Presenting online

Virtual presentation skills are important at both university and in the workplace. This resource provides tips on presenting to camera, including how to support your message using voice and body language techniques and maximise the impact of your visuals.

You may be asked to speak in a range of online contexts including:

  • a presentation or to one or more people (live or recorded)
  • a tutorial, seminar or group discussion
  • an oral assessment, e.g. respond to questions from a teacher or a panel
  • an interview (great practice for the post-uni world!)

This resource provides simple strategies to increase your confidence in presenting online. One key thing to remember is that the content (what you say), delivery (how you say it, e.g. voice) and visuals (how it looks) are all equally as important.

Presenting to camera

Make sure the audience can see your face. Look at the webcam lens or phone camera as much as you can to give the individual participants the feeling you are talking directly to them. This can be quite powerful. If it’s set up right, this should look like you are sitting just across a table from the audience.

Tip: Light yourself from the side, not behind – e.g. don’t present with a window behind you (too much glare).

Using body language

Even though the audience can’t see as much of you as in a face-to-face presentation, they will still see your face/head, shoulders and some of your hand gestures. It’s important that you use:

  • Positive facial expressions: look interested, passionate – if you are, they will be too!
  • Eye contact: keep your focus on the camera, look at notes occasionally if you need to.
  • Hand gestures: use for emphasis and to support the verbal message.

E.g. The first [hold up your forefinger] reason we do this … The second reason [hold up two fingers]

This video covers how non-verbal communication supports verbal messages in oral presentations

Tip: Position your device so the audience can see your head and shoulders, your hand gestures and the visual you are using (e.g. slides).

Using voice techniques

When speaking online, your voice is really important because it is the focus of the audience’s attention. Keep in mind:

  • Pace: speak slightly slow, rather than too fast.
  • Pauses: use short half-second stops between phrases to help the audience keep up with you.
  • Tone and stress: vary your tone (more than in daily conversation) and stress key words for emphasis. This will help to maintain audience interest.

For example:

The first and most important reason we do this [pause] is that it’s proven to be effective and affordable. [pause] The second reason…

This video looks at the elements of voice focusing on use of tone, pace, pauses and word stress

Tip: record yourself doing your presentation and watch it with the sound on to get a sense of your voice.

Watch it again, this time with the sound off – that will let you see what you are doing with your body, expressions and gestures.

Keeping the message clear

A lot of clarity is achieved by using the voice techniques above, but you can also keep the message clear by:

  • Using simple, direct language
  • Using plain English (minimise jargon and idiom)
  • Staying on topic (going off topic not only wastes time, but takes focus away from your key message)
  • Using signal language to help listeners follow your logic and to emphasise key points

Examples of signal language

Sections:

The first section of my presentation deals with...  The secondFinally,...

Emphasis:

Let me repeat, as it’s really a central part of what I’m talking about, …

There are three clear reasons we did this. First,

This is important because...

Giving examples:

An example of what I’m talking about is …

To illustrate...

Concluding:

In conclusion, it’s clear that …

To conclude...

Using effective graphics

Effective graphics and visuals support, rather than distract from, your message.

  • Keep it simple. If you’re using slides with full-screen presenter view, make sure the screen is fully visible and not partially blocked by your face.
  • Minimise information –as a rough guide aim for no more than 7-8 text or visual elements per slide.
  • Try to minimise the number of slides you have – this will help you to avoid rushing.
  • Consider what each graphic adds to your presentation - does it evoke emotion, explain something more clearly (for example a chart) or to illustrate something? If it serves no purpose, remove it.
  • You don't need to narrate your actions (e.g. "I'll just move to the next slide.") - just do it; move to the next slide and continue the presentation

Tip: make sure each of your visuals supports your key points

Pre-performance checks

  • Is your background or clothing distracting? Wear plain pattern clothes rather than stripes, spots or checks.
  • If possible, try presenting in front of a solid, plain background, e.g. a wall.
  • Have a look what’s behind you when presenting – we don’t want to see your washing!
  • Tell anyone who might interrupt (e.g. housemates) what’s going on, so you won’t be disturbed.
  • Check the tech – does the microphone work? Is your wifi working? Do you know how to hotspot on your phone if wifi isn’t working?

Final tip

The keys for great presentations in any context are planning and practice. Know what you are going to say and how you are going to say it then prepare through practice. Get feedback on your voice, body language, message clarity and visuals.

Explore all resources

Two people looking over study materials

Looking for one-on-one advice?

Get tailored advice from an Academic Skills adviser by booking an appointment or attending one of our drop-in sessions.

Get one-on-one advice