Increase Impact: 6 Ways to Make Your Virtual Presentation Resonate


By Karin McDowell

In the past (nearly) two years, we've all attended our fair share of virtual presentations and roundtables. I've loved seeing the sessions hosted by chapters borne of the interest in a Prospect-L question or comment. Given the fact that virtual sessions provide increased access and accessibility, I hope we continue to see an abundance of them.

Here are a few of the aspects of organizing and presenting I'm taking to be best practices and am sharing with you. What would you add to this list?

1. Think broad: Do you work in higher education? Don't forget about your health care colleagues. Domestic cause-based? International fundraising exists! As someone who has worked in both higher ed and international cause-based organizations, I can say there are many aspects of our work that are similar, and a few things that differ. When possible, raise your sights to see how you can widen the circle and include as many in our profession as is possible.

2. Survey ahead: I attended a round-table hosted by NEDRA, the New England Chapter of Apra, where the organizers sent a brief, five-question survey to gauge what aspects of the topic the participants most wanted to discuss. It was a great, simple and effective way to ensure that valuable time is well spent. As a result, the conversation was lively, relevant, focused and useful.

3. Land acknowledgement: I attended a diversity, equity and inclusion panel discussion at Prospect Development 2019 and was introduced to the concept of a land acknowledgement. Land acknowledgements are a way to “recognize Indigenous Peoples who are the original stewards of the lands on which we now live,” according to the National Museum of the American Indian. They can range from simple and quick to eloquently impactful:

  • Take the time to read a bit more about the whys and hows of an effective land acknowledgement. Through this, reflect on why it is important to acknowledge the land you utilize, and to understand how you fit into the history of the land.
  • When I present virtually, I verbally acknowledge the land my home/office resides on. You could encourage others to look into the land they benefit from, also.
  • Text your zip code to 1-855-917-5263 to learn whose land you inhabit.
  • Don't recreate the wheel! Check with your organization for an existing land acknowledgement.

4. Closed caption: Zoom has the ability to create and display closed captions in real time. Please use them to make your content more accessible. Simple and inclusive!

5. Do more than read your slides: Organizing your thoughts is important. But the benefit of a presentation is learning more than what we could read from a PowerPoint deck. Use brief bullets or an infographic to share the main message, but provide additional, important, relevant commentary to bring color and light to your points.

6. Record and distribute: You know how it goes — you see a great session, you register, put it on your calendar and then your VP calls 13 minutes before it starts with something they need ASAP and you can't make the live presentation. I'm always grateful for recordings that land in my inbox; I’ll throw it onto my calendar and watch at a later date. With time zones and schedules, let's work to make this the norm. 

The Apra PD2022 Conference Planning Committee is working their magic to put together our best-in-class professional development conference, and we all hope to be back together in Atlanta in August, safety permitting. (I miss y'all so much that I'm willing to sweat buckets!) Until we joyfully meet in person, gushing over #ApraFashion and sharing a cup of coffee while debating the latest innovation in our niche, let's continue to improve how we make the most of the virtual spaces we share together.

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