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How to Deliver Better Zoom Presentations Using Virtual Backgrounds

Raise your hand if you’ve had to make a presentation using Zoom recently.

When Paul Kurchina, asked me to do a presentation for his recent video series – Personal Re-Invention: How to Upgrade your Internal Operating System – he also suggested that I consider displaying my slides as virtual backgrounds in Zoom, the way Gerd Leonhard did in recent presentations.

So, I gave it a try and it worked pretty well. Instead of running my Powerpoint presentation on my computer and then sharing my screen, I ran my slides as virtual backgrounds on Zoom so my face appeared right on the screen along with the slides.

Here’s a quick rundown of how I did it – and how you can do it too!

First, get a green screen.

You really need a good green screen to make this look professional. Zoom software offers virtual background functionality without a green screen, but the software isn’t as clean as when you use a green screen. Green screens aren’t terribly expensive – mine was a professional quality and it was under CAD $100.

Then, you click the down arrow next to the Video button, select Virtual Backgrounds and check “I have a green screen.” Select the green screen colour with your mouse and your slides display cleanly behind your image.

Make sure to design your slides using two-thirds of the screen.

Pick a side on which you want your image to appear and design your slides so that the content displays on the other two-thirds of the screen. Virtual backgrounds can be images or videos, so you can get creative with your presentation slides. To keep it simpler, I used images only.

Then, export your slides as JPEGs.

I usually create my slide decks in Powerpoint, but work with whatever platform you prefer. When you’re done composing your slides, you will need to save them all as JPEG images. In Powerpoint, this is as simple as choosing Export then selecting JPEG as the file format. You will need to click the checkbox to export all slides.

Now, you’re ready to import your slides into Zoom’s Virtual Backgrounds.

Now, here is where it can get a bit tricky.

Powerpoint saves the JPEG file names as “image” plus a number. Obviously, you want your slides to be uploaded in the order in which you want them displayed. Be sure to order the slides by file name before you upload them to Zoom, otherwise they may be uploaded in the wrong order. Once they are uploaded to Zoom as virtual backgrounds you cannot drag and drop them into the right order (as this functionality was not likely foreseen by Zoom).

When they are uploaded in the right order, you can select the virtual background functionality and pick your presentation cover slide to start, then use the cursor to move forward (or back) to display your slides, as required. Again, if the slides are not ordered properly when you upload them, just delete them from the virtual background areas on Zoom and re-order and upload them.

Finally, position yourself to see your head, shoulders and upper torso.

You can stand or sit to present, depending on your preference and your desk set-up. In my case, I felt it looked better to be a bit farther away from the camera. That created a strange dilemma because I was unable to reach the desk where the mouse was in order to advance the slides properly. I thought I was so clever when I downloaded an iPhone remote app that allowed me to click my computer cursor forward using my phone. But, technology being technology, it didn’t work on the presentation day as it had worked on the trial run the day before. So, I had to sit a bit closer than I would have liked.

All of this takes a bit of fiddling to get it right, but the resulting presentation delivery is more impactful than the traditional slide deck on a shared screen with your voiceover.

Just remember to smile and look into the camera and make eye contact with the people you cannot see. After you do it a few times, it will become more natural. I’m still working on it. 🙂

Now, go forth and make your next Zoom presentation awesome!

Note: You can view my full presentation, (Re-)Building Your Most Important Business Asset: Your Social Network, on Vimeo. Jump to 30:47 for the start of the presentation.

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