By Sarah Porter, CHCP
It’s been nearly a year since the continuing education enterprise has, for the most part, had to shift from live, in-person activities to virtual learning environments. While virtual environments have presented new opportunities with increased attendance and more flexibility for both learners and presenters, they have also posed new challenges and considerations. Arguably one of the biggest challenges is presenter management.
Presenters often come with varying levels of familiarity, expertise and comfort with virtual platforms. To ensure a smooth experience for presenters, continuing education staff and learners, several best practices are shared below for presenter management for virtual continuing education.
Send a Calendar Invitation
Virtual continuing education has increased flexibility for engaging presenters from different locations than that in which the accredited provider resides. However, different locations often means different time zones. With the added level of Standard Time versus Daylight Time, there is certainly room for error, especially with international presenters.
Sending a calendar invitation can help to ensure there is no confusion as to the designated presentation date and time, as calendar invitations should translate into an individual’s designated time zone. This also ensures that the presenter has easy access to the virtual platform access information (eg, web links), especially if it is different than the access information utilized for a dry-run.
Coordinate a Dry-Run
While many presenters are now familiar with utilizing the various platforms that exist (eg, Zoom Meetings, GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar, Adobe Connect, etc.), there is still benefit to coordinating a dry-run with a presenter as it:
- Ensures the presenter is both familiar and comfortable with the designated platform
- Provides insight into potential issues that may arise during the session (eg, display setting issues, sound for a video, etc.)
- Allows presenters to understand how the continuing education activity will be managed, which can vary from one accredited provider to another
With a virtual platform, and depending on how an accredited provider manages activities, there are many different components for presenters to pay attention to, including the screen share, chat function, verbal questions, etc. To ensure a smooth experience, a best practice is to have a designated moderator who can read questions from the chat function aloud to the presenter. This ensures questions are not missed, and the speaker can focus on the presentation and answering questions rather than getting caught up in the logistics and management of the activity.
Pro Tip: Ensure that the moderator has the expertise to manage content-specific language; “oligodendrocyte,” for example, is a mouthful!
Provide Early Access
Provide the time and space for a presenter to join the virtual platform early and get settled. This can help ensure all parties are comfortable and potential technical issues are identified and resolved from the start.
Create a Presenter Best Practices
Accredited providers cannot control all factors that exist in the realm of virtual learning, such as an Internet failure. However, accredited providers can proactively communicate expectations and best practices. One suggestion is to create a comprehensive virtual presentation best practices guide that includes the following:
- Set-up of presentation space
- Choose a space with neutral colors and minimal background clutter (eg, many pictures on the wall, overflowing bookcases, etc.).
- Anticipate any interruptions that may occur from other household members, pets, phones and outside noises. Find a space that will minimize potential disruptions.
- Consider the lighting in the space and what it will be like during the time of the presentation. Natural light or other soft light from the front (even directly behind your webcam) works well. Minimize any light sources from behind to avoid appearing backlit.
- Check out this article for some basic background, lighting and framing tips.
- Equipment set-up
- Full headsets or headphones with an attached microphone will provide the best audio. If using a computer’s speakers and microphone, be sure to sit close enough to provide good audio while still looking good on camera.
- External (not built into the computer) webcams are recommended, if possible. Place the webcam or computer on a stable surface and adjust as needed to ensure appropriate framing. The camera should be positioned so that a presenter can look directly into it when speaking.
- Ensure that the computer can remain plugged into power throughout the presentation.
- If possible, it is recommended to connect the computer directly to your internet modem via an ethernet cable rather than relying on a Wi-Fi connection.
- Test equipment multiple times to ensure that audio quality and connection are good.
- Become with the platform to develop the skills to efficiently move through the presentation in real-time.
- Presentation reminders
- Join the session to get set up ahead of the scheduled time to test equipment.
- Keep phones on silent, if possible, to avoid interruptions.
- Disable desktop notifications on the computer (e-mails notifications, iMessages, etc.) in the computer settings ahead of the presentation.
- Avoid moving the webcam or computer around during the presentation.
- Avoid shifting papers or other objects around or near your microphone while you are speaking as this will lead to distracting noises.
- Go on mute when not speaking to reduce feedback or echo.
- At the end of the presentation, un-share the screen before closing PowerPoint so that attendees don’t have the opportunity to see the computer desktop. Pro Tip: Include a slide at the end of your presentation that just says “Q&A”, which can remain up during the Q&A period at the end.
- If technical issues occur, don’t panic! A tech support representative will be present during the presentation to assist with problems that may arise.
- Expectations (if applicable)
- Wear professional attire (yes…attendees will be able to see if you are wearing pajamas).
- Do not consume alcohol beverages during the presentation (it wouldn’t be listed if it hadn’t happened…).
- Ensure there will be no surprise or uninvited guests (children, spouses, pets or otherwise) throughout the presentation.
- Use the previously shared virtual background, if applicable.
Create a Contingency Plan
Last of all, create a contingency plan. Ensure that you have a presenter’s cell phone number in the event that he/she does not show up on time. Also ensure that he/she has the cell phone number of the moderator or host. Reconfirm key details in advance and, if a worst-case scenario arises, ensure that the host or moderator has a plan for how to communicate to attendees and what to display on the screen.
Many other best practices and pro tips exist. We invite readers to share their own ideas and recommendations by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.