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Peter Jausovec
Peter Jausovec

Posted on • Originally published at dev.to on

Tips and suggestions for doing online talks and workshops

Last year I spent a significant amount of time traveling around the world delivering talks and workshops. I've flown 115k ✈️ miles, traveled around 1000 🚗 miles in Ubers' and Lyfts' and delivered more than 20 talks and workshops.

This year, the miles traveled for conferences and talks are at 0.

Thanks to technology, I can deliver talks and workshops online. It's not the same experience as doing it in person though. The good thing is, there's zero commute time to the conference venue. The bad thing is that you're your audio-video technician now. It's one other thing you have to think about.

Originally, I wanted to create a couple of tweets with these tips, but it turned out to be too long.

I'd love to hear some of your tips or suggestions - comment below or Tweet at me. Even if you haven't done your first talk yet, it is useful to hear what worked well from the attendee side. Was there anything a speaker did that made your experience as the attendee much better? If you're a speaker - any other tips you can offer?

🛠 Conferencing tool

This is the video-conferencing tool the organizers/conference uses. It can be Zoom, Skype, or a full platform such as ON24 and similar.

Whatever the tool is, make sure you understand it. Specifically, know where the mute, the camera on/off button, and sharing buttons are and how they work.

Try out the tool before your talk. You don't want to waste time figuring it out during the talk. Don't forget to try out screen sharing - some online platforms might require a browser extension for screen sharing.

🎤 Camera & Microphone

You will use a camera and a microphone. When doing in-person talks, this is something you usually don't have to worry about too much as there is an A/V team that can help you with it.

Turn on your camera for the duration of your talk. Make sure the camera is positioned correctly - you want people to be looking at your face, not the top of your head or your neck. If you're in a darker room, make sure you turn on a light.

Try to minimize the ambient noise, so attendees can hear your voice only. Speak slowly and clearly. If you have one of those big microphones, try to position it in such a way that it doesn't cover half of your face. I am using an AT2020 microphone with a Focusrite interface and headphones. The microphone is connected to the Focusrite interface and the interface is connected to my laptop over USB. I am also using headphones, so I can hear myself when talking. Try it out - you might also prefer to not hear yourself talking :)

🖥 Screen sharing

If using multiple screens, make sure your notes, windows, and anything you will be looking at during the talk is on the screen that has the camera. For example, I am using a second monitor, positioned on top of my laptop monitor. The camera I am using is on the laptop, so all my notes, slides, and anything I need to look at is on the laptop screen.

When sharing slides, I share the window that hosts the slides (I am using Remark for my slides). When doing demos, I share my full secondary monitor that has the editor + terminal + anything else that I need to show during the demo. On the laptop screen, I have the notes for my demo.

🎭 Demos

Just like with in-person events, I like to do live demos. Sometimes, or the live events I would pre-record the demo, just in case something goes wrong, so I could just play the video. Sharing a video during online talks might not be such a good idea though.

Sharing your screen, your camera video, and audio can eat a lot of resources. This can make your demos work way slower than when you practiced. Make sure you have downloaded/installed/prepared anything needed for the demo. You don't want to spend a significant portion of the demo waiting for something to complete.

As a workaround, you can turn off your camera during the demo, just don't forget to turn it back on when the demo is done.

⏱ Breaks

If doing a longer talk or a workshop make sure you incorporate a couple of breaks. During the break, turn your camera off and mute yourself. I also share a screen with a timer that shows how much time is left of the break. When you're back from the break, don't forget to click the unmute button and turn the camera back on.

❓ Questions

At in-person events, I usually take questions at the end of my talk. The online talks can be a bit different because there's usually a chat window where participants can ask questions at any time during your talk.

Regardless of which option you go with, make sure you communicate that to the attendees at the beginning of the talk. I usually say that they are welcome to ask any questions in the chat, but I'll answer them either before, during, or after the break. I do keep my eye out for the chat window, just in case there's something wrong - e.g. people can't hear me, the slides are not refreshing or similar. But in my cases, I ignore the chat window until the break or the dedicated Q&A section at the end.

📚 Slides/references/examples

At least one person will probably ask about how to download a copy of the slides. Sometimes, the organizer will ask for your slides either before or after the talk and have them available for download on the website.

Regardless, I also host slides for most of my talks, so people can download them after the talk. I mention this at the beginning of my talks as well, because I know the question will eventually come up.

Any demos and examples I show during the talk are also hosted on Github.

The last slide in my talks is usually the reference slide that contains the links to slides, demos, and information on how to contact me.

What are your suggestions??

I'd love to hear some of your tips or suggestions - comment below or Tweet at me. Even if you haven't done your first talk yet, it is useful to hear what worked well from the attendee side. Was there anything a speaker did that made your experience as the attendee much better? If you're a speaker - any other tips you can offer?

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