23 When your Speech is Presented Online Only – Public Speaking Tips for Video Conferencing

Public Speaking Adaptations we took during COVid 19

woman with maskOverview of innovation

Some of these materials may no longer seem new. However, during Spring 2020, instructors such as myself needed to adjust their classes to keep students (and our own families) less exposed to the dangers of COVID-19.   In classes like “public” speaking, that meant a lot of quick adaptation as we were no longer allowed to meet students in public.  Therefore, our Communication Department discussed how we would adapt to create safer “shelter-at-home” public speaking opportunities. As a group,  we decided that students must give speeches that would be appropriate for a live audience (e.g. we had students stand 4-6 feet away from the camera as to be visible).  We modified how we would have students deliver the speeches to include online video-conferencing in ZOOM.  The students signed up for delivery groups, and, instead of finding a LIVE audience in a public setting or delivering their speeches on-campus, they instead met in ZOOM with their classmates and instructors.

To prepare for the transition of learning ZOOM, each Communication instructor shared information on how to give a speech in ZOOM.  Annie Clement and Karin Wright shared how they were using the discussion board posts that would require students to upload videos demonstrating that they could use ZOOM. I am grateful for their ideas and input: this video was the result of our summer planning collaboration. We also brainstormed guidelines and tips for delivery online. As my class was already online at the time, I simply modified how the students gave their presentations on ZOOM vs. in a public setting.

After teaching during Spring 2020, I was ready to try out the new ideas in my Summer 2020 class. I updated resources, such as this PressBook, integrated required conferences, and made many sample videos on topics such as how to navigate our own D2L site to how to give speeches in ZOOM.

The following materials were created during this innovation time.

Step 1.  Ensure everyone understands the technology

Students needed to know technology basics such as how to upload videos, so I created several instructional videos. Here are some examples.

Example of New Instructional Videos

2. Take time to work in groups in ZOOM for reassurance

To enhance and deepen the experience, I had groups meet to discuss individual outlines prior to the speeches. We practiced where to stand while speaking, how to use backgrounds, share screens, etc.  Students then met in groups to deliver their speeches. Finally, after the speeches, students received feedback in a round-robin fashion.  All students were asked to share their feedback. This process is highlighted, with permission, in the following example videos.

Examples of Student Feedback Sessions in ZOOM

Reflection on the Summer Session – 2020 Afternoon Group. Students shared their reflections after each speech. At the end of the Summer Session, this group of students participated in a “Reflection on the Class.” They are also asked to share this in a discussion post. This particular group agreed to be videotaped.

sticky pad and notesTips on using ZOOM for public speaking class

After teaching with ZOOM, I decided that students, and instructors, could benefit from sharing ideas with each other in a “show and tell” manner. I asked students to upload videos demonstrating different delivery aspects characteristic of a video conferencing communication situation. Students gain pass/fail grades for impromptu speech uploads (based upon if they do it or not), so why not also “show and tell” how to use the technology? Here are some samples  shared with written permission from the students:

Carlie’s speech integrates a video: https://mediaspace.minnstate.edu/media/1_yv0ifprw

Key Tips for Online Public Speakers

Tips on Presenting in ZOOM

  1. Think of this as a true presentation with a true audience.
  2. Prepare by understanding the assignment, charge, or request for speaking, just like you would in any other presentation.
  3. Know who will be there and when they will be listening so you can adapt to the group.
  4. Learn the technology and, when you don’t, please ask for help.
  5. During the presentation, you will feel some communication anxiety, so don’t forget to also take care of yourself the way you would for a face-to-face presentation.
  6. Practice with an extemporaneous style – canned but not planned. Don’t read the screen. Don’t’ use the phone. Don’t place 100 notecards in your room. Don’t pretend you have forgotten to step back 4-6 feet so you can hide your notes.
  7. Stand up! You will be 4-6 feet away from the camera for class (so we can see you are not reading). In your own time, experiment with space. Try it out for the impromptu assignments.
  8. Look directly at the camera – you will have to raise a laptop/camera. You don’t have to look directly all the time, but do look for emphasis and look in the general direction. Don’t look down so we see your nostrils, bring the camera to your eye level.
  9. Careful of bending down into a camera.
  10. Dress up! Wear pants (really– do wear pants).
  11. Practice in ZOOM. Next, practice in ZOOM with others in the ZOOM Room.
  12. Check out your background.
  13. Know your sounds.
  14. Experiment with light. See the videos on this, having some in the front, filtered is great. Avoiding light in the back is a good idea.
  15. Try getting out on location for fun, but make sure you have connectivity.
  16. Be relevant to the audience – use adaptive language, examples, etc.
  17. Use facial expressions and frame your shot so you can use your hands.
  18. Take your time prior to starting your online presentation. Make sure you have your props or screens ready to share. Then, say your first sentence in your head, nod, and say it out loud! You got this!
  19. Remember that this is all about learning, don’t be afraid that you might make a mistake. We all make mistakes. It’s not what to do IF you make a mistake, it is what to do when you make a mistake.
  20. Go with the flow! When you are done, nod your head and don’t call attention to any mistakes.

Meet with your Classmates for Outline Feedback Conferences

One tip is to find time to chat with your instructor prior to giving your speeches. We can help you assess your plan, offer suggestions, and encourage you! You can meet with your peers too. Here is some reflection on why I think that this is helpful.

Post Speech Sessions Offer Helpful Feedback, Don’t Be Afraid of Feedback

Students share their “take away” in a post-class feedback session. Here’s what they want you to know as a “take away” from taking online public speaking.


Bring in Video into your ZOOM Presentation Tips from Lori

The professional speakers and YouTubers have many options for learning how to integrate visuals into your ZOOM speech and are linked below. I wanted to also share with you some ideas as to why it is helpful for you, as the beginning speaker, to use video or other visual aids.

Thinking about Where and How you will give your Speech, then Practicing in ZOOM will help!

I had to work to find a quiet space and a clear wall in my home (we are empty nesters too). I know that many of you share spaces with others from roommates to siblings and family, to pets and others. You will need to take some time to pause and make a plan for where you are going to give your speech. Basic questions like connectivity, bandwidth speed, computer access (or, if needed phone or tablet), are all essential. Then, where can you actually give the speech? I have seen a few speeches in a closet area and in the bathroom. I have noticed students moving to their neighbor’s apartment and setting up in another room at the last minute. These things can happen and we’ll be patient with one another as there are always some last-minute adjustments. However, as you begin this process, having a plan and backup plans (plural, plans) will help reduce additional stress during your speech delivery time. My own rural Minnesota internet can ebb and flow, as can my cell phone service. We’ll help you. We just want to help you make a plan.



Tips from Online Personalities and Speaking Coaches

5 Tips for Delivering Great Zoom Presentations

Key Takeaways

  • Setting
    • Background, not distracting. Plain and professional she argues.
    • Quiet or noise? Close windows, make it as quiet as possible.
    • Lighting. Can the space be well lit? Window in front of you and no lighting directly behind you.
  • Stand Up!
    • It will look like you are performing vs. someone “slunched down” sitting at a table.
    • This retains more attention and gives it a presentation style.
    • Raise the laptop so the lens of the camera is your direct eye line.
  • Rehearse
    • Treat an online presentation the same as on a stage. Practice and performance to the camera lens.
  • Dress to Impress
    • Treat online presentation as a performance.
    • Mirror the audience. Colleagues you can go more casual. Customers/clients/class – “dress smart.”
  • Think About your Supporting Material (she seems to mean visual aids/video)
    • You can use slides – but use pictures too
    • You can use video – practice
    • Have a backup – always run the risk of things going down. Have it ready to send it to the people.

We will ask you to STAND!  Here is great advice to do just that!

Key Takeaways

5 tips for Delivering ZOOM presentations like a pro. Rich Mulholland shares the following advice.

  1. Prepare the stage
  2. Prime your audience
  3. Presenter View
  4. Be brief – Show up, speak up, leave –
  5. Use your Camera! When you want to illustrate a big point look RIGHT into the camera

Five Tips for Delivering ZOOM Presentations Like a Pro

More Advice for Setting Up or Presenting in ZOOM

Tips from the experts! How to use a Virtual Background without a Green Screen

More on creating your own Virtual Backgrounds

How to use Visual Aids Effectively in ZOOM or Online  Video Conferencing

Google Slides Use in ZOOM – The simple hack great speaker uses when presenting online

Perhaps you should reconsider PREZI!?


How will you use visual aids? Here is a video sharing more about visual aids.


What about feeling CONFIDENT?


Key Takeaways

Visual – Involvement –  Distractions – Emphasis – Outline


Keeping Your Audience’s Attention


Key Takeaways

Nonverbal Communication  – check this video as she explains why you need facial expressions and framing your shot so folks can see your hands. Why not stand up!? Inject energy and passion, Rachel Willis shares these and other tips in her video.

 Tips from Classmates and Instructors

Can I do Public Speaking on Zoom?




Sometimes finding a NEW space can help motivate you!


Camera Angle and Background – Take Time to Take Time


Try to make the background WORK for you!

More than ever, adapt to the situation. This includes what is happening in the news, our social lives, etc. Try to adapt  to your audience via your choices of words, topics, props, etc.

Try bright and colorful – careful of background noise.

Topics and Visual Aids – Excite yourself, be creative, but practice with them.

PRACTICE! Think of how politicians give “stump speeches.”  But add movement (and don’t fall off the stump).

On-location gives you vast possibilities, but do you have connectivity?


Go with the flow! Always be ready to teach under the “mango tree!”


Impromptu Challenge! Find a unique spot to try it out – what do YOU LOVE!? Think big, what can you do to get out of a standard background?










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The Public Speaking Resource Project Copyright © 2018 by Lori Halverson-Wente and Mark Halverson-Wente is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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