Over at erinstellato.com there is a great post this week about tips for new presenters. Ms. Stellato suggests, insightfully, that we record ourselves, which is really a fantastic piece of advice. What’s extra-cool is that today you don’t need any special equipment or expensive software to do just that. This week I “filmed” two run-throughs of my talk for SQL Saturday tomorrow. For me, the timing is the hardest thing – figuring out how much content I can really present in the time allowed without going way over, and how much time each demo or module should take – and filming myself was a great way to zero in on that.
What You Need
Getting over feeling awkward is the hard part. The tech is super simple:
- A laptop with a bezel camera (or a desktop and web cam)
- Free screen recording software. I use Microsoft Expression Encoder 4, mainly for the price point ($0)
- Simple webcam software. Here I use Lync’s video conferencing window without a call. It’s also possible to use something like WebcamViewer. (The fact that this function is missing from out-of-the-box Windows 7 is a major blunder IMO.)
First, start an Expression Encoder session of the type “live broadcasting project.” In Encoder, add the screen as a live source, and if you have more than one monitor, choose the one where your presentation will run. Set the audio source to your laptop’s mic.
Next, on the Encode tab, boost the resolution of the video output to something legible like 1024 x 768. We are not going for quality here, but it has to be good enough for you to evaluate yourself.
Set the Output tab to go to File Archive and choose an output folder for the video files.
Now set up the display for your presentation. If you are using PowerPoint, fire that up. Set up your demos.
Start ZoomIt. You do have ZoomIt, right? If not, stop now and go get ZoomIt. I’ll wait.
(It’s vital to practice setting up the presentation, surprisingly, because at the start of one you’ll be nervous, and fumbling with tech in an unfamiliar place, in front of people, and with a new and probably dicey projector to deal with. Its easy to miss something.)
Finally, start the web cam working and put it right on the screen with your presentation (bottom right corner works well). It helps if your camera viewer has a “keep on top” option.
Presenter, Record Thyself
That’s basically it. Start the Encoder, and pretend you are presenting to someone on Skype. Or your mom. Or the Greater Moose Factory Ontario virtual chapter of PASS. Whatever makes you feel less ridiculous. That awkward feeling lasts about ten minutes, and then you are just presenting away.