Presentation Tips with Keynote Speaker, Blaire Palmer – DESK SET UP…

Blaire Palmer is a keynote speaker and a world authority on leadership and the future of work. A former BBC Journalist, she shares her insights from 20 years of coaching and provoking leadership teams with conference audiences all over the world.


I know people might think a clean desk equals a clean mind, but from my experience it’s actually just the opposite…

When I’m presenting online, I want everything I might need within immediate reach. Even though, that likely leads to a desk that looks a little cluttered… but I mean, no one is going to see it anyways! (perks of an online presentation). As long as whatever’s within the camera range looks smart and professional, your desk can be less ordered.

Presentation Tips with Keynote Speaker, Blaire Palmer – #2: Desk Set Up

Blaire Palmer is a keynote speaker and a world authority on leadership and the future of work. A former BBC Journalist, she shares her insights from 20 years…

So, here’s a list of all my must-have desk items:

1. Make up

You’ll only know how you look on camera once the camera goes on. This applies as much to men as it does to women – you may need some make up. The lighting is going to highlight every blemish. And people are going to be looking at you intently, noticing things they wouldn’t normally notice. You don’t need to look like a movie star or anything, but using some concealer for eye bags and covering spots is good practice. I like to have my make up right next to me so I can do a quick touch up once my camera is on and I notice any blemishes that didn’t show up in the bathroom mirror.

2. Lights

I use a Hakutatz 13″ Continuous LED Ring Light with Stand and a Vevice 10” dimmable ring light which comes with a full height tripod (this one is similar). As I’ve said previously, lights are worth the small investment as you’ll look much more professional and, well, healthy if you are lit correctly. Experiment with where to position the lights so you look bright and awake and clear to your audience.

And check out my last post in this blog series here, which details everything you need to know about getting your lighting set up just right.

3. Laptop stand

I use a pile of books for my laptop as I’ve found the exact right height combo. However by all means invest in an adjustable stand if you’d prefer. Bottom line is though, you don’t need a super-fancy, expensive kit, especially if you’re only speaking occasionally.

4. Wired internet

However, it is essential that your internet connection is reliable though… so opt for a wired connection. Wi-Fi and even the 4G from your phone can be very strong but all Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections are unstable. If you want to ensure you won’t drop out or go pixilated, connect directly to the wall.

5. Mic

I use a Blue Yeti mic, which means I can adjust my own volume and how ‘directional’ the sound is. This can help cut out background noise and give my voice a nice resonance. A good rule of thumb though, is to rehearse with your technology and experiment with different settings to get the right sound, before you go live.

6. USB adapter and other adapters

My Macbook Air only has 2 USB ports and a lightening port so I use a USB adapter with 4 extra ports and an Ethernet adapter for my wired internet. Until you’ve attempted to plug everything in and do a test run you might not notice that you are short of ports or missing a vital adapter. Another argument for a thorough technical rehearsal.   

7. Drinks

Not gin and tonic! (That’s for after…) But a cup of tea or coffee and some water is always useful. You’re unlikely to drink while you’re speaking, but if you’re attending a long conference and only speaking for part of the event, I suspect you’ll need some caffeine or water to keep you going.

8. Script and notes

Of course, you’ll need your notes. This might include the event running order, your script or prompt cards, any research or data you might need handy, and important contact numbers for other people involved in the event like those on the technical side, the event producer and any other speakers.

9. Switch off all dings and pings

I keep my phone on my desk just because it’s how my producer communicates with me. However, every alert on my phone is OFF – I have Do Not Disturb on calls and all WhatsApp chats are muted (except the one the event producer is using to connect with me when we’re live). I close my email and my diary alerts, and only have apps open that I may need during the event itself. Other than that, everything on my phone is silent…

But it’s not enough to just silence your phone notifications, you need to make sure there are no distractions in your environment as well. I like to present from a dedicated studio or at least have someone else around to answer the door and keep the dogs quiet.

In short, you need to become hyper-aware of sounds and address all potential distractions before you go live.

Being an engaging speaker isn’t only about what you say. In fact, it’s hardly about that at all (although I will share plenty of tips for writing engaging speeches in the future). It’s the little touches that differentiate a professional keynote speaker from an amateur, things an audience don’t consciously notice but that give them a sense that they are in safe hands. As a leader in your organization or industry you want to generate this kind of presence so taking care of the little things matter.


Blaire Palmer is a speaker mentor. Reach out to us if you’d like her advice or help on how you and your speakers can give presentations that inspire and engage your online audience.c

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