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Presenting at an online conference

Presenting at an online conference

The message is loud and clear for anyone presenting at an online conference; you need to hone your technical resources and develop different presentation skills to engage with an online audience as opposed to an in-person audience.

We are all aware that online conferences have become an increasingly popular way for people to share information, network, and collaborate with others from around the world. But, not only are they growing in popularity for organizers and participants alike, but online conferences and events now represent a seriously big business sector that seems to be set for even more significant growth.

How significant? Well, the global virtual event market was valued at USD 198.8 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach a massive USD 1,066 billion by 2032. Which means a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.8%!

So, as this trend clearly cannot be ignored, here are six suggestions to assist you in mastering online presentations:

Tip #1: Looking good

Okay, so this isn’t Hollywood, but it is very important for people to be able to see you well.

First off, make sure you are well lit and that you do not have a window or other bright light source behind you. Consider what is in the background; is it distracting, or does it support and enhance your message?

Check your camera angle – ideally the camera should be as close to your eye level as possible. If you are using a built in webcam, in most cases it will be too low, resulting in an unflattering up-the-nose shot!

Illustration of a webcam on a plinth.
Illustration of the beams of two angled spot lights intersecting to create well-balanced lighting.

See if you can raise the laptop, so the webcam is in line with your eyes by positioning it on some large books or a box. Better still, invest in a separate HD webcam and tripod or other form of support. This will allow a great deal more flexibility, when it comes to positioning the camera for the optimum frame composition.

We normally advise against using virtual backgrounds unless you are using a high definition camera and are using specialist lighting.

Tip #2: Sounding good is even more important

Audio quality is critical in online presentations. Poor audio can be distracting and makes it difficult for attendees to understand you.

Illustration of a loudspeaker with sound waves.

Avoid being in close proximity to others joining the same online event, as you may inadvertently cause a feedback loop. If colleagues at your workplace are also presenting it is safest to be in separate rooms.

If you can, invest in a separate high quality USB microphone. This will help reduce background noise as well as improving the quality of your voice. Alternatively, a headset can also improve the audio quality considerably and help to minimize “noises off”.

First, try and ensure you are in a quiet location and that people are not likely to interrupt.  

Remember to turn off any notifications on your computer and to mute your phone. (There is nothing more annoying for the viewer than hearing repeated WhatsApp pings from the speaker’s admiring circle of friends congratulating him or her on their presentation!)

Illustration of a digital microphone with USB connector.

Tip #3: Use visuals to enhance your message

Visuals can be a powerful tool for capturing and holding the attention of online conference attendees.

When designing your presentation, consider using a good balance of images, infographics, and text to help illustrate your points. This can be especially effective when presenting complex data or concepts.

However, it’s important to strike a balance , and too many visuals can overwhelm attendees and distract from your core message. Keep your slides simple and use text sparingly to ensure that your message remains clear and concise.

Illustration of a large desktop computer monitor with presentation graphics on screen.
Illustration of a pie chart with text annotations.

Depending on the technical set up of the event, you may be required you to share your desktop in order to run your own PowerPoint or Keynote presentation. Make sure in advance that you are familiar with the desktop sharing process on the platform that is being used.

With some event formats your slides might be hosted by the online event technicians who will provide you with an electronic cue button. Make sure you are familiar with how this works and insist on a technical rehearsal in advance.

Tip #4: Incorporate video content when appropriate

Video can be a powerful way to connect with online conference attendees and bring your presentation to life.

Consider incorporating short video clips or animations to illustrate key points or to provide additional context. This will also give you a break from speaking and add some dynamic light and shade to your presentation.

However, it’s important to use video strategically. Too much can be distracting and become an interruption rather than enhancing your presentation.

Use video sparingly and ensure that it emphasises your message rather than detracting from it.

Illustration of a film clip with video play button.

Tip #5: Structure your presentation for online delivery

When presenting at an online conference, it’s important to optimize the structure of your presentation for an online format.

Timekeeping is much more important for an online event than one taking place in person. Keep to your allotted time.

Overrunning, aside from giving the event organisers unnecessary challenges, is disrespectful to both the speakers that may follow and the audience who have may have structured their day around specific agenda item times.

Keep your slides simple and focused on your key message. Make use of strong graphical images rather than relying on too much text and detail.

Illustration of 3 poll options for ‘Yes’, ‘No’ and ‘Maybe’.
Illustration of a stopwatch.

When using text, keep it brief and create clear headings and bullet points to make your presentation easy to follow.

Consider breaking your presentation up into shorter segments to keep attendees engaged. You can also use interactive elements such as polls or Q&A sessions to keep attendees engaged and involved in the presentation.

Tip #6: Practice and Test Your Presentation

Before presenting at an online conference, it’s important to practice your presentation and ensure that everything is working as expected.

  • Test your audio, video, and visual elements to ensure that they are functioning properly.
  • Practice delivering your presentation to ensure that you are comfortable with the pacing and that you are able to effectively engage with attendees.
  • Practice delivering your presentation to ensure that you are comfortable with the pacing and that you are able to effectively engage with attendees.
  • Make sure your talk is within your allotted time.
  • If possible, have a colleague or friend review your presentation and provide feedback.
Illustration of a hand making an ‘OK’ gesture, with an accompanying checkmark icon.

Remember to log into the event in good time to carry out any final technical checks and get comfortable before going live. Enjoy your presentation!


Presenting at an online conference requires different skills to presenting in person.

By incorporating these best practices into your presentation design and delivery, you can ensure that your message is clear, engaging, and impactful.

Remember to use visuals to enhance your message, pay attention to camera and sound quality, use video strategically, structure your presentation for online delivery, and practice and test your presentation beforehand.

And never forget the blindingly obvious need for a good, solid internet connection. Connect through an ethernet cable in preference to Wi-Fi, and minimize other traffic using the same connection for the duration of the event.

Of course, your presentation content is the most important element in all of this, but by following these tips, you will give yourself the best chance of delivering an effective online conference presentation that resonates with your audience.

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