Career Advice Professional Development

Zoom Presentations 101: How to Own the Virtual Spotlight

Dora Segall
By: Dora Segall
Sep 4, 2020 • 2 min read

Zoom Presentations 101: How to Own the Virtual Spotlight

Giving a presentation at work can be nervewracking enough without the added stress of making sure your video conferencing technology runs smoothly. Whether you are preparing for your first-ever Zoom presentation or you just want to up your game, we are here to help come off as professional and polished.

zoom presentations

Eliminate Distractions

Unlike in-person, you are likely presenting via Zoom from the same physical space where you sleep and eat meals. Make sure to find an area of your home where you will not be disturbed during the presentation. Alert any housemates well in advance so that they can prepare to keep quiet. If you live with any small children, see if a partner, relative, or friend can take them somewhere outside the house while you are presenting. Kids bursting through the office door in the middle of Zoom meetings has definitely lost its cute factor at this point!

Dress for Success

This is a popular saying for a reason. When giving a Zoom presentation, do not hesitate to dress the way you would when presenting in-person. Getting into professional mode is especially important when you are working from home and even more so before a presentation. Even if you can get away with wearing sweatpants under your button-down shirt, consider dressing head-to-toe in your favorite work outfit instead. Doing so will likely boost your confidence and get you in the zone. Ultimately, do whatever feels right. If wearing sweatpants makes you feel more poised than a power suit, then, by all means, choose the sweats!

Perfect Your Lighting

A common mistake when presenting over Zoom, though often well-intentioned, is sitting with your back to a window. Though well-intentioned — you don’t want your space to be too dark, right? — positioning yourself this way gives you a backlit appearance. Backlighting casts shadows across your face and gives the edges of your hair a fuzzy glow. This makes it difficult for your audience to make out your features, which can be distracting. Instead of sitting in front of a window, try finding another location in a well-lit room. For best results, use a neutral background and position a lamp or other light in front of you at face-level. Combining these methods will appropriately define your facial features while keeping participants focused on you rather than your living space.

Use the Right Visual Aid

Regardless of your presentation topic, we recommend (and this goes for in-person presentations, too) that you create a visual for your audience to follow along as you speak. This will keep participants focused by engaging their eyes as well as their eyes. Make sure to factor lag into whatever you create — screen sharing, which we’ll cover soon, tends to cause a delay in motion graphics for viewers. Try to avoid conjuring up anything that will demand frequent scrolling, jumping around between different visuals, and complicated slide show transitions. Zoom presentations are definitely a scenario in which less is more! We recommend making a Powerpoint with clear, concise slides that you can move through without rushing. Zoom also gives you the option to share non-digital materials if you have a second camera. Feel free to reference in-person images from home if this is the case for you!

Familiarize Yourself with Zoom Beforehand

The best way to feel confident about your Zoom presentation skills is to practice them ahead of time. You can start a Zoom meeting on your laptop without inviting any participants. We suggest doing this to get used to speaking into a camera and sharing your screen. If you want to rehearse your spiel for an audience, see if you can recruit a friend! In addition to practicing your actual presentation, make sure you know how to use all of the Zoom features you will need before the real thing. You can learn about the different user tools Zoom offers in our guide to Zoom conferencing. Here are a few presentation-specific tips.

zoom presentations

Learn How to Share Your Screen

This one can be tricky if you are not prepared, but it is super easy if you are! To share your screen in a Zoom meeting, simply click the labeled green icon at the bottom of your window. Next, from the options that appear, select the one which you would like to present, for instance, Google Chrome. Make sure that you have closed out of any irrelevant windows and tabs BEFORE presenting. This will prevent you from giving your co-workers or, gulp, boss, an unwanted look into your personal life.

Explore Your Options

Zoom has some fun options for screen sharing. When you enter the Screen Sharing window, you can also click out of the “Basic” tab on the menu up top. If you want to present a file from an online drive or real-life materials from a second camera, you will need to select “Files” or “Advanced,” respectively. If you stay in the “Basic” tab, you will notice the whiteboard feature, which lets you illustrate concepts in real-time. You can use this tool to walk your audience through a specific problem. You can also pose a question, call on participants, and jot down their answers. Actively engaging the audience will keep everyone on their toes, even those who might be watching you from their living room couch.

Utilize The “Raise Hand” Setting

This is an excellent option for presentations and webinars. When you finish presenting and open up the floor for questions, instruct participants to click the up arrow next to the “participants bar” on the bottom menu of their screens. This will give them a drop-down menu with the option to “raise hand.” The “raise hand” feature is designed to prevent participants from talking over each other. Using it will save you the overwhelming job of sorting through which of your audience members are trying to speak. It is also an excellent tool if you do choose to pose a question to participants during your presentation.

Adjust Your Settings Ahead of Time

This one goes for meetings you are hosting yourself. If you are the host, make sure you know how to schedule the meeting and mute participants (command+control+M for Mac, alt+M for Windows!). There are also settings you can use for actions like allowing participants to arrive before the host and muting participants on arrival. These controls are all critical for making sure your presentation starts and flows smoothly.

zoom presentations

Keep Your Composure

You should always watch your body language and enunciation, but doing so is especially important for virtual presentations. Speak slowly and clearly so that your participants can hear you through their computer speakers. Don’t hunch your body forward or swivel back in forth in your chair. Also, make sure to maintain “eye contact.” Looking straight ahead at your computer will show your audience that you are focused on the task at hand.

Don’t stress too much about your Zoom presentation beforehand! Presentations are always scary, but if you prepare, you have no reason to be afraid!

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