Good practices for presentations


A few days ago while I was doing some note cleanup and brainstorming for post ideas, I found a list of good practices for presentations and screen sharing I wrote some years ago and, even though we are already well into the new remote age, I decided to share them with you.

I hope you (or someone close to you) find them helpful.

Hide all system bars and desktop icons

Objective : Privacy, Avoid distractions

This is a subjective one, but I can count with the fingers in my hand the times I have attended a presentation where the system bars and desktop icons were hidden, and I must say it was a big difference to avoid all these subtle distractions. How many times have you though I use that app too!, I know those icons!, or even worse What program is that? ?.

It is fairly easy to temporarily hide all this UI elements, and, the less reasons we give our audience to be distracted, the better.

Move all windows to a secondary monitor

Objective : Avoid distractions, Performance

Nowadays most desktop environments (Windows, macOS, different Linux flavors) support multiple virtual desktops which we can take advantage of when presenting. If for some reason you need various programs or windows open during your presentation, but you do not have to share them, use this feature to move such windows out of view.

If you have the privilege of a second display this becomes even easier, just move those windows out of the shared screen while still keeping them visible to you.

Turn on “Do Not Disturb”

Objective : Privacy, Avoid distractions

It is easy to get distracted and lose our train of though when we get notifications, alerts, popups, etc. therefore it is best to use the “Do Not Disturb” feature, not only on our mobile devices but also on our computer. Most OS today have this feature available to you in a couple of clicks, no matter where you are or what you are doing.

Besides avoiding the mentioned distractions for the presenter and the audience, most notifications include text excerpts, previews or images; DND is also useful to avoid potential privacy problems.

Quit all nonessential programs

Objective : Privacy, Avoid distractions, Performance

It is pretty common to keep several programs running while we are working on the computer whether they are related to our daily activities or not, like different browser tabs, email client, music, videos, reference material, etc. but most of these are not required during a presentation, hence it is better to just quit all programs that are not strictly required for the presentation. In addition to avoid distractions, it saves us from potential privacy problems and it also frees some resources to improve the computer (and internet connection) performance.

Make use of private browsing

Objective : Privacy, Avoid distractions, Performance

In line with hiding system bars and desktop icons. If you are using your internet browser to present, it is recommended to use the private (incognito) browsing mode preventing this way to unintentionally sharing your browsing history, downloads, search history, etc.; as a bonus point, private browsing also disables all browser extensions/plugins which will also free up some resources for the browser itself and avoid extra icons and other distractions.

One more slightly advanced tip is to create an alternate browser profile for testing or presentations. This option is available in most browsers and, in my opinion it is the most flexible one, but it requires some extra fiddling and setup.

Prepare your screen before hand

Objective : Performance, Contingency plan

There is nothing like not having the right link or a sudden slow internet to throw your focus (and the rest of your presentation) out the window.

Evade problems and time waste by preparing not only what you have to say, but also what you have to share; if possible, open all links on new tabs, and if you have to demo a series of interactions, open each step on a new tab or window you can use to quickly switch to if something unexpected happens.

Remember Murphy’s law, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Take screenshots in a controlled environment

Objective : Performance, Contingency plan

Expanding and improving the previous point, if you have the time and tools, there is nothing better than take a series of screenshots or video captures of what you will present as a contingency plan; a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a thousand pictures.

If you choose to use these images or videos on your presentation as opposed to just use them as a back plan you will be leveling up your presentation quality even more before these are taken (usually) on a controlled environment, that is, in a quiet place, with a good internet connection, ideal screen size, ideal data, etc. Some of the best technical presentations I have assisted to included one or more video captures from the presented topics.

I really hope you find all these recommendations as useful for your presentations as I have along the years. You do not have to implement all of them at once, but I definitely recommend you to start using some of them and you will see immediate results.