Presenting 101

Table of Contents:


A mantra I’ve always followed is that if a certain problem has come up twice, you probably need to write the solution down somewhere. Scripta manent, as they say.

After delivering a few conference talks in the age of the pandemic, I found myself bumping over the same challenges again and again. While at the same time, I can recall being asked at least twice about the software I used or how to approach the overall workflow. This short article will therefore serve as a braindump of all the tips and tricks worth noting, to skip the hustle next time or maybe help others figure their way out.

The aim is to keep this doc maintained with any lessons learned along the way, so make sure to check back every now and then.

Step 0 - Work out the content

Obviously, you first need to come up with the actual content you’ll talk about. You can tell the story in many ways:

  • Historically, following the “initially - evolution - resolution - future” path
  • General-to-Special, with increasing amount of detail

If you have no research README or any report, create an empty Markdown doc and jot down everything relevant.

Don’t bother structuring it just yet, it will start taking shape as the pieces of the puzzle are slotted in. For now just brainstorm freely

Include all possible Images that could shape slides / PoCs in image or video format / simple bullet points or numbered lists / code locations / References etc

Step 1 - Spread it onto a slide deck

This step is about going from a single document, to a slide deck.

  • First, pick the platform:

    1. Office PowerPoint
      • Free online version ( : limited functionality
      • O365 version: Fully fledged, available offline, 30day trial available! Just set reminder before expiry to avoid charges
    2. Google Slides ( : online-only, portable, free
  • Craft the theme / palette (if no corp guidelines exist)

    Again, this doesn’t have to be fully decided from the get-go. Start with something, get feedback from people throughout the Steps, and finalise it at about 70% of the road.

    For the theme, a nice base is Google Slides’s “Portfolio theme”. Use Slide -> Edit Theme -> Colors to globally apply palette

    For the color palette, my own go-to (website / CV / BSides Athens 2022 talk) consists of:

    • Background: / ▯
    • Fonts: █ main - / titles
    • But don’t get locked in, freely-color titles of image-only slides according to image’s colors!
  • Structure it: If possible, use sections (Powerpoint feature), with a common section-start slide style introducing each.

    And these can form the “Outline” slide…

    Basic skeleton:

    1. Title slide (+subtitle, name, company, conf, date)
    2. “whoami” slide (+your avatar)
    3. Outline (from sections - all bullets at once/appear-on-click)
    4. Section X
    5. …slides…
    6. Section Y
    7. …slides…
    8. Summary (or Key Takeaways / Tips)
    9. Credits slide
    10. “Thank you” slide (+”questions?’, conf logo, a silly Outro image)

Step 2 - Rehearse & Record

Now you need to narrate these slides in front of a mic and/or camera. Some tips for this:

  • Narrate it mentally slide-by-slide, and fill the presenter notes following some rules like:
    • New bullet for each animation action
    • New line for each sentence
    • bolding words that will be emphasized
    • don’t repeat the slide’s text
  • Rotate sentence starters like ‘So, …” / “Right, …” / “Ok, ….” / “Moving on, …” etc.
  • Try to ask the relevant question before getting to the content e.g. “What about defences though?”
  • Grammar: Use 1st-person plural when possible and present/future tenses (“we can see” / “we’ll discuss”)
  • Practice at least once, start-to-end, before hitting the Rec button
  • Record it. Assuming we don’t mind including camera feed:
    1. Connect a 2nd screen
    2. Switch to Presenter mode e.g. with slides in screen1 and speaker notes (and recording options) in screen2
    3. Use VSDC Free Screen Recorder, but the latest version for Windows!
    4. Just repeat any slides you’ve stumbled, as the first failed attempt will be edited-out later

Step 3 - Audiovisual Editing

At this stage you have a large video file with the recording sitting at your disk, Unless you’re a natural, this most likely at least includes double/triple takes that need to be cut out. Additionally, I like to remove the fan noise as much as possible, if I’m using the most basic (Laptop & built-in mic) recording setup.

There are multiple options when it comes to Software, to achieve these goals:

  • [VSDC] VSDC Free Video Editor (Free version)

    :heavy_plus_sign: Pros: Includes Audio Effects like noise-reduction but…

    :heavy_minus_sign: …they’re not so friendly for an amateur to use

  • [NCH] NCH VideoPad Video Editor (Pro -> 30day free Trial)

    :heavy_plus_sign: Pros: Displays an audio waveform, which is very helpful in identifying the words you need to remove

    :heavy_plus_sign: Audio effects are easy to apply and have solid documentation (keep reading)

Having described the software necessary, let’s see how we can overcome the Common Problems using it

  • Blurring (moving) sensitive info shown on-screen

    • [VSDC] use the “Delogo” Video effect - Tutorial!
  • Removing whole segments of bad takes or silence, if we’re pressed for time

    • [VSDC] Use the razor icon

    • [NCH] Hit “L”

  • Fixing slide+audio sync issues

    • [NCH]
      1. First “Unlink” video and audio
      2. Bookmark locations that the changes should occur / falsely occur
      3. Slice video/audio clips
      4. Take screenshots of slide in presenter mode / Record slide with GIF
      5. Add screenshot/mini-video to “Media Bin”
      6. Insert screenshot/mini-video in the “Sequence”
      7. And Drag & Drop parts accordingly
      8. Don’t “Re-size” these clips! Undesired and undefined and behavior!
  • Background noise reduction (laptop fan)

    • [VSDC] Tutorial!

    • [NCH] WavePad Sound Editor > Free version

      1. Load the video file and it will prompt you to load the audio track

      2. Effects > Cleanup > Noise Reduction - Tutorial!

        If this results in “clipping” (red lines), Normalize the stream as well

      3. Export Audio track and re-insert in the Video e.g. using [NCH] Videopad

    • [Audacity] Tutorial

  • Remove “Click” sound

    Although this one sounds like a good idea, I’ve never actually managed to make it right.

    Therefore I will leave this space blank until the next time I decide to give it a go, and hopefully fill it with the right solution.

And that’s about it! If the content here has somehow helped you, don’t hesitate to give it a shout on the socials!

Happy presenting!