How to Present Like a Pro

Presenting and Instructing via Streaming Video Using TV Pros’ Techniques

When you are presenting on streaming video, you are essentially doing the same thing as a television news anchor. Try these common methods that television presenters use daily to improve your presentation skills in the “zoom” era:

Techniques of TV News Anchors

  • Master the technology—learn everything you can about whatever platform (Zoom, Microsoft Teams) you are using. Practice as often as possible.
  • Smile and never stop. Be on guard against resting ugly face. Keep your facial muscles engaged; hold your eyes open.
  • Lift the camera (raise the laptop) so you must look slightly upward. Use stacks of large books, weighted cardboard boxes, or a folding wire shelf used for school lockers to lift the laptop.
  • Best posture: Keep your chin parallel, shoulders down and relaxed, and SMILE.
  • Hands should be quiet. Don’t wave or gesture.
  • Comfort is key. In virtual training, you’re sitting for an hour or more. Keep water nearby—sips only.
  • Accessories should be simple and not distracting—Don’t wear jingly earrings, attention-grabbing hair accessories, or ostentatious clothes: No plaids, overwhelming patterns, pinstripes.
  • Speak clearly and at a moderate speed (120-130 words per minute).
  • Enunciate clearly, pronounce correctly.
  • Lighting should be in front of you. Position so you are just behind and underneath ceiling lights. No lights behind your face or from strong angles.

Virtual Classroom Management

  • Golden Rule of Virtual Teaching: People have 50-minute bladders.
  • Keep the lines open during breaks to take questions from the eager or confused.
  • Always plan to end just a bit early but have a plan if you run late. Give permission to leave on time, but appeal and ask students to stay if they are able.
  • Mics off for all participants. Explain how to use the spacebar feature to speak without unmuting.
  • Encourage liberal use of the chat feature. Keep it public and open to everyone unless the class is unresponsive (but no sidebars).
  • Acknowledge that many people prefer to stay off camera but ask that people stay on camera if possible. Let the class know when you need to see faces; also cue them when it’s ok for them to turn off the camera.

Planting Seeds and Engaging Students

  • Engage students’ attention quickly. Virtual training makes it easier for students to decline to actively participate in discussions or exercises. You may have to become the wizard behind the curtain to create the illusion that students are engaged and participating to prompt students to participate.
  • As soon as all the administrative info is out of the way, begin by presenting a question, mystery, problem, or outrageous example.
  • Funny also counts—but use humor with care. Even seemingly innocent jokes can deeply offend or hurt. Stick to “we’re all in this together”-type humor that most people will identify with because they have experienced something similar.
  • Ask students to verbally respond to the question or mystery or give an explanation of why/what makes your example a problem or outrageous.

How to Deliver Sticky Material

  • Research shows all humans need repetition to learn and record a new concept, but adult humans need more repetition than children or teenagers.
  • Some research shows adults must receive a message seven times before it sticks; other research says at least three.
  • Most adults absorb messages more readily with visual and aural stimulation (images, graphics, video, music, catchy jingles; think about the cereal commercials of our childhoods). You must do much more preparatory work and practice to use these features effectively and well—not for beginners! Don’t get fancy and lose your students because of fumbling with the technology.
  • Confidently prime the students’ readiness and expectation. “You’re going to find this one thing more than any other will help with…”.
  • Drop “gold nuggets” and mini calls-to-action throughout. Gold nuggets are small concepts with significant interest or usefulness that you can add in to your narrative.
  • Reinforce important concepts with practice exercise. Ideal—written exercises in a classroom; online, a typed exercise is ok; participatory verbal exercise is best.

Perfect the Outro

  • Cue that the end is near.
  • Sum it up—and repeat the most important concepts again.
  • Repeat the mini calls-to-action you’ve made throughout and give the class a significant action to take immediately after the class. Ask them to decide what actions they will take and how.
  • Answer any remaining questions or open forum for questions.

Parting Gifts

  • Give students something useful to take with them. Adult learners are more likely to feel incomplete after a class if they do not have handouts.
  • Develop a checklist tool and give it to students as the parting gift.
  • Avoid sharing digital files you did not create unless you have a license or rights to distribute.

Life Hacks for Virtual Teachers

  • Practice out loud at least three times before you teach the class. Your ear or the ears of your helpers will quickly spot problems.
  • Have a bottle of water and a mint or gum handy. No chugging! Small, discreet sips only.
  • Always have a pen and pad and timekeeping device.
  • Always have a print-out of your class materials handy. It may save your life someday. Be ready to do the whole class with no (or glitchy) technology if necessary.
  • Turn off or silence phones or other devices (timers, etc.).

You may have the “zoomies,” the feeling that you will never be able to do this well. Don’t despair…you can become a deft and talented expert using video streaming technologies. Most of them work basically the same way. Real skill comes from learning where additional features are located in different areas of the interface, speed of finding and activating features, etc.— and that happens only with practice.

The following training resources are available online and helpful for learning how to appear to be a polished and suave presenter or instructor:

  1. Options for Presenting PowerPoint Slides in Zoom
  2. Simple Tips for Happier, More Productive Meetings (see their Mindful Meetings Checklist)
  3. 10 Secret Zoom Tips for Masterful and Stress-Free Online Presenting
  4. Zoom Meeting: How to Use (with Breakout Group examples - George Kau Training Video