Live From the Living Room: How to Present Professionally From Home

April 30, 2020
Alex Wedesky

Presenting live is challenging enough at the best of times. But these days, you also have to be your own sound engineer, lighting technician and camera operator.

For my Professional EDge topic, I wanted to do something practical that can help elevate your virtual meetings skills, all while turning what you have at home into something that can be easily be delivered. I also produced a reference guide with all our tips on it, which you can download here.

But for today, let’s run through some highlights and secret hacks we use ourselves for presenting.

Optimize your Home Internet

We’ve all heard stories about the internet straining under the pressure of so much video. But rest assured, the internet is fine and is used to this amount of activity.

Here’s what you can do to optimize your connection:

  • Get your router out into some free space. Like a fine wine, routers need to breathe.
  • Go wired from the router to your presentation laptop. Ethernet cable is cheap and can run 300ft, so if you have a really critical session that’s counting on internet, I highly suggest you get the cable out.
  • If you must go wireless, use a 5Ghz connection at a close range for the best results. Speaking of wireless, it’s always best to turn off other internet devices in the house while you’re presenting.

Presentation Tips 

There’s a lot to think about when presenting, and minimizing distractions is key. One of the best ways to do this is to have a co-presenter. This person can step in if there is a glitch on your end, but can also handle sorting through attendee questions, answering chat messages, and even forwarding slides. They can also operate the lobby room functionality and troubleshoot with attendees struggling to connect.

Here are a few other presentation tips:

  • Understand what you’ll be able to see and hear while presenting. Will you have a producer in one ear? Will you see your slides? What about slide notes? Practice presenting in the mode you’ll be in and build up that comfort and confidence.
  • Backup audio is key. As a secondary connection, dial into the meeting on your cellphone, but remember to turn down the speaker and mute the mic to avoid feedback. If your computer goes down, unmute your cellphone and carry on!
  • If standing up helps you present, stand up for your virtual presentations, too. It’ll help you stay animated, get you to use your hands more, and you’ll be more engaging as a speaker. Find your natural presentation state and set up your studio to best accommodate.

Platform tips

There are many video conferencing platforms around right now and all have slightly different feature sets. Some allow virtual backgrounds, some handle Q&A differently, and some allow for breakout space.

Whatever platform you choose, there are common themes to how to get the best out of it:

  • Eliminate distractions on the platform by turning off entry and exit tones, and think about whether you should allow the audience to be heard. Larger audiences are better handled via text Q&A. Smaller groups can do full two-way audio, but make sure as the leader of the meeting there is a way to mute noisy attendees.
  • When it comes to security, the best advice is to use a one-time meeting ID instead of your personal ID that you use over and over.
  • Waiting rooms or meeting lobbies are another opportune way to ensure those who are in your meeting should be. Additionally, make sure you have a good handle on who has sharing rights within your meeting. These tips will help to keep your delivery focused to those who should be seeing and hearing it.

Make the best use of space 

Presenting from home is a challenge, so do your best.  A plain background will avoid the audience becoming distracted and make it easier for virtual background software to pick you out.

Here are some technology tips to get you looking and sounding great:

  • Lighting – place a table lamp behind the camera to provide natural light onto your face and avoid light distortion from unwanted sources such as your laptop backlight.
  • Audio – wired headphones or a good quality headset are best as they allow the microphone to be close to you.  If you have to use the mic on your webcam or laptop, soft furnishings will help deaden the sound and avoid echo – so close curtains and make use of a carpeted room.
  • Video – Use anything you have lying around (milk crates, piles of books, etc.) to get the camera to eye level.  Anything else is going to look odd.

Over time, I think this concept will evolve and we’ll start to see more small, dedicated studio spaces open up to accommodate the need for more professionally produced virtual content. PSAV will be there to support that idea when the time comes.

Until then, remember we’re here to help you whether that’s advice on home setups, temporary internet, virtual event platforms, and all your other event technology questions. Feel free to send an email to internet@psav.com to get any of these concerns addressed or for future internet support needs.