Best Practices for Presenting Online: Home
Why This Guide?
Presenting online can be a very different experience than presenting face-to-face. This guide will provide you with helpful best practices as you prepare to present to an online audience.
Avoid the "Design Trap"
It’s easy to fall into the “design trap.” The design trap is when we put time and energy into designing presentation materials before purposefully planning out the content. When doing this, we risk getting off track or not focusing on the right content at the right time or for the proper amount of time.
Image: trap by Luis Prado from the Noun Project
Starting at the End: A Planning How-To
Instead of starting the process with your presentation materials, start at the end and work backward!
Follow these steps to write an outline:
- Think about your presentation goals. Who is your audience, and what do you want them to walk away with?
- List the main goals (5 or less).
- For each point, write down key info you should include.
Image: Map by Karsten Barnett from the Noun Project
Designing Your Presentation
Now that you have your content outlined, it’s time to start designing your presentation. This includes both the design of the presentation materials you'll be sharing on the screen as well as the physical space around you while you’re presenting.
Design rule of thumb:
Keep it simple and minimize distractions!
When it comes to designing your presentation materials, keep it simple! Design should complement content, never distract from it. Pick a theme and stick with it throughout to help minimize design distractions. Using a premade template can simplify the process for you.
Presentation Materials Design Checklist
- Include presentation goals at beginning
- Avoid showing a streaming video within your video
- Avoid pulsing or flashing graphics
- Use 1-2, but no more than 3
- Use easy to read font type
- Use consistently throughout
- Size (for PowerPoint or similar) no less than 24-28 point
- Use 1 graphical design style throughout
- Use with proper permission. Permissions-to-use could include:
- A version of Creative Commons (CC) Licensing
- Public Domain license; CC0 (no restrictions)
- Creator/site notates: “Free with attribution”
- Ask creator for permission
- Include descriptions for graphics conveying information by doing both of the following:
- Verbally describe graphic during presentation
- Add written description within presentation in one of these forms:
- Descriptive subtitle adjacent to graphic
- Alternate text (“alt-text”) added to graphic
- Description within presentation text and references graphic
Your presentation space includes what you show on your screen, what’s physically behind you as you present, background noise, your recording angle, and lighting. The goal is to minimize distractions as much as possible.
Presentation Space Design Checklist
What's Seen On-Screen
- Balance between your presentation and yourself on camera
- Alternatively, turn camera on periodically (e.g., intro, Q&A, transitions, etc.)
- If no camera, include image of self during introduction
- Use a laptop or desktop computer; avoid using a cellphone
- Place computer/camera at level mimicking a face-to-face conversation
- Avoid looking down or up at camera
- Use a comfortable set-up
- Reduce/remove visual clutter
- Avoid locations with movement behind you
- Option: Use a virtual background (but test it first)
- Avoid busy or distracting ones
- Avoid green or bluish-green clothing
- Use non-fluorescent lighting, if possible
- Use lighting source that’s not visible on camera
- Avoid backlighting, or having a light directly behind you or close enough to obstruct proper lighting
- Use a ring light if available (but not a necessity)
- Ask advisor/professor about wardrobe expectations
- Know your audience
- Make educated decisions about appearance
- Most importantly-Be yourself
- Present from quiet location
- Reduce/remove background noise
There are several audio and visual considerations to think about that will help you create a smooth experience that looks & sounds good for your audience. This section will be split up into three parts: General checklist, prerecorded presentations and live presentations.
Image: Audiovisual by Jetro Cabau Quirós from the Noun Project
General A/V Checklist
- Prepare script, outline or notes; practice & time it
- Avoid switching slides and/or topics too quickly
- Do practice recordings to check A/V quality; adjust accordingly
- Have proper tools available (computer [and plug if laptop], presentation software, recording software [if prerecording], camera, microphone)
Prerecorded presentations are those you record in advance. They’re sometimes called “screen captures” since you’re capturing what’s on your screen at the time, including your presentation, video camera, etc. Screen captures also save and use the screen size and shape that you choose to record.
Prerecorded Presentations Audio/Visual Checklist
Screen Size & Resolution
- Check first with host or file upload site for size/resolution guidelines
- Ensure recording resolution matches upload/streaming resolution
Setting Screen Size & Resolution
- (If software allows) Select recording area at a widescreen, 16:9 ratio
- The higher the ratio, the better the resolution
- Common, recommended ratios:
- 1280 x 720 (Standard YouTube)
- 1920x1080 (standard HD)
- (If no screen measurement tool) Record entire screen area
- Tip: Minimize Taskbar
Live presentations happen in real-time. Preparation is key to avoiding mishaps or glitches during live presentations.
Live Presentations Audio/Visual Checklist
- Add interactivity (if appropriate)
- Ensure best possible internet connection
- Be relaxed and ready to address any issues
- Invite a helper (if possible) to assist (e.g., moderate chat, help with tech issues, etc.)
Dealing with Low Bandwidth/Unreliable Internet
- Check software for approximate bandwidth required & test in advance
- To test speed, go to Google.com. Search for “internet speed test.” Click Run Speed Test.
- Connect via Ethernet cord (if available) instead of WiFi
- Limit people/devices connected to your internet at time of presentation
- Use call-in by phone for audio (if available) instead of computer audio
- Or, have call-in option set up & ready to go as a back-up (mute call-in unless needed)
- Turn off video
- If sharing files, keep file size low or, ideally, share before presentation
What to Do When Internet Fails
- Have invited helper bridge the gap until you’re back
- Turn off video; switch to call-in audio
- Use the chat
- Record presentation & share afterwards
- Share presentation materials before or after session
Free with attribution.
Resources from OKState's Institute of Teaching & Learning Excellence (ITLE)