Corona communication #4: How to become a video conference guru

March 31, 2020

This situation of video calls is only going to get more common. However, if you want to leave a lasting impression as a presenter, here are some recommendations, including tips for apps that can support your performance.


Now that we have been working from home for weeks, we can take stock of the situation. We make a lot of video calls. We do team meetings, Friday afternoon drinks, project updates and chats with colleagues. These conversations ensure that connections remain strong and they provide us with real contact. We therefore eagerly accept invitations and improvise when we have to present ourselves. This situation of video calls is only going to get more common. However, if you want to leave a lasting impression as a presenter, here are some recommendations, including tips for apps that can support your performance.

1. Think before you start: you should be present in the video call ten to fifteen minutes earlier. You can then check the settings of your laptop, connect it to the mains and ensure that software updates are postponed and that other programs are not open. In this way, you master the main features of the program you will be using. Don’t forget to test the system again before starting an important presentation. You should know how to share your deck with the audience in one click (disable mail pop-ups!) and how to control the microphone function. To eliminate annoying background noise, try using the handy tool from Krisp. In order to make your screen background professionally appropriate and maintain the privacy of your roommates, you can blur the background (that is possible in Teams, for example). If you want to go a step further and come across as a real social influencer, you can now also use special filters in Zoom.

2. Message and tone-of-voice: video conferencing is of course different from a normal presentation. So, keep it short and speak in simple language. You need to realize that the attention weakens after 30-45 minutes, therefore it is best to get to the most important messages within 10 minutes and preferably back them up with visual cues in your presentation deck. Shortly repeat your conclusions like sound bites at the end, to reinforce your message. Your presentation deck itself of course needs to be consistent (uniform on the use of fonts, intros, breaker slides, etc.), very visually oriented and simple in nature. Less is more. Your presentation should always be set to widescreen. In order to not lose your audience, have a concrete agenda – you can also share this agenda via the chat function.

3. Practice, practice, practice: we know that the best presentations often are perfected after 7 (!) times of practice. If you present with more people, practice and then decide in advance who does what, when, and what the main message is per each part. Also consider how you prefer to deal with questions: during or after your presentation? Can participants ask questions via the chat function? It is also important to make this social etiquette clear before your presentation, either in the invitation or orally at the beginning of the presentation. If you feel that after some practice the tone is still a bit flat, you can consider using a co-host to make the story appear more animated.

4. Think about your body language: adopt an active sitting position. As a presenter, plant your feet firmly on the floor and sit on the edge of your chair. Try to use your hands to add emphasis into your story. Furthermore, you should give your audience a 100% sense of involvement on your part. Therefore, constantly watch your audience on the screen; nod and smile regularly. Make sure the webcam is at eye level and that you are not looking at an angle, down or up – this can save you from an unfavorable camera position. Want to make even more impact? Then check out the TED talk by Amy Cuddy to learn about how to perfect your energy level for presentations.

5. End with impact: giving online presentations demands a lot from both the presenters and the participants, and this is especially true in these times. It can also be too serious. Don’t forget the human dimension (compassion) and after finishing your conclusions, try to offer  personal advice or an anecdote, a catchy visual or a quote that inspires thought.

Hungry for more tips? Colleagues from our London office compiled a long list of video conferencing tips. If you feel that you or your colleagues have to make some more work hours, you can consider having a (remote) media training. This investment will pay off quickly, as video conferencing is now the new norm, business as usual. Remember that your video calling performance is also part of your reputation.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels.