A Change to the Status Quo

In 2020, Covid-19 forced many companies, including Levvel, to close their physical doors and continue their business virtually. Thankfully, Levvel already had a remote-friendly culture and consequently the change wasn’t as jarring as it was for some companies.

However, one of the biggest challenges facing our design team was learning how to present to our clients virtually while still getting valuable feedback and creating an environment for collaboration and open discussion. Over the last two years, I have been presenting my designs bi-weekly or even weekly to client stakeholders, and I have created a method for virtual presentations that allows for a similar experience to presenting in person. This article will be a guide to all designers with tips and tricks in order to get the most out of your presentation. Let’s get started!

Before Your Presentation

A great presentation begins before you even begin your video call. Take an hour or so beforehand to set up, prepare your designs, and get in the right headspace for your presentation.

Prepare your screens by gathering them in one spot in the file or setting up a prototype.

  • Zooming around a design file while presenting can be disorienting for your audience. Sometimes, when presenting multiple flows, you’ll need to reference screens in different places within the file. An easy way to avoid this is to copy/paste everything you will be presenting to the same spot in your file. I like to line up all the screens for one flow from left to right and have my next flow directly underneath. This helps me to navigate to the next flow easily without having to search for it.
  • Another option is to create a prototype for your flow and show one screen at a time. This looks more professional, but it can be hard to navigate forward and backwards during the discussion. If using a prototype, make sure you also have your working file open in case you need to return to something you’ve already shown, jump ahead, or show something outside of the prototype.
  • Make sure your file is clean and free of any informal comments or notations.
Tips & Tricks

There are a few keyboard shortcuts in Figma that can help you to present your working file. The first keyboard shortcut is Command-Backslash (\) which allows you to temporarily hide the side panels from view. 

The second keyboard shortcut is Command-N which allows you to go to the next screen in the layers panel. If you take a moment to organize the layers panel so that all of your screens are in order, this feature will allow you to jump to the next screen without scrolling to find it.

Decide how to break your presentation into chunks.

  • It will be easier for your audience to digest your presentation if you break it into smaller chunks. Decide how to break up your presentation beforehand. As described later, you will be providing a brief introduction and conclusion to each section to clearly bookend each flow.
  • If presenting multiple flows, it can be helpful to write up a list of talking points and tape it to the side of your computer.

Ask a peer to be the designated note taker.

  • Presenting can be a stressful experience as you navigate to your screen, remember your talking points, facilitate discussion, answer questions, and take notes. I like to lighten the load by asking a fellow designer ahead of time to take notes for me.
  • If it’s not possible to have someone else take notes, see our section below about taking notes while still engaging your audience.

About 15 minutes before, make sure your computer is ready.

  • Take a moment to navigate to the first screen you’re presenting.
  • Close out all other tabs or browser windows to keep your screen uncluttered.
  • Turn off your phone and mute Slack notifications to avoid interruptions.

About 2 minutes before, collect yourself.

  • Do whatever makes you feel empowered. Some of our designers like to stand in the Superman pose (Rosenberg, 2011) for 60 seconds to improve their confidence. Some designers (including myself) take 60 seconds to sit up tall, close their eyes, and take 10 deep breaths to help us relax. Do whatever you need so that you feel prepared and ready to take on this presentation.
  • Join the call early to preview your video. Take a moment to make sure it’s tidy behind you or blur your background.
Tips & Tricks

To preview your video in Zoom, click the small upward facing arrow next to the “Start Video” button in the lower left corner. A menu will appear and you can select the “Video Settings” option which will launch a camera preview. 

Is your camera clean? Is the background acceptable? Is the lighting okay? There’s no spinach in your teeth? Good. Let’s turn on our video by closing out of the preview and clicking “Start Video” in the lower left corner.

During Your Presentation

It’s time! Let’s get started.

Give your audience a summary of what you will cover.

  • Before sharing your screen, introduce yourself and give a summary of what you will be presenting. Make sure to do this before sharing your screen, as your audience will be more likely to pay attention. Audiences can have a hard time listening when there is something new being displayed (Gini, 2018). For maximum focus, wait to share your screen until after your introduction and summary.
  • Give background on the flows you’ll be presenting. When will the user encounter this flow? Which users will be seeing this? Is this a new or existing flow? Are the screens in the flow new or are we reusing existing screens? If you’ve shown this flow before, what has changed since the last time we saw it and why? If this is a new iteration on an existing screen, what improvements have been made?

Let your audience know how to handle their questions.

  • Make sure you tell your audience how to ask their questions. I like to tell my audience that they should feel free to jump in and interrupt me with questions at any point. Other designers on our team request that the audience save their questions for the end of the chunk they’re presenting. Some designers on our team like to walk the audience through the entire prototype without questions and then jump into the working file to go screen by screen with more conversation. Do whatever feels natural for you, but let the audience know what your expectations are.

Always record with Zoom.

  • For me, a presentation can fly by in a blur and remembering specifics of the conversation can be difficult. I always like to record a presentation so that I can review what we’ve discussed and I can improve on my presentation skills. Make sure you let your audience know when you’re about to start recording.

Taking notes while engaging your audience.

  • If you’re unable to find another designer to take notes for you, you’ll have to take notes along the way as well. We’ve all been in a meeting where the call grinds to a halt for an awkward amount of time while the designer hastily scribble down notes in painful silence. To avoid the awkwardness, try to keep your audience engaged as you’re taking notes.
Tips & Tricks

One way to take notes while keeping your audience engaged is to open up a blank Evernote document and type your notes while still sharing your screen so that your audience can see what you’ve written. Keep them short, and at the end, read what you’ve written and ask your audience to confirm that you’ve captured it properly. A bonus is that you can clean up these notes after the meeting is over and share them with the group as well. 

Another way to keep your audience engaged is to leave a comment in Figma while your audience watches. Again, keep it short and read it out loud once you’ve finished asking your audience for confirmation. A benefit to using Figma comments is that you can tag anyone that might need to follow up on that note.


Slooooooooooooooooow dooooooooooooooooown.

  • As a chronic fast-talker myself, I understand how difficult it can be to speak slowly when you’re presenting, especially if you’re nervous. However, try to keep in mind that, even though you’re an expert in your design, your audience is seeing it for the first time. Even though it may feel awkward, slow down your cadence significantly. This allows time for your audience to absorb what you’re saying. Give it a try in your next presentation and re-watch the recording. It will feel strange when you’re presenting, but I bet that it will sound like a normal speed.
  • I like to leave a brief pause after each sentence for my audience to absorb what I’ve said. It also gives audience members a chance to interrupt me with a question.

Count to “5 Mississippi” when asking for questions.

  • At the end of each chunk of your presentation, ask if anyone has any questions. Then count to “5 Mississippi” before continuing.
  • Again, I’m a fast talker myself so waiting for a full “5 Mississippi” feels like a painfully sluggish amount of time, but it will feel normal to your audience. It gives your audience time to digest what you’ve said and format a question. Zoom is also an especially awkward place to speak up in a group, so make sure you’ve given your introverted audience members enough time to ask a question.

Keep your energy up!

  • We’ve all seen presentations where perhaps the content is interesting, but the presenter makes you want to take a nap. Try to keep your presentation professional but still light and energetic so that you don’t lose your audience’s attention.

Use your cursor to direct your audience’s attention.

  • While explaining the features of a screen, use your cursor to direct your audience to exactly what you’re talking about. Explaining a feature verbally is helpful, but using your cursor to show the feature ensures that everybody knows what you’re referring to.
  • When explaining the user’s actions, use your cursor to show the audience exactly where the user will be clicking on the screen.

Zoom into specific screens.

  • Zooming into a screen can be helpful to direct your audience’s attention but also to make sure that the screen is large enough on everybody’s device to see it clearly. There are many different ways that our design team likes to do so.
  • Your first option is to zoom in to a single screen to make sure your audience isn’t looking ahead. It also ensures that the screen you’re showing is large enough.
  • Your second option is to zoom in to show 3 screens at a time so that the audience can see what screen we just reviewed, what screen we’re currently reviewing, and what’s coming up next.
  • Your third option is to use Figma’s prototype function to go through the entire flow without group discussion and then go back to the working file to discuss. Make sure you explain that you’re going through the entire flow at the start of your presentation and then will be going through screen by screen looking for feedback. Give these options a try and pick which one works best for you!
Tips & Tricks

Some of our designers like to explain who the user is and describe the flow as if they are the user. For example, you could say, “The user is likely going to be between 18 and 50 years of age and will be new to using Google Drive. If I’m the user, I will land on the login screen and think, ‘Hmm… I don’t have an account yet, but I see the option to create an account so I will click there.'” 

This can be a helpful tool in making sure your audience is seeing your flow from the user’s perspective.

If presenting multiple flows, start each with an overview and end with a summary.

  • Make sure you bookend each flow with an overview and a summary to make it clear that you’re changing subjects.
  • A good way to do this is to give a brief introduction of what’s coming up. Then, present what you’ve described. At the end, say that you’ve reached the end of the flow and ask for questions. Don’t forget to wait 5-Mississippi!

After Your Presentation

Even after your presentation, make sure you debrief your audience to remind them what you've shown them and clarify what next steps for the team will be.

Give a brief conclusion.

  • Remind the audience what you’ve shown them, touching on each flow you presented.
  • Ask the audience if they have any final questions. Don’t forget to wait 5-Mississippi!
  • Assign any action items that came up and make sure your audience knows who’s doing what.
  • Thank the audience for their time and introduce the next presenter if applicable.

After the call.

  • It may be helpful to send out a Slack message or email summarizing the meeting with the Zoom recording, any applicable links, any key decisions that were made, and action items with their assignees. You can close out this message by inviting your team to reach out with any questions.
  • Last but not least… Relax! You nailed it!

Final Words

Many of us have spent the last several years presenting to our clients in person and Covid-19 has thrown a wrench into our expertise. However, hope is not lost! Give these tips a try in your next virtual presentation, and you’ll get your confidence back in no time.

For some extra help, check out my other article, "The Designer’s Virtual Presentation Checklist" by Elena Aragon, available at levvel.labs.io to make sure you’re covering everything. Good luck!

References

  1. Rosenberg, Robin S. Why You May Want to Stand like a Superhero | Psychology Today. 14 July 2011, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-superheroes/201107/why-you-may-want-stand-superhero.
  2. Beqiri, Gini. “Using Visual Aids during a Presentation or Training Session.” VirtualSpeech, VirtualSpeech, 21 June 2018, https://virtualspeech.com/blog/visual-aids-presentation.