Facilitating Online Student Presentations (Synchronous)

This article contains strategies for preparing your students to give awesome presentations in synchronous online classes over videoconferencing programs. While many of the fundamentals of making strong in-person presentations apply to presenting online, the online element adds an extra layer of technical competencies and media-specific best practices for your students to consider. The aim of this article is to help you prepare your students for success in their presentation projects.

Table of Contents

  1. Teaching Technical Fundamentals
    1. The Best Way to Join Video Meetings
    2. Audio and Video Settings
    3. Screen and Content Sharing
  2. Facilitating Rehearsals
  3. Managing Session Permissions
  4. Audience Engagement Strategies
  5. Appearing Professional in Online Presentations

Teaching Technical Fundamentals

Given that student presentations usually occur well into a semester, by the time these presentations are due, your students may feel some level of comfort with the video meeting program you are using for synchronous sessions, but that comfort may only extend to the program features needed to participate in, but not lead, a class. A few weeks before presentations are due, you should provide your students with resources for teaching them the best way to join a meeting as a presenter, how to ensure their audio and video settings are correct, and how to share their presentation materials over the video meeting.

The Best Way to Join Video Meetings

While video meeting programs may support multiple ways to join a meeting, not all methods are created equal. The inequality between join methods is more pronounced when the user is expected to present in the meeting, as the non-ideal join methods often have limited content sharing functionality. To ensure that student presenters have access to the widest array of meeting features, recommend that they join the meeting via the best method. For Microsoft Teams and Zoom, for example, this means downloading the app and logging in with their UWGB accounts. Joining on mobile devices can limit the features that user can access, so recommend that students join the meeting on a desktop or laptop computer (if able).

Audio and Video Settings

If a student has been camera shy and mostly participating in class via text chat, they may not be fully confident that their microphone and camera are properly set up in the software settings. Share resources with your students to help them check and test their device settings.

Screen and Content Sharing

If your presentation assignment involves the sharing of a visual aid, make sure your students know how to use the screen or content sharing features of the video meeting program you are using. Some video meeting programs provide multiple ways to share content with the audience. In both Microsoft Teams Meetings and Zoom, presenters can share content by either sharing their entire screen or uploading presentation files—most commonly PowerPoint presentations—to the meeting. Both of these sharing methods have strengths and weaknesses:

When sharing the entire screen:

  • ✅ Presenters can easily share multiple programs and documents during their presentation by opening different windows on the shared screen. If a student’s presentation has any links they wish to follow during the presentation, sharing their entire screen would be the best strategy for ensuring a smooth transition between presentation slides, website content, and other documents.
  • ❌ Unless the presenting student has multiple monitors hooked up to their computer, sharing the entire screen can leave the presenter blind to raised hands and chat messages as the meeting window will be minimized. A presenter sharing their entire screen may have to delegate chat monitoring duties to another member of their group or defer all questions to dedicated Q&A breaks where they can stop sharing and pull up the meeting window.
  • ❌ For student presenters with aging computer hardware, screen sharing will tax and slow down their computer more than the file upload sharing methods. Screen sharing also requires more internet bandwidth, so student presenters with limited internet connections may have an easier time with the file upload sharing methods.

For group presentations, the presentation may run most smoothly if one member of the group is in charge of sharing all presentation content. The flow of the presentation can be stifled if each individual student needs to start sharing content before beginning their part of the presentation.

Facilitating Rehearsals

Rehearsal is a BIG part of preparing for successful presentations, and, for online presentations, effective rehearsals extend beyond practicing in front of the bathroom mirror or a trusted friend or family member. In addition to rehearsing their presentation content, students should also rehearse working with the technology. It’s important for students to become comfortable with the logistics of sharing their content and navigating raised hands and chat messages before giving their presentation. It is easier to navigate the technology in a rehearsal setting without the pressure of the spotlight and the resulting jitters. A proper tech rehearsal will help students identify and avoid potentially derailing technical snags.

For group presentations, groups should be able to effectively rehearse together as a unit, but you could also consider pairing groups together if you wanted to incorporate peer review into the development of the final presentations. For individual presentations, consider pairing your students with a rehearsal buddy or creating a Canvas discussion for students who need to seek out a rehearsal partner. To facilitate these presentation rehearsals, you will have to help your students find or create virtual rehearsal spaces.

Managing Session Permissions

Video meeting attendees can hold different roles in the meeting, and these roles dictate how much control the user has over the meeting and whether they can share their screen or other presentation content. To ensure your student presentations go smoothly, make sure you understand what each role can do in the meeting and that you understand at least one of the two methods for assigning meeting roles to your students:

  1. You can edit the meeting settings so that students automatically join the meeting with elevated presentation privileges.
  2. During the meeting, you can manually promote individual users to the presenter role.

Audience Engagement Strategies

While presenting online, it is important to think about how to keep your audience engaged through participation opportunities. At the most basic level, this can entail building in Q&A breaks throughout the presentation, but students should give thought as to how they will handle the Q&A. Would they like the audience to type questions in the chat as they come up with them? Would they like the audience to use the raise hand feature to indicate that they have a question? To keep the audience engaged, students should consider spreading Q&A opportunities throughout the presentation instead of leaving all questions for the end. Beyond Q&A breaks, students can use their video meeting’s polling tool to survey audience knowledge and opinions.

Appearing Professional in Online Presentations

It is not uncommon to see the odd student walking down a crowded hallway of campus in business attire, looking like a shining beacon of professionalism adrift among an ocean of sweatpants. It’s a telltale sign: it must be student presentation day! Presenting online over a videoconference can carry the same expectation of formal dress as an in-person presentation (at least from the waist up), but there are a few additional online-presentation-specific tips available in this guide you can give your students to help them present themselves professionally.

Please remember that your students have different living circumstances and remote-work environments, and that an ask for students to remotely present from a professional setting may not be equitable. Express compassion and understanding for those students who may not have control over the environment from which they can attend class and give their presentation.