Being Yourself on the Internet was the first remote presentation I’ve given. It was really hard, and I wasn’t happy with how it went. I think there were 3 big things I didn’t consider, and that was why I found it so difficult.
1. Lack of Visual and Audible Feedback
I completely underestimated how much not being about to see or hear people would throw me off. As a result, I spoke too fast, and didn’t pause – remote pauses are much harder than in person pauses, which themselves took a lot of practise to get better at. It also felt weirdly like I was talking to myself, as all I could see was my slides and the video projection of myself. I hate being on camera, and having my picture taken, so this was another thing that I struggled with.
In general I like to make my presentations more dynamic, I love the audience to join in. I think you have to work harder at enabling this in a remote presentation, and it would be harder to manage the distraction. I’m thinking that I could have encouraged people to @ me or use a hashtag and split my screen to include that, but I don’t know how I’d react to that moving (especially if irrelevant content was on there).
2. Notes on the Computer, Not on Paper
Normally, I put my notes on paper, just in case, but then I get into the flow and don’t use them.
But, I didn’t really find my flow in this presentation, and my notes were in another tab in my browser. It didn’t seem that would be a huge problem ahead of time, but I’ve spent a lot more time in video conferences since then, and you can tell when someone is reading something else! With a piece of paper it’s clear you’re checking your notes. With another tab, you might be checking email.
3. Skipping Setup Time
When presenting in a physical location, I always get there early, have time to go through my notes, and spend some time before I start to centre myself.
I should have made that a priority here too, but the talk was at 4, and just before 3 I broke my code. One of my colleagues was helping me fix it, so I didn’t stop at 3 to spend 30 mins going through my notes, and instead we worked it out with just enough time for me to run to my 1 on 1 with my manager, which had been moved to 3:30. We meant to finish early, but had stuff to cover and then… I was rushing to set up my computer.
Of course, I’d meant to prepare over the weekend, only I’d managed lose my only car key and had to spend much of Saturday dealing with that (only for it to turn up right by my car when the snow melted) my boyfriend had arrived, so I spent Sunday with him, and then I’d lain awake most of Sunday night, making Monday horrible – and the presentation was on Tuesday.
I was really feeling stressed and thrown-off by all of this. And I realized that I should have blocked time off in my calendar before to mentally (and technologically) prepare!
Last week I gave a demo with less notice, and again the timing made it stressful, but this one was first thing in the morning and ended up going OK. I think in general, I’d prefer more notice, but it’s doable, provided I’m realistic about how long things take and needing time before to prepare.
Sacha has a great post on learning to love remote presenting, but I don’t think I’m going to start volunteering to do them any time soon. Remote meetings are hard enough! I don’t know if I enjoy presenting, period. I enjoy meeting people, I enjoy having presented – assuming people like it (which thankfully at least someone has every time so far) and I love the reactions my write-ups tend to get, and the process of structuring it and writing them. But, the act of standing up and talking, and particularly the time before I do… not sure.