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How to Address a Large Conference Using Remote Technology

How to Address a Large Conference Using Remote Technology

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By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, American Public University

The coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on nearly everyone in the world. Many employers quickly adjusted to the deadly disease by permitting their employees to work remotely. This shift had many advantages, including no lost time commuting, a better work-life balance, and the ability to apply effective time management and organization skills to improve work processes.

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Over the past several months of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers have taken advantage of new remote technology to improve communication and collaboration among employees. Programs such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom meetings have enabled many workers to share files and collaborate visually.

While this remote technology works well for company meetings, it presents challenges when organizations host conferences that traditionally occur in large venues and include participants from numerous organizations.

A Shift from In-Person Presentation to a Virtual Conference

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, I presented in-person at conferences in the United States and Europe on topics associated with combating human trafficking, effectively managing police stress over a career, counter-narcotics, and law enforcement’s response to domestic terrorism.

One of my favorite conferences is the International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference, which attracts attendees from 40 countries and all 50 states. In September 2019, I presented in person at this conference in Toledo, Ohio, speaking on the topic of human trafficking through the lens of Central America.

The following year, I was again invited to speak at the conference, this time on the problem of human trafficking in Colombia. This presentation was based on my research in country in early 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic struck. I was the guest of INTERPOL and the National Police of Colombia.

However, there was a catch. This year, the conference was going to be fully remote due to the pandemic.

Using Remote Technology to Create and Play a Presentation for This Year’s Conference

My presentation for this year’s conference had to be pre-recorded and would then be played when the audience joined a Zoom conference call at the designated time. Throughout the 45 minutes of my pre-recorded presentation, I had the opportunity to answer audience questions through the Zoom chat feature. Afterward, I had 15 minutes for questions and answers in real time.

While there were several options to prepare for this type of presentation, I followed a strategy that seemed to work well for both the development of my presentation and for the audience. First, I completed a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation with graphics, data and information that I collected while in Colombia doing my research. This portion of the presentation was similar to what I would do for in-person speaking from a memorized script.

However, what made this different was that once the presentation slide deck was complete, I used a PowerPoint feature that enabled me to record a voice overlay as I transitioned through the slides. The feature is located through the Slide Show option in PowerPoint.

If I wished to re-record a particular slide, a very helpful feature allowed me to do so without starting over. The amended slide integrated into the re-recorded presentation seamlessly.

In addition, the feature permitted me to select slide transition times manually while I discussed them by selecting the arrow to the next slide to transition to the next slide. At the end of the presentation, I had the option to stop speaking and have the slides transition through a set speed of 15 seconds per slide to review photos and information.

Zoom’s Chat Feature Allowed Me to Answer Many More Questions during My Presentation

Through Zoom’s chat feature, I was able to answer many more questions during the presentation than I would have had time for in the allotted 15 minutes after the presentation. This technology resulted in further audience engagement.

Utilizing these features allowed me to overcome the challenge of not being able to speak to a large audience in person. At the end of the slide deck and presentation, I personalized my talk by speaking to the audience live from home via a standard laptop camera and microphone.

Feedback from the presentation was positive. While there is no substitute for in-person presentations, this presentation was a way to connect with the audience through remote technology.

About the Author

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor at American Public University. He has been in online higher education since 2009. He has engaged in speaking engagements in the United States, Europe, and Central America on the topic of human trafficking, counter terrorism, police responses to domestic terrorism, and police stress management. Most recently, he presented at the International Human Trafficking Conference in both 2019 and 2020. His expertise includes infrastructure security, maritime security, organized crime, human trafficking, homeland security contraband interdiction, and intelligence gathering.

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