I replied to a question from a colleague recently on his setup for virtual presentations and training. As part of my answer I shared what I use on my screens when delivering a session. His suggestion was that I share it with everyone because it helped him better understand his options. So that’s what this article is about.
Let me start first by saying that my setup has evolved a lot over the last year since everything moved to virtual delivery from in-person. The different setups I have used reflect my needs, which may be a little different from your needs, but are likely pretty similar.
Here’s what I need in a setup:
- See and share my PowerPoint slides
- See my speaking notes (especially to share my observations on the customized makeovers I share in my sessions)
- Have access to the meeting platform controls and chat, and
- Have access to other programs such as a browser to share different content in the session
- Have good quality audio and video.
Likely not too different to many corporate presenters.
I started by using one large screen, a 40 inch 4K TV. I started with what I had available. I put the webcam on a tripod in front of the screen. I positioned my PowerPoint slides in Reading View (running the slide show in the PowerPoint window) to the right of the webcam. I put my speaking notes PDF document to the left of the webcam on the screen. The meeting platform controls and chat were usually to the left of the notes and the browser to the right of the slides. Here’s what that looked like.
It was a good first setup and I worked with that last summer and early fall. In the fall I started to explore the opportunity of using Presenter View as a way to cut down my prep time for each session. That led to a few iterations and ultimately to my current setup.
I use two screens: 1) a 27 inch Dell 2K screen and 2) a 24 inch Full HD (1920 x 1280) Acer screen. The Acer is a substitute for my 13 inch laptop screen. I don’t use my laptop screen because I can’t easily read the text on the 13 inch screen when I am sharing a browser or spreadsheet (one of the downsides of aging eyes).
The webcam is mounted on top of the 27 inch screen. I set up PowerPoint to use Presenter View and display the slide show on the smaller Acer screen. I share this screen in the meeting platform. Here’s what this looks like.
On the Dell I make the Presenter View window smaller than full screen and position it below the webcam. I have the meeting platform controls usually to the left of the Presenter View window. The browser is to the right of the Presenter View window. There is some overlap but it is easy to know where each window is located.
Here’s what the Dell screen looks like.
The Presenter View window allows me to see my speaking notes along with the current slide and upcoming build/slide. Presenter View combines the slide window and notes window from my first setup. I have discovered the expert techniques in Presenter View that allow me to do more than I could before (see these techniques in this article). When I am looking at the Presenter View window the attendees think I am looking directly at them (as I shared in this article). Having Presenter View as a window gives more screen available for the meeting controls and other apps such as the browser.
When I want to share content from the browser or another program, I just drag that window on to the Acer screen and the attendees see it because I am sharing the screen, not just the Slide Show window. I find dragging content on to the screen is easier than switching what content I am sharing in the meeting platform.
I can easily keep track of the meeting chat if I need to and drop links in the chat to make it easy for attendees to access polls, exercises, and related content links. I can see the small video panel that includes my video to make sure any gestures can be seen in the video frame. And I can see the meeting controls and use them when needed.
Because someone will ask, I use a Logitech C920 webcam for my audio and video. I list all the equipment I use and recommend here.
Notice something about my setup. Other than a standard external webcam and my screens, no additional hardware or software is used. I need to show my corporate course participants what they can do with the locked down laptop they have from work. My setup isn’t high-end, but it delivers a high-quality experience for the attendees and is practical and possible for almost every business professional.
I have been using this setup for about five months now and it is working very well. If you’ve been using a certain setup for your virtual presentations, consider if there is something in my setup that you might be able to adapt to improve your current setup.
Last update: March 2, 2021
Dave Paradi has over twenty years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written nine books and over 100 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 less than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel and PowerPoint communities. He regularly presents highly rated sessions at national and regional conferences of financial professionals.