Take your virtual presentations to the next level: Use your desktop as a canvas when presenting in Teams or Zoom

The presentation landscape has changed for good. The days of presenters standing in a meeting room speaking to a room of colleagues is not going to be the reality for the foreseeable future. Virtual presentations in Microsoft Teams and Zoom are here to stay and they offer us a new approach that allows a much richer experience for our audience: using our desktop as a canvas.

The presentation paradigm has changed

Presenting to an audience in a room meant standing at the front with our laptop connected to the projector or screen. We weren’t close to the laptop so we used a presentation remote to advance the slides. The laptop was on a desk, so if we wanted to reach the keyboard, we had to walk over and bend down. Because this was so inconvenient, we relied on just using full-screen slides to present.

Those restrictions have gone away. With virtual presentations we are sitting in front of our laptops. The keyboard is easy to reach and we can use it if we want. This opens up the opportunity to use more than just full-screen slides in a Teams or Zoom meeting.

Create a Desktop canvas

Consider your desktop as a canvas that you can use to share content with your audience. Move content on or off as you need to. Keep the audience engaged by using not only slides, but web content, images, spreadsheets, and so much more.

Start by creating a clean desktop. Hide all the desktop icons that cause it to look cluttered. Hide the taskbar or Dock. And set the background color to black. Now you have a clean slate to start with.

Consider using a virtual desktop. In both Windows and Mac you can create multiple desktops and decide which apps will appear on each one. Set up a desktop that will just be used to present. This allows you to keep your email or others apps open on another desktop, allowing you to switch desktops to check something during the presentation without the audience seeing it.

The new approach to sharing content

The foundation of the canvas should be your video feed. Don’t use the camera sharing in Teams or Zoom. Share a video feed by using the camera app in the operating system. This gives you control of where you place it on the canvas and how big it is.

Bring other content on or off the screen as needed. Run each app in its own window, not full screen so that your video is always on the screen. Use the dark mode of each app if it is available so that it blends better with the black background.

Have more than one window open. Don’t restrict yourself to just one type of content if you can make the experience for the audience richer. Layer windows on top of one another if you want to. Place your video on top of a background image for a custom branded look.

Share content that the audience can interact with using their phones, such as polls they can take by scanning a QR code you display on the screen. Be creative and go beyond what presenters have done in the past. It will be so much better for your audience.

Next-level virtual presentations

This is what next-level virtual presentations look like.


By Dave Paradi

Dave Paradi has over twenty-two years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written ten books and over 600 articles on the topic of effective presentations and his ideas have appeared in publications around the world. His focus is on helping corporate professionals visually communicate the messages in their data so they don't overwhelm and confuse executives. Dave is one of fewer than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams communities. His articles and videos on virtual presenting have been viewed over 4.8 million times and liked over 17,000 times on YouTube.