Presenting virtually

We’ve recently heard about attending virtual conferences, but what about presenting your research online?  Ciara Harris has recent experience of this, for the 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition and her Annual Progress Review (APR).  Here, she shares her experiences.

First things first, presenting virtually might have some additional challenges compared to ‘traditional’ presentations, but it has advantages too – there’s no travel time, so you can go straight from another project into your presentation (maybe grabbing a cup of tea in between), you can practice your presentation in the exact environment you plan to present in, and you can have chocolate on your desk ready for as soon as you turn your camera off after presenting!


Ciara’s 3MT – see all the finalists and vote for your favourite!

There are, however, some additional challenges. I found that the biggest problems were mainly around the technology and how much control I had over it. If you are presenting in an event that someone else is organising, you have to use the system they pick – for the 3MT this was the Conferencing function in Canvas, and it turned out that the device with my best camera option was not compatible with the system, while my laptop, which could run the conferencing software, did not have a functional webcam! I managed this by asking a friend to hold up my phone for the 3MT heats and borrowing a friend’s laptop for the finals, but found it much easier in my APR to just screen-share via Zoom, which was compatible with both devices.

Also, when you present virtually, your audience can see less of you, since they can generally only see your shoulders and above, so using body language to support your communication is different to normal. Uncomfortable as it may seem at the time, videoing yourself, using the device and set-up that you are planning for the actual presentation, can be very helpful, as you can use it to see what movements and body language work and don’t work in this format. I found that watching the recording on mute worked better for this (and meant that I wasn’t cringing at hearing my own voice!). This limited view also means, of course, that you can wear your comfiest trousers while presenting without anyone else knowing, if that helps you feel better.

The other big issue I worried about was my internet connection – when presenting virtually, especially if it’s live, you are very reliant on your internet connection remaining stable enough to not only let you watch other people, but to stream both video and audio sufficiently for people to get the full impact of your presentation. When your internet, or any other element of technology, doesn’t co-operate quite like you hoped, it can be really stressful, especially as it feels like everyone is watching and waiting for you. Apart from asking anyone who shares your internet connection to minimise their use while you present, if possible, I don’t have much advice for this one, other than to say that I was far more tolerant of other people’s technical challenges than my own, so chances are that nobody else is blaming you as much as you are blaming yourself if those things go wrong.

What are your experiences of presenting your research through a virtual platform?  Share your tips below.

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Helen Kara

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