Can You See My Screen?

I know I shouldn't say this, but I rather enjoyed the early days of lockdown. I was rather fortunate in many ways. I didn't fall ill, I had a back garden and a bike, the weather was nice and we got to spend time with the kids.

I also discovered working at home for the first time in my entire life. All these years commuting to an office, sometimes three hours each way, and all of a sudden, the horizon widens and you realise - hey, I really didn't have to do that at all!

In a way, you felt conned. With an imperative - saving each others' lives - everyone switched to remote working as if they'd always been doing it. And it was, in many ways, better.

If, like I say, you're lucky enough to have a back garden, a bike, your health... etc.

I suppose what I wasn't ready for was presenting online. We'd only done it occasionally, when clients perhaps were unable to visit the office, but in that case, we were presenting in the office and screen sharing. 

At no point did we ever have six heads in little boxes on our screens all pretending to listen.

As I was, at that time, working in my son's bedroom, I had other challenges to face. What's that behind me? Oh just some pants. And there goes my son, sans pants.

And when my son asked - out loud - why I'm speaking to Mr Potato Head - I wanted to world to open up and swallow me whole. 

These were niggles, though. Teething troubles on the path to virtual presentation nirvana.

I learned, pretty quickly, that the technology could actually make this a more engaging experience. As I sat on presentations myself, I discovered it was easy to drift off, to be distracted by things around me in the home, by noises outside, by delivery men... was it like this for everyone, I thought?

So I discovered virtual tools that would help me actually present virtually, as if I were on a white board doing one of my famously over-complex mindmaps that only I understood.

I discovered breakout rooms, which were especially useful when you had more than 10 people on a call and you couldn't keep trying to involve everyone. 

I discovered that I could mute everyone, which was very helpful when lots of people had vociferous points to get across and they started talking over each other. 

I discovered that by doing this, I could involve those who were less confident, those who felt they were unable to speak up over the confusion, and that made for a better meeting.

I discovered that death by powerpoint still exists, but when you're doing it online, it's EVEN WORSE. Because if you're presenting powerpoints and everyone is reading them, they're not listening. And that's even worse when they're remote, because a) you often have no option and b) they've only got the screen to engage with. They can't exactly look around and talk to the person next to them. They can't whisper or pass notes.

And then I discovered that they could. They could use instant messaging (in this case, Slack), to have a private conversation during the meeting. I could hear the little 'dadada' each time a message arrived. So I learned to minimise distractions by asking everyone at the start of a presentation to mute their notifications, at the very least.

Presenting online was something thrown at us, because we simply HAD to do it. And as the workforce mutates and workplaces become increasingly hybrid or remote, despite the big call from those who hold office leases to get everyone back into the office, presenting virtually is a skill everyone has to learn. 

More so, presenting hybrid is a skill everyone has to learn. There may be people in the room, and people at home. So send everyone to a cubicle and pretend they're all remote. Because this has to work - you have to sharpen your skills - and you have to develop your ability to engage people through an online presentation, because if you don't - well, it's lost productivity, lost revenue, lost clients, the works...

Our course, Presenting Virtually, has just been nominated one of the top 10 remote working courses on the globally famous FindCourses website. Presented by Geoff Marsh, it's a 3-hour primer in how to get this vital skill right. You'll learn the tools and the skills required to engage virtual attendees online - and you'll even get a chance to participate and get feedback directly on the day.

For that reason, places are strictly limited - they're just £249 per delegate, and you can reserve your place for our next course here.

Published on Mar 01, 2024 by Gareth Cartman