How to participate in a conference via digital technology

Professor Victoria Haskins of the Centre for 21st Century Humanities and PURAI – Global Indigenous and Diaspora Research Studies Centre virtually attended and delivered a presentation on her research at the Seventeenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities. The conference is the biggest and one of the most influential women’s history conferences in the world and was held at Hofstra University, Hampstead, New York.

Professor Haskins was invited to speak on ‘Confronting Domesticity: New Global Histories of Home and Family,’ as part of a roundtable of panelists to an audience of historians of women and gender. However due to time and funding constraints Professor Haskins was unable to attend in person. Instead she pre-recorded her presentation, which was shown during the conference session and then used Skype to join in the roundtable discussion and take audience questions.

As this was the first time she was to participate in a conference from afar, Professor Haskins sought assistance from Luke Boulton from the UON Blended and Online Learning (BOLD) Lab.

“A couple of weeks before the actual conference, I went to the lab and pre-recorded a five-minute summary of my paper. Luke transformed the talk into a YouTube podcast, and I then forwarded it to one of my co-panelists as well as the IT support technician at Hofstra who organised for it to be shown at the appropriate time during the session,” Professor Haskins said.

Professor Haskins said the session itself went off without a hitch.

“I was able to see and hear everybody quite clearly via Skype (noises in the room were amplified which was somewhat difficult) and everybody could hear me when I spoke. The pre-recorded YouTube clip was presented on screen and apparently presented well. In the question time afterwards, several questions were directed to me and I was able to respond. Two colleagues who were in the room told me the session was very successful and my presentation worked well.

Professor Haskins also received some encouraging engagement via email after the session from a US post-grad who attended.

“I doubt I would have got such an engagement if I had simply sent my paper through to be read by someone else, again confirming that the virtual presentation style is a viable alternative to physical presence as a way of reaching audiences and disseminating research.”

In doing this exercise for the first time Professor Haskins I learnt:

  • A pre-recorded talk requires a particular style of delivery that is a little different from a face-to-face presentation. “For me, doing this for the first time, it took me almost an hour to get a 5-minute recording I was happy with,” Professor Haskins said;
  • A ‘rehearsal’ in advance to check the technology is ideal, and provides the opportunity to work out what will work best;
  • A pre-recorded talk plus interactive participation in real time is preferable to just providing one or the other. “The pre-recorded talk, suggested by the conference organisers, was certainly a good way of ensuring that I managed to deliver my paper reasonably effectively;”
  • Although such virtual participation works as a viable alternative to actual participation, it is considerably less satisfactory because:
  1. Your own engagement with the audience and co-presenters is hampered by imperfect audio and vision, i.e. it is difficult to know quite when to speak and how you are coming across; it is sometimes difficult to hear people due to other noises in the room.
  2. You miss the opportunities for networking and collaboration during the rest of the conference, and for hearing the new work of others.”

Tips for pre-recording conference presentations

Content

  • Start with the ‘big picture;’
  • Break talk into points needed to be covered;
  • Add ‘activities’ at the end for audience (i.e. ask questions, ask for critical thinking);

Delivery

  • Be much more animated than you would normally be;
  • Change voice tone frequently;
  • Move hands, have them visible occasionally in frame;
  • Move eyes as if you were looking around an actual room, rather than staring fixedly at the camera;

Review

  • Does this video communicate what I want it to communicate?

 

You may notice posts to this blog slow down in the coming months. Rest assured, existing content will remain here and we have every intention of recommencing posts when the circumstances are right.

Thanks everyone,

Jarrod

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