Virtual Presentations: A Presenters Perspective

While we are clearly beginning to see in-person events on the calendar, the vast majority of presentations, events, talks, etc., are virtual. There are a lot of positives to all these virtual presentations. People who can’t travel, for whatever reason, can get access to presentations they might otherwise have never seen. A lot of the virtual presentations are recorded, so you can watch, or re-watch, at your leisure. Also, with the recordings, you can repeat sections, speed things up, slow things down, do more, to get more, with the presentation. Further, because so many of the virtual events are free, or radically reduced in cost, we have seen something of a democratization of presentations. In short, there are a lot of positive features for this currently prevalent approach.

But you know that’s not what I’m going to talk about.

Presenting Virtually

I readily acknowledge all those positives. As a speaker, I’ll even add a few more.

While I love to travel, let’s face it, it can be a real pain in the bottom. With all these virtual events, I can go to another country or state without having to deal with travel. Because there is such a hunger for content, it’s been easier to get into some venues and events that I might not otherwise have been able to do, expanding my audience. Some events have you record your session, and then do a live Q&A for the playback. Honestly, that can be fun. You can comment & correct yourself as you go as well as answer questions. However, this brings us to the, single, principal complaint I want to share.


I’ve been on events with Slack channels, live video from attendees, dedicated chats, Zoom chats & rooms, Teams, Teams & more Teams, all sorts of various 3rd party interactive mechanisms. All these things are focused, and failing at, for the most part, getting people to talk to one another. You, the attendee, just aren’t doing it.

I understand that there are a whole slew, of absolutely, perfectly valid reasons why. I’m not arguing that you’re in some way wrong, or bad, or anything negative. I’m simply stating a fact. You’re not interacting. That’s not being critical or questioning your values, it’s just a fact.

As a presenter, it’s a slow, slow death.

You have to understand, we can’t see your faces. We can’t tell if you’re eyes are glazed over with boredom, or if you’re lost, have a question, didn’t understand, all things we can do when in front of you, in-person. Because of this, we literally don’t know if we’re making our points well, getting the information across, getting you what you came there for. It’s a mystery for us.

Normally, here is where I’d make a request of you to please, interact at the next virtual event you watch. However, I’m just not going to do that. I absolutely agree with you. Virtual interaction is more difficult. You’re saving it for all the times you have to do it for work, or with family. I support you on this. I just want you to know, it is making it hard for those of us who like to share.

I’m not even going to get into what all this lack of interactivity does for the organizations sponsoring these events.


Beyond letting you know that this all makes things a little more difficult for a presenter, I suppose I don’t really have a point. I went to an in-person event a few weeks back. In addition to all the hugs, I had some amazing conversations with human beings. That, and the in-person interactivity during the presentations, was a wonderful breath of fresh air. It all just reinforces for me that humans are so very human. We will, eventually, go back to a lot more in-person events. Some may be hybrid. Some may even stay virtual. However, we communicate best when we can see the eyes, face, and body of those we’re communicating with. It’s that way for us as presenters, but it’s also that way for you as someone watching a presentation. You’re going to communicate more, and better, when we get to in-person. It’s just natural.

2 thoughts on “Virtual Presentations: A Presenters Perspective

  • jonathan

    How do you feel an event organiser can assist here? They are responsible for putting presenters and attendees together. I see them as needing to host the conversation and encourage input.

    At in-person meetings I always expect the user group leader to be ‘the dumbest person in the room’ – asking questions about the presentation if there are none coming from the attendees. Asking for opinions or experiences levels the playing field in terms of ability to contribute – noone needs to have certain skill levels to start or contribute to a discussion in that context.

    In an online conference setting this becomes more dificult but should the event organisers provide a host in that sort of role?

    • You know, I’m just not sure. I’ve seen all sorts of different approaches now. I haven’t for sure seen one work really well. I don’t think it’s nearly so much about the organizers or the presenters as the attendees. And, on that note, repeating myself, I don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. Because virtual communication is not the human default, it takes effort. For a lot of people, that effort is spent at work & with family. There just isn’t energy left for presenters.

      That said, I do find the experience with an engaged host helps. It at least provides some interaction for the speaker, helping to up the energy and engagement. I also think some kind of gamefication could assist with interaction. Something like “Ask at least two speakers a question to get a prize” kind of thing… maybe. Then again, you’d be buried with questions… although that would likely be better than the vast, bottomless, void that we’ve been getting with interactions.

      However, I’m still not sure it all comes back around to virtual fatigue on everyone’s part. I plead gross ignorance.

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