger screen means less attention to you directly and the inability to have eye contact as a concept.

* Because most video conferencing systems that cost less than a private jet don't really have eye contact as a feature in their spec sheet.

* Because other participants might view your presentation in full screen mode and not have you on their monitor at all.

5. It's You, not the Presentation After that last one you might be wondering where video conferencing comes into play--why not do an audio call instead and be done with it? The reason for this is where collaboration and working with people is the key.

Most of the time, the presentation is only the beginning of a discussion. Once questions are asked, or a discussion starts at one point or another during the presentation, YOU will become the focus. Once that happens, people will start playing with the PTZ cameras to focus them on the relevant speakers.

6. Someone Will Eat This is a fact of life. People eat. They do so in different hours of the day. If you find out that people are eating during your session at remote locations--try not to mind too much.

Why? * Because in a lot of cases, video conferences are used between far locations. You'll be sitting in your office during the evening, talking to someone that just now arrived to work and needs to grab a bite. With different time zones, comes the impossibility of synchronizing the needs of people during their day time.

* Because video conferences are usually long. People will need fuel to keep going.

* Because you can see them. Trust me--people eat all the time during your voice conferences.

7. Don't Worry About How You Look When we had a customer support training a few years ago about one of our products, the women in the R&D team all went to the restrooms to tidy up and put on some makeup a few minutes before it started. Why? Because the company decided to record it for posterity.

And while video is getting way better, people won't really notice how your makeup looks. So don't try to fix your appearance more than you do for a regular face-to-face meeting. It's not worth it--not even when it gets recorded.

At least with the new systems we can see EVERYTHING People take the content of these meetings a lot more seriously than the appearance of others--at least that's what I do and what I think others do. But then again--I might be totally wrong on this one.

With that ends my list of suggestions. I am sure others here have a bunch of their own suggestions, which I would love to hear. So if you can, please leave your suggestions in the comments of this post, or just ping me directly--I always want to learn more.Focus on your presentation, not how you look, and remember: Someone will eat.


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