Information to presenters in an online conference

Presenting in an online conference is rather different to presenting in a conference hall. Planning and clarity are key success factors.

  • ​​​​​​​Context – What sort of conference is it? What are the themes? Who are the participants?
  • Plan your presentation – Plan with the moderator/host and also with the other presenters. Plan the details and draw up a clear schedule. What do you want to share – slideshow, video, animation – and check that these work in Zoom. How will you share links or files with the participants? What help do you need from the moderator/host?
  • Accessibility – Think about accessibility when you prepare your slideshow. Avoid too much text on one slide (use key words), avoid small text that may be hard for some to read, avoid colour combinations that will make your slide illegible for some (eg. yellow text on green background etc) and avoid complicated diagrams that are hard to interpret (give participants a link to the source instead for further study). Speak clearly and slowly so everyone can follow you.
  • Participation– How can you increase the audience’s engagement? How much interactivity? What do you need to know in advance? How should the audience ask questions (chat, raise hand)? If you start your presentation by asking them to answer a question in the chat, they will be more comfortable using the chat to ask questions later.
  • What question(s) do you want to ask the audience? You can ask simple multiple choice questions in Zoom’s polling tool or for more engaging interaction you can use a tool like Mentimeter to generate word clouds, speech bubbles, scales etc (in this case you will need to share your screen to show the results – this could also be done by the moderator/host).
  • Breakout rooms? Do you want the participants to discuss in small groups? Try to create small groups so that everyone has a chance to speak – sometimes pair work is best. Remember to give them enough time to discuss – they have probably never met each other before and at least five minutes will be taken up with introductions. Should they make notes of their discussion and share them – you will need a space to gather these notes, for example Padlet, Miro, Google Docs etc. Try to ask questions that stimulate discussion. How can you build on these discussions?
  • Networking– Conference participants want to meet people. How can you create opportunities for this? If they have written conclusions from their group work in a common work space, encourage them to continue the discussion there and promise that you will answer any further questions there after your presentation.
  • Clear information – make sure that the conference organisers have all the information about your session in good time: a title that awakens curiosity, description of the session, the aims, what participants will gain from the session, a short but attractive profile and photo. Consider even recording a short two minute introduction video (teaser) to create interest in your session.
  • Practice – Make sure you book some practice time with the organisers to test your audio and video as well as sharing your screen and using any other tools you require. Make sure you use the same equipment and connection that you will use on the day.
  • Visual impression – Think about what impression you want to give. If you are at home try to make sure there is no background noise and no unexpected interruptions. You should aim to create a professional impression in terms of your appearance and the room you are in. If the room is a bit messy you could try a virtual background or find an angle without possible distractions – bookshelves always look good in academic conferences (a pile of dirty washing on the floor is maybe not so good!).

ITHU 2020. Adapted from work by Lotta Fröjdfeldt, Mälardalens högskola