Presentation Skills and Online Public Speaking

Katze vor Laptop

by Timothy Revell


1. Presentation and Public Speaking Guide
2. Public Speaking for Online Events
3. Public Speaking: Warm Up Exercises & Six P’s





1. Presentation and Public Speaking Guide

How to prepare presentations along with becoming spatially, mentally, and physically prepared for delivering.

Initial development

Know your audience
When creating any talk be aware who the audience will be. Use vocabulary and elaborations accordingly. Do you need to provide background to the topic or does the audience know this already? Better to keep it simple than try and include too much. Is this a serious topic or could you add humour to help your point as well?

What do you want to achieve with your talk – what are you trying to show
What journey are you taking the audience on? What reaction (if any) do you want to elicit? Do you want to educate them? Do you want to share your knowledge/passion about something, or your own experience with an art work? Have a goal.


Presentation structure

Your greeting; your ice breaker; think and work out your first sentence. This is the first time the audience will hear you, your voice, and find out who you are. Smile. Breathe. Look at them. Start…

What will your first slide be?
Top Tip: Always nice to thank previous speaker (if there was one) or to thank institution or organizer of the event. A sophisticated method is to try and relate something someone else said to your talk.

A Middle or Body to Your Talk
This is your presentation. You have researched, trimmed, edited – this is where your preparation pays you back! You will know what you want to say and in what order. Tell your story/findings. Personal anecdotes can help. Top tip: Remember to practice OUT LOUD.

How are you going to close your talk? End on a question perhaps? A quote? Or a conclusion you have come to.
Top Tip: Try to link back to the beginning introduction to see if you have travelled a long way from
your original thoughts or ended up back there again.


Remember to

Nothing will give you more confidence in delivering a presentation than practicing it beforehand. Practice to an audience if you can, friends, housemates, family etc. If you do not have an audience, it is essential to practice out loud and to keep wordage simple as not to trip over difficult pronunciations. Run through the presentation as much as possible.
Top tips: Try to replicate the experience of presenting the best you can. Do it standing and out loud. Make your notes double spaced in at least 16-size font so that they will be clear and you will not get lost. Mark the changing of slides in your notes/text so that you will not miss changing slides.

Know the space
Arrive at the space early. Ask yourself, how can I be seen (walking the stage; behind lectern or camera angle/view)? How can I view my notes effectively and without distraction? Do my slides work? Is the lectern adequate for your presentation? It is essential to arrive early to view and test the space. Or if a video, do a test run.
Top tips: Practice turning over your notes and make sure they fit in the space and can be easily
handled. If not, ask for a separate table beside lecture where you can put finished sheets of notes.

Make sure you are able to be heard whether through electronic amplification or video formatting. This is one of most important points when public speaking, and often what audiences find the most difficult. It is crucial your ideas can be heard. Check microphones: lapel mic, single microphone or lectern microphones. Often you may think you can be heard, but older audience members or those at the back might not be able to hear you at all. Always better to be on the louder side rather than the quieter side.
Top Tips: Ask someone to stand at the furthest corner of the room and see if they can still hear you. Be aware when turning your head towards a slide that you could be turning your head away from the microphone.


Physical preparation

It may seem strange to have nutrition as a key point but many people become so concerned and focused they forget to eat and end up wobbly on stage. Your body needs energy and proper nutrition to be at top performance. In a presentation your physical self is your tool. Do not neglect it. Make sure to eat properly and avoid caffeine which can make you jittery.

Stand up straight with your feet hip distance apart and gently pull your shoulders back and let your arms hang gently to your sides. Deep relaxing breaths.

Gently shake out any tension, helping the blood flow through the body.

Now have some fun screwing up your face and then letting all the muscles go to release tension in your face.

Lastly see if you can make a ‘BRRRRRRR’ sound with your lips to help warm them up and get them moving in a relaxed way.


Answering questions

carefully to all questions. Look at the questioner and avoid looking at any notes or turning away. If you don’t understand the question, or have not heard it properly, just ask politely for the question to be repeated. If you cannot answer the question and you know someone else in your group (if a group presentation) can, just say ‘I will pass this on to ………. ‘. Make sure of course that you have arranged this within the group. If not in group, always try to negate in a positive way. Say ‘that is an excellent perspective, I will certainty look into that more – what a good idea’.

Don’t go off on a tangent
Be aware that audiences can ask random questions, and sometimes these questions will land outside of the topic and methodology of your presentation. For example, if you are doing a presentation on Napoleon in Rome, they might ask about Napoleon and Waterloo, try to bring them back to your main points and highlight why you were only focused on Napoleon in Rome and not at Waterloo. A basic rule is to LISTEN to the question and LOOK at the person asking the question, and ask them to repeat the question if necessary.



2. Public Speaking for Online Events


Pick a quiet room with light. Try to turn off or shut out any unwanted sound. A room with soft furnishings (curtains, carpets, sofas, etc) will be better for sound as these surfaces soak up sound; bare rooms are very echo-prone as they are all flat surfaces that sound bounces off.

Set the camera/computer to the correct height – eye level or just above eye level. Avoid looking down and the ‘chin view’. Use books or any kind of stand to elevate computer/device. If using a phone or camera rather than a laptop, put it on a tripod. Set it to Landscape orientation. Compose your shot so that you are in the centre of the frame, and your head and shoulders fit without cutting off the top of your head.

Try to be evenly lit, with lighting coming from a frontal position or above. Window light is good, but make sure it is falling on your face. If the lighting source is behind you, you will create a silhouette. If it’s from the side and you have long hair, it could create a shadowed face. Desk lamps can also be used to light your face; place them a way back so that the light is a bit softer and less artificial looking, and angle so that the light is directed at your face without creating unpleasant shadows. Test this on your device beforehand or record yourself using your phone or laptop.

Use a separate USB or 3.5mm microphone plugged into your phone, laptop or camera, and position it fairly close to your mouth but preferably just out of shot. Make test recordings to check that the sound is clear and neither too loud (which can lead to distortion) or too quiet (which will produce 'hiss' if you have to turn the volume right up to hear it). Check for echoes or other distracting unwanted sounds.

Rehearse your piece to camera, and then make test recordings, adjusting composition, lighting and sound until you get a result you are happy with. Secondly, ask the host to do a rehearsal. Make sure you know how you will be seen. Will you be a small box, or ‘spotlighted’ next to your slide, side-to-side view? Also, make sure sharing your slides is seamless and the functionalities are familiar. This will give you confidence going into
your actual talk.

Reminders and Tips
Physical energy & vocal energy: It is well known that the worst audiences are those which ‘respond’ least to speaker. When presenting to a fully online audience, the speaker will soon realize they are just talking into an empty room. You will need to use techniques to produce the desired effect of energy of a ‘live’ presentation.

  • Tell a story: to artificially produce energy, act like you are telling a story to friends who you know will be sympathetic to your cause.
  • Body language: This will be hard for the audience to read online so you will need to use emphasis in your talk. Pick out or underline words, quotes, lines – that you spend extra time nailing home.
  • Pause: you have a slide and great ideas. Let those ideas land by giving the audience a chance to connect them to the imagery. You can pause up to three times longer than you think. Especially after a question or quote.
  • Illustrate: in a live talk research estimates that 60% percent of the impact is from what the audience sees, a large part being the speaker (confidence, comfortability etc) but online the focus will be titled largely towards the slides. The more images you have to connect to your talk, the more ‘seeing’ the audience will do.
  • Eye contact: it is still, however, important to have eye contact. Look up from your notes directly at the camera. This will give each audience member the feeling you are talking directly to them.

3. Public Speaking: Warm Up Exercises & Six P’s

Physical ways to prepare: mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body) – Juvenal, Satire 10

Physical warm up is crucial on the day of presentation. This will help relieve any tension or anxiety and
circulate oxygen around your body. As the actor says, your body is your tool, so do not neglect it.

Firstly Breathe
Stand up straight with your feet hip distance apart and gently pull your shoulders back and let your arms hang gently to your sides. Close your mouth and breath in through your nose for a count of 4 and out for a count of 4. Do this five times. You should need to lift the top of the chest or shoulders as you breathe.

Arms and Legs
Now gently shake out your arms and legs, one at a time helping the blood flow through the body.

Bring your shoulders to your ears as you breathe in and then let them drop as you breathe out. Do this five times and really feel the tension melt away with each breath.

ow have some fun screwing up your face and then letting all the muscles go to release tension in your face. (will help with pronunciation)

Lastly see if you can make a ‘BRRRRRRR’ sound with your lips to help warm them up and get them moving in a relaxed way.


The six p’s of public speaking. These are essential criterion in the execution of any presentation.

  • Pitch: No one likes listening to a flat monotone voice. Imagine you are telling a story to a friend and see if you can allow your voice to go up and down like a song. Variation of tone is essential to keep your audience engaged.
  • Pace: Slow down! The audience wants to hear what you have to say and too much speed will hinder your coherence. If it helps try and remember to take one full breath in and out whenever you see a full stop (you can even write this in your presentation in a different colour to remind you).
  • Projection: After all the hard work you’ve put into your presentation, you need to be heard. An audience straining to hear you will not enjoy a presentation no matter how erudite and educational. Will you be using a microphone? If so, position it ideally. Tip: try and have a friend stand at the back of the room.
  • Pausing: This links to pace. If you can pause it shows that you are in control and will keep the audience interested and wondering what you will say next.
  • Passion: Passion and enthusiasm for your subject are the essence of a great presentation. If you have passion your audience will believe in you and absorb every word you are saying.
  • Practice: Practice again! Practice in front of family, friends, teachers, and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback.