Presenting Remotely

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010 , , , 4 comments

A giant ash cloud descends across Northern Europe, and suddenly the world is in chaos. Flights are grounded; people are stranded everywhere – and you have a big presentation to get to. You really don’t want to miss this opportunity. How are you going to pitch your idea to someone several hundred miles away?

Technology is now sufficiently advanced that a presenter doesn’t necessarily need to be in the same room as his audience – or even speaking to them live. Here we have provided examples of the different options you can take, depending on the situation at hand.

1. Video Conference

The first solution considered by many would be to set up a video conference with the audience. This way presenters can interact live with their audience, and even make use of gestures and facial expressions. Short of physical contact, presenter and audience might as well be face-to-face.

However, video conferences are a lot more complicated than they seem. They are typically very expensive with poor quality visuals, and can only feature a presenter – perhaps with some slides, depending on whether the remote audience can see them clearly. They also prove difficult to organise, as they require equipment and expertise at both ends. On the whole, arranging a video conference is something most businesspeople tend to do just the once.

OK – we’ve had a lot of feedback on the above, and perhaps we’ve been a bit unfair. How about – some video conferencing hardware is poor quality, and the experience can be unsatisfactory if picture quality isn’t good, or lag creeps in. But, technology is improving, and things like Telepresence are moving the goalposts enormously. Of course, video-conferencing requires investment, and both parties need to have the right set-up. In a situation where flights are grounded – all of a sudden video-conferencing facilities get booked up. Some video-conferencing platforms handle slides better than others.

2.  Virtual Presentation

The next most obvious solution is to conduct a virtual presentation, by which the presenter shares his slides or desktop with the audience and delivers his patter live. Presenting virtually via one of the software choices available proves to be a good solution, as they are cheap to run – until conference call charges are included. The downside is that there can be a lag in the animations, depending on the speed of internet connection. Other negative points include the likelihood of technical issues, and the reliance on good telecommunications and bandwidth.  Some of the packages do not support all animations, and the quality of graphics is often poor.

The most well-known options include WebEx, GoToMeeting, Live Meeting  and Glance. For details on each service, see our Online Meeting Software Review. Based on these results, m62 uses Live Meeting for these situations, as it has proved the most reliable in reproducing slides to their true form.

3.  Send PowerPoint

The next option to consider is sending your audience a file of your PowerPoint. Of course, sending them a normal PowerPoint file would mean that the slides were editable – something that no businessperson wants. The file can be password protected, or sent as a PDF, but the latter option would mean that animations are not enabled, making it much more difficult to engage the audience.

The lack of presenter in this option also means that Visual Cognitive Dissonance cannot be used, as slides have to make sense on their own. This results in a massive reduction in effectiveness. This practice is comparable to sending your audience a document to read: a presentation without narration is not really a presentation.

4. Send Recorded Presentation

The next step is to record the presenter delivering the presentation, and send that to your remote audience. Green screen recording (when the presenter is filmed and then superimposed on top of his slides) is the best solution. However, this option is expensive and really hard to do well. It takes many takes, and lots of time and effort to get it right.

The sister option to the one above is to video the presentation being delivered. However, it is really hard to get the quality right for this, and to show good presenter-slide interaction. The biggest issue is lighting, and an expert camera man or lighting engineer is needed for a passable effort. When done correctly this can work as a reasonable substitute for a green screen, but when done badly it verges on pointless.

5. Send narrated presentation

Sending a narrated PowerPoint is a much cheaper, easier, and quicker option. Here again, there are multiple technical options for the presenter. Narration can be easily recorded within PowerPoint (Slideshow > Record Narration), and then the file can be password-protected.

Alternatively, the file can be converted to video. In the past, this has only been possible via the use of technology such as iSpring – see our PowerPoint to Flash conversion software review. However, one of the new features of PowerPoint 2010 is that conversion to video can be done within PowerPoint itself. Converting a PowerPoint file to video from PowerPoint 2010 is easy, and with a few clicks the user can produce a slide readily playable in Windows media player. Not only that, but because the conversion is done within PowerPoint itself, all animations are shown correctly – something other options have struggled with.

6. Use a slide sharing website

The final option, and the one we would recommend to clients, is for the presenter to use a slide sharing website. These allow the presenter to upload a webcast to the site with recorded audio, for the viewer to watch any time, when it is most convenient for him. This option can prove extremely time and cost effective, as once the presentation is uploaded, it can be watched any number of times by any number of people. Narration can be recorded easily within PowerPoint, or online via a phone or microphone system. Audience members can then be asked to dial in to a conference call for Q&A sessions.

We at m62 use myBrainshark due to its performance and reliability. Most importantly, myBrainshark allows animation, while some of its competitors do not. For more information of the specific capabilities of myBrainshark, see our slide sharing websites review.

Conclusion

Remote solutions don’t have to be just backup plans – they are convenient in everyday situations too. They take away the hassle of preparing for and travelling to a meeting; they save presenter and audience time and money; and they are even good for the environment, as you are reducing your carbon footprint.

Of course, different techniques have to be used when presenting remotely, as there are different challenges when it comes to engaging a remote audience. We’ve produced an article on online presentation skills that provides tips and advice for presenters delivering a presentation over the internet.

So next time you are planning a presentation, consider alternative methods of delivering it. It makes sense to have backup plans for those times when travel and meeting face-to-face are not available – you never know when another volcano might erupt.

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4 Comments to Presenting Remotely

  1. #1

    Bjorn

    11:50 am, June 10th, 2010

    Hi there

    Big fan of your site as you know, but your comments about Video Conferencing are dated, on a startling scale. However, your misconceptions are common, perhaps I can help you with a more balanced, contemporary and even forward looking perspective.

    Best regards

    Bjorn

  2. #2

    Jessica Pyne

    12:01 pm, June 10th, 2010

    Hi Bjorn,

    Thanks for your comment. We are interested to hear your views on this! The biggest difficulty we as presenters often find with video conferencing is that it can be awkward to reproduce PowerPoint slides and other visual aids via a remote video connection.

    This is why we have suggested using a free solution that allows the presenter to show his slides – although it does of course have the disadvantage of not showing the presenter himself.

    Please let us know which of our conceptions you feel are outdated – we would certainly like to explore all viable solutions!

    Kind Regards,

    Jessica

  3. #3

    JL

    11:23 pm, October 20th, 2010

    Your oppinions of VC gear are very outdated. Our company uses video conferencing everyday. We’ve now implemented high-def equipment and the video quality is incredibly realistic. It’s almost like you are in the same room with them. Right now, our users prefer VC 10:1 with webinar/go to meetings.

  4. #4

    Joby Blume

    11:46 am, October 21st, 2010

    JL – I think your comment is probably fair – for situations where (a) you have the right equipment (b) slides you might use on e.g. GoToMeeting or LiveMeeting or WebEx aren’t brilliant. I’ve updated our article.

    We’ll try and review Telepresence and some of the other new technologies too, as it seems we are a bit behind the curve on this one.