08 Oct 2020 | Research & Business Knowledge

Recently Chris posted this question on the ICG egroup:

“As a sort of companion piece to the recent post about the pros and cons of online groups – I’m now facing the prospect of my first full Zoom/Teams presentation (with another ICG-er). 

The presentation is potentially long – the project as a whole comprised qual, quant, and a conjoint exercise – and I am concerned about how to keep interest levels up with a remote audience (knowing how easy it is to switch off mentally if not physically when you’re looking at a screen). I’ll be sharing the presentation with my ICG colleague and another person, so there will be variation of presenting style/voices etc. at least – but does anyone have any top tips on how to secure engagement/interest? (Goes without saying of course, the project is v interesting and we’ve got lots of fantastically useful outputs – but it’s the ‘not being in the same room’ bit that’s making me feel a bit anxious.)”

Chris has helpfully compiled the following tips given to her by members.


  • No consensus on how long is too long (our presentation was theoretically 1.5 hours but actually ran to over two – for good reasons!)
  • But if you end up with “a monster”, then “a comfort break halfway through could be suggested upfront (ie. with your specific client) – it might be appreciated and would give everyone a chance to check emails / go to the loo so they don’t just switch off and do those things as you’re going through!”

Process (which will of course need to be agreed with the client)

  • Ideally ask everyone to keep cameras on, if bandwidth isn’t a problem/the client is OK with that. If that is not possible then audio is next best thing (if you’re not getting echo or other technical problems) but is less of a guarantee of audiences paying attention than video is.
  • Politely ask people to shut down second screens.
  • Set rules about the chat function  – “I’ve had some people use that rather than interrupt, which can be helpful if you have a way of dealing with it mid-flow, or really distracting if you don’t…”
  • Regularly flip between sharing screen and talking to camera, “screen sharing can be very dull after a short while.”
  • Ask people to save questions for end of a section but not right at the end, “This avoids being constantly interrupted, but also means people are expected to contribute at certain intervals.”
  • “You could have some questions prepared to ask them…eg. how close is this to what you expected, what would you have expected to see differently, what does this mean for the business do you think, etc. That way people feel more included, but also it will mean they will potentially listen more closely if they think they have to take part in a discussion at some point.”
  • “Mentally breaking anything down into smaller components works wonders for keeping people’s attention, so it is probably worth saying up front that there are X number of sections and each will take X amount of time, so you manage expectations and people aren’t sat there thinking god, how much longer 😉 “
  • Ultimately – just as with a face-to-face presentation- the most effective key to engagement may simply be how heavily invested the audience is in the results. 


“Beware of video or audio clips- make sure you check they work (with the sound, which is usually the problem) in advance – that ‘audio permitted’ box is quite hidden for shared content in Teams and in Zoom  (bottom left hand side of the share content element usually – and disappears too quickly, especially in Teams).  Test it in advance with a colleague, or your immediate insight contact.  They want to look good too.”


“Otherwise it’s all the normal good presentation stuff – don’t read the slides, keep the slides clean colourful and relevant, tell a story, focus the slides (and hide a lot), bring in lots of extra insight and illustrations from the research in your voice over and so forth.  Maybe add some polls and some other interactive exercises if the content permits. Several presenters should help too, as long as the story flows nicely.”

An unexpected plus

“I would also offer some encouragement. I have found that, particularly with senior teams, there is less of the boardroom sparring (i.e. asking a question just to show to the CEO that you’re smarter than the last person who asked a question….) and they do genuinely listen and wait until the end for questions.”

If all else fails…

This piece of wisdom from a person whose anonymity I am protecting…remember that a glass of white wine in the right glass looks like a glass of water on a video link ????

With many thanks to those who contributed to this and whose comments I’ve quoted above, all of whom I hope I thanked individually:

Chrissie Rogowska

Richard Smith

Kath Coles

Jill Elston

Sue Diamond

Nick Bonney

Liz Montgomery.

Chris Brookes MBA, CMRS 

Start-Up Research Limited



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