Presenting Over Zoom; New Techniques

Yesterday I gave a talk to the Northwest Regional Spinner’s Association and tried some new techniques for presenting over Zoom.

First of all, I listened to the advice of Laverne Waddington and Laura Fry to lean into the fact that Zoom means less audience feedback. That just because you’re feeling awkward, doesn’t mean the audience is. And that they may be laughing and responding to your work as they would in person, you just can’t perceive it.

Which is actually a pretty interesting thing to contemplate, as someone who often delivers content asynchronously: books, comics, blog posts. I have never thought to myself, “I bet there’s someone out there laughing at my jokes, or having an ‘aha’ moment right now.” If I did, I’d probably be a happier writer and artist. 🙂

This talk was to a smaller group, so I experimented with inviting people to leave their microphones on and ask questions verbally as we went. I used a tip from John Whitley and asked folks to say their name when they started talking.

Enthusiastically inviting questions at the beginning of a talk is something I used to do, and stopped doing a while ago, for reasons I don’t remember. Perhaps I was worried about being derailed from my talk, or losing too much time to questions to get through the content. I’ll have to mull that over.

In any event, in this small cozy group, free-form questions worked well! The questions brought out further explanations of concepts and helped me tie the material I was teaching to folks’ personal work. Being able to hear people’s reactions helped me keep energy up and ensure I delivered an entertaining talk. 

I finally understood what late-night talk show hosts like Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah meant when they mentioned missing their audience as they moved to at-home production because of the pandemic. I thought to myself, “Ah, what are you talking about? Your jokes are good, you don’t need an audience.”

I forgot that the audience is what you lean into to bring out the best part of yourself.

It’s humbling to realize that how a talk goes is not just about me. And comforting to know that even late-night hosts with millions of viewers and teams of writers to craft their material, have the same need for feedback that I do. I get it now. 🙂

Also, I did try the shimmy dance when I paused for questions, in order to make things awkward enough that people would ask questions if only to get me to stop. Unfortunately (?) my video feed was unstable enough that I’d turned off video by that time and no one saw me. Which was a relief! It’s embarrassing to shimmy dance on camera! Much respect to K.T.B. for making that maneuver look easy. 

One technical note on that. I have “rural-quality” DSL. So I’ve found it prudent to send my slides to someone else and have them run the deck. It saved my presentation yesterday. My voice was breaking up and having someone else managing slides meant I could turn off my video (which gave all my bandwidth to my voice) and keep going.

Also: I want to mention that my awkwardness I talked about in the last blog post was entirely my inexperience presenting over Zoom; not a reflection on the audience. When I present, I am often nervous or feel awkward. Presenting is exciting and fun, and I also find it nerve-wracking, because I want to give everyone a good time and public speaking is hard! It’s why I do so much prep work and talk to my fellow teachers and presenters about how to improve. 🙂

Many thanks to those who weighed after the last blog post with ideas and feedback.

Yesterday was my last presentation for the year, so I’m going to reward myself today with some well-earned, just-for-fun, crafting time!

My wish is that you are safe and well, and finding moments of happiness and joy today, too.

Please share your thoughts: I enjoy your comments and feedback!