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Remote Presentations - Elements of Success

Philip Lew

Unfortunately, I could not attend the most recent PNSQC Meetup on Agile Politics, so I decided to watch the recording. What I noticed right away was the different angles and distances people used to present themselves. Based on the angle of view of someone's face (left, right, up, and down), and distance, you get a whole different feeling and perspective. Some of the characteristics (certainly not exhaustive but a good start) I noticed included:

  1. Distance from camera
  2. Standing versus sitting
  3. Movement and gesturing
  4. Eye contact and camera positioning
  5. Background

Distance from camera

Many people don’t realize how important this is. You want to create the impression that you are in a meeting. As such, when you talk to someone in a meeting, you don’t have your face (or body) 5 inches away from them. Additionally, if you are too close to the camera, then the top of your head (or maybe your chin:)) may not be visible. When you think of a news broadcaster on television (perhaps this is a paradigm rather than right/wrong, correct, or incorrect ), you can usually see the top half of their body as they sit behind the broadcasting desk.

Standing versus sitting

On the other hand, some people prefer standing which can assist them in their energy levels and dynamism when speaking. However, if you are standing further from the camera, you may veer to the left or right and not in the center of the screen for your viewers. While standing is natural in a live setting, it could be distracting if you move all about during your talk and can be distracting depending on the situation.

Movement and gesturing

By standing further away from the camera, don’t forget that the audience can see all your movements and gestures, some intended and others not! For certain, in this PNSQC meetup: being farther away let his gesturing come out which seemed natural while standing gave him a more energetic feel.

Eye contact and camera positioning

Most people think about this in face-to-face conversations but don’t realize how important it is in virtual or remote situations. Seeing someone constantly looking to the right, left, or up/down rather than looking at the camera can give the impression that they are talking to someone else, not you. On the other hand, when they look down at the camera, you may sense they are looking down at you. One thing to consider is that when you are standing or sitting farther from the camera, it is harder for the viewer to determine if you are looking directly at the camera. Again, think about the news broadcaster, they look directly at you (the camera). Sometimes they look down to view their notes (or for us, a computer screen) but most of the time, they are looking at the camera.


Most remote meeting tools can use different backgrounds. The problem with virtual backgrounds is that they can distort your hair and may make you look like a rock star when you don’t want to be. So test them out and see which one works best for you. If you use a real background, you can also blur it so that’s a consideration. During the pandemic, I bought a screen to put behind me because I thought my background (basically my kitchen window was too bright in addition to being a bit unprofessional and blurring it didn’t work that well). I wanted a more professional setup, but didn’t want a fake bookcase nor did I have a real one! In our meetup, one of the speakers in the meeting had a weird background with a sign in the back and a bed as if he was in a hotel room, or his apartment which could be distracting to some viewers. On the other hand, perhaps that was the intention; to give a casual feel to the meeting? Give it some thought and pick out what is best for you, your context, and your audience (which could change from meeting to meeting).


Although remote meetings started during the pandemic as a way to deal with the situation, they have stuck! And not only are you talking to your family in a casual setting, or having business meetings, but we’re also having formal business presentations. As many of you know, PNSQC uses the virtual environment in its meetups and for the annual conference. While we have limited slots for virtual remote speakers at this year’s conference, we want to provide the optimal experience for all. I was catalyzed to write this post after watching the last meetup recording and have written it to support those who are giving remote presentations. Additionally, I hope that viewers can also be a little more forgiving with the understanding that giving a remote presentation has many other factors for success in addition to content that you may not have thought about.