Public speaking via zoom
I recently presented at my first ‘zoom conference’.
I was presenting a research paper based on some of the early findings from my PhD research to a group of other Higher Degree by Research (HDR – it just means PhD) students from around Australia.
Interestingly, I actually found the process much less nerve-wracking then speaking in front of people physically. I think being able to control my environment meant that I didn’t fret over the usual unknowns as to the physical lay-out of a presentation.
The biggest challenge I found was in adjusting to the lack of feedback throughout the speech. When presenting in front of people physically, I, mostly subconsciously, repeatedly scan the room for cues in the attendees’ body language or facial expression in order to ensure I have their attention, and that they are following along with what I am saying. This just isn’t really possible over zoom, where you just can’t see everyone in attendance, but even for those few you can see while presenting, it is much harder to make out their level of engagement with just a tightly cropped (and often pixelated) shot of their head!
I think, as with all things, with time and practice I could improve my zoom presenting performance. I think it’s a matter of feeling comfortable enough with the topic to not really require notes, which are particularly difficult to rely on via zoom as you can’t make up for a lack of eye contact with engaging body language.
It was somewhat comforting to note that most other speakers appeared to be still adjusting to the new presenting format, so I an optimistic I can conquer it, particularly as video-conferencing comes to form an even greater part of our professional and academic lives.