Perfect presentations #5 – setting

In the previous tips we have covered identifying purpose, preparing and practising content and physical delivery but in this final post, the focus is on the location or setting and how to make it work with you, not against you to deliver an impactful presentation.  

Because they have different aspects, the content is divided into physical and virtual. Let’s start with in-person presentation delivery.


1 Where you present from

If you have a presentation, think about where to stand or sit. I’ve often found myself standing at the edge of the screen, blocking the content with my arm as I refer to it or sitting at a table in a group and trying to address the audience and look at the screen. Sound familiar? 

It’s not always easy to choose as the scene might be set for you but, if you have a choice, think about being left or right of the screen so your audience focuses on the content and screen with you there as a supporting element.

Wherever possible, find out in advance where you will be and scope out your options.

If you are presenting without content or it’s material the audience has to hand then position is less of an issue, but remember to engage as much of your audience as you can by moving your eyes across the room/crowd and connecting with people through eye contact.

2 Lighting

Again, there might not be options to work with but, if you can control it, look at the lighting to ensure the audience can see the presentation, that you haven’t got a light bouncing off the top of your head or shining in your eyes. Lighting can be an issue if you wear glasses so, as above, try and see the location in advance and ask a colleague or friend what they see as an audience member.

3 Position and posture

Are you static or a pacer? Arms down or waving around? Last week, in Tip #4 we talked about body and posture so check out the tips there to make sure your body doesn’t fail you. It’s another tool in your toolbox for powerful presentations so make sure you understand it and wield it.

If you’re not sure where to start, watch TED talks and see who is engaging and who isn’t by how they stand, walk about (or don’t) and how they use their bodies and space from which they present.

4 Tech

Do you have your laptop charger? Do you need a connector cable or will it be provided? Will you need to wear or hold a mic? Once you agree to a presentation, start asking questions on the physical location and set up – do not leave this part of the presentation to chance otherwise your finely crafted messages will not be heard and your efforts will be wasted.

Check, recheck and arrive in plenty of time to get acquainted with pointers, screens and plugs.


1 Camera position

How many meetings and presentations by video have you been on in the last two years where the speaker/presenter is looking everywhere but at the camera? It’s very common to see people looking at the image of the other person or people, not realising they aren’t ‘’speaking’ to them directly. It’s even worse to see people hunched over a laptop, looking down into the bottom corner as this impacts posture, breathing and voice (as well as looking a bit daft). See last week’s Tip #4 for more on this.

No.1 rule – ensure your camera is at eye level.

Set up your location with a stand, books or boxes to ensure you can achieve this. Then, think about your distance from the camera because you want to be the focus, not the books on the shelf or the open door behind you. Come closer and you’ll focus your audience.

2 Lighting 

I was speaking to a client last week and they were sitting in front of a window so each time they moved, the light changed from light to dark to light and so on. Light changes throughout the day and I’ve found that light levels vary across platforms so make sure you know what platform you will be presenting from and test it out in advance at the time of day you will be presenting.

I use the IGlasses app to enhance and control the built-in camera on my desktop but it isn’t compatible with every platform so be prepared and experiment to find a good solution. 

For the physical space, make sure you draw curtains and/or turn on lights to provide optimum lighting levels. If you wear glasses, think about reflections too. Test, test, test!

3 Volume/distance to the camera

If you don’t opt for a headset, can the audience hear you? I use an iMac and whilst it is beautiful, the mic is effectively on the back so I’ve found that being headphone-less isn’t a great option for good sound quality. And the headphones with the mic in the cable have a habit of rubbing against what you wear, again, not great for sound quality.

Experiment, set up a mock call with a friend or colleague and ask what they see and hear so you can make adjustments.

4 Background

Two of my favourite incidents over the last year involve background blips. Plus, we’ve seen the news journalists interrupted by their kids! Incident one involved not checking the door was closed before switching on the camera during an interview. Lo and behold, the multi-colour laundry hanging behind them in the bathroom became a bit distracting. 

Even better (or worse, depending on your point of view) was a beautifully poised and prepared presenter being interrupted by audience laughter as their very naked partner strolled across the room behind them. Clearly, both parties assumed the camera aspect was a lot smaller than the whole room angle we all saw. They were wrong. Please check and don’t let it happen to you.

Think about what is behind you. Do you have a plant coming out of the top of your head? Are your souvenirs, photos or books a distraction? Is your drying laundry in view? Again, practise and make adjustments where needed.

A final point for both virtual and physical presentations is about chairs. Big NO – swivel chairs. Never a good idea.

In Tip #4 I talked about posture and how to distribute your weight properly, which all goes out of the window with a swivel chair. It’s so important, it’s worth mentioning again. If you have a swivel chair or they are the only chairs in the meeting room then anchor yourself and don’t swing around. It’s distracting and spoils your flow.

If you’d like help improving your presentation presence and delivery, why not get in touch for a session of career therapy? And please check out the other blogs in this series website link. 

Linkedin Louise Newton
Header image by Patrick Robert Doyle on Unsplash
Mid text photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

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