In this age of technology, one of the most common and effective ways to speak to your audience is virtual. There are many methods for hosting and online presentation whether it is through a Facebook Live, a YouTube video, a webinar, or even in video lessons.
However, how well you can reach your audience depends on how you manage your virtual sessions.
Understanding how to keep your audience engaged, and working with the challenges of the medium and the technology, requires some strategic but necessary adjustments in the design and delivery of your online presence. Be sure to find the right conference app for presenting as well.
Here are 10 ways to ensure your audience keeps their eyes on your web presentation, and off of their email.
Online Presentation ## Increase your visibility.
Many presenters complain that they can’t see their audience. But the bigger problem is that (most of the time) they can’t see you. There are few things as compelling to other humans as the human face.
A classic study by Richard Fantz, which revealed that infants stared twice as long at simplified human faces than shapes, indicates our fascination is hard-wired. Add to that the fact that over 90% of how we communicate is through nonverbal cues like gestures and facial expressions, and you start to get a picture of what a disadvantage being simply a faceless voice to your audience is!
Obviously the easiest and most effective way to increase your visibility is to use a webcam. Despite this quick fix, I’ve found that a surprisingly small percentage of business presenters take advantage of this. (I’ve even gone to Fortune 500 companies where the entire sales team has tape over their webcam…just in case they accidentally turn it on!)
If you’re one of those camera shy individuals, at least have a simple slide with your photo and credentials on it which you can show when you open and close, as well as during Q&A. The more you can make yourself visible — and not just a disembodied voice — the more engaged your audience will be.
Online Presentation ## Leverage your voice.
When you remove the physical component from your presentation, your voice carries a much larger load. A monotone, unclear or hard-to-hear voice is magnified in the virtual world. As your primary communication tool, you need to make sure you are in your best possible voice.
Start by recording yourself and analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, then get to work. There is plenty of advice online about how to improve various vocal issues. At the least, do some simple warm-ups before your presentation. Just like a great vocal artist, your money is where your mouth is, so don’t treat it lightly.
Online Presentation ## Embrace the pause.
Under the cover of invisibility, online audiences can be a very passive lot. As a result, presenters have a tendency to go into long monologues that only further discourage participation and encourage tune-out. Make friends with the pause.
It can be a great tool for giving your audience a chance to process what you’ve said, ask a question, or make a comment. There are other strategic uses for the pause as well. A pause before revealing something important can build anticipation, while one at the end of a sentence can reinforce a key point.
Online Presentation ## Start on time.
Nothing is more irritating than sitting online waiting for a meeting to start because one or two people didn’t show up. Some online tools have calendaring features that can help make sure everyone gets there on time and knows the topic. If people do show up late, go ahead and get started so you don’t inconvenience the others. Late people can use the software to watch a recording later.
Online Presentation ## Plan interaction.
In order to keep your audience engaged, you need to build some interaction with your presentation. With the average focused attention span of humans hovering around 5 minutes, sporadic attempts at interaction are not going to cut it.
If you set an hour for the presentation, at least 15 minutes should be used for questions and discussion. You can review any written questions that were left unanswered and allow for discussion amongst the team. Don’t let the questions drone on or get redundant. Manage the session kindly, with purpose and authority.
Whatever you choose, just make sure you plan and prepare ahead of time so interaction doesn’t fall by the wayside with everything else you have to keep track of.
Visually reinforce key points.
You can get away with using fewer slides during an in-person presentation because it’s easier to gauge your audience’s comprehension by their expressions or body language.
Places where you would naturally stop often get overlooked as on-line presenters mistake audience silence for understanding.
To make sure you don’t leave your audience in the dust of confusion, prepare a summary slide with key points covered after each section and stop to recap and take questions.
Online Presentation ## Create word pictures.
In a virtual presentation your words have to work even harder than in a live presentation. Think about creating pictures with your words.
For instance, when describing something use words that engage the senses. (e.g., “it looks like a sunset,” or “it feels like a piece of crushed velvet.”) Be specific and avoid broad generalities. (e.g., “it weighs 510 pounds” as opposed to “it’s really big.”)
Use personal stories or interesting comparisons. Listen to how your favorite podcasters use their voice and descriptive words to draw you in.
Online Presentation ## Simplify your slides.
Have you ever decided not to watch a movie on that little airplane screen because it would be too hard to follow? The same holds true for a web presentation.
Since you have no idea what size screen your audience is viewing your presentation on (or what their connection is like), design your slides to work well on a smaller screen. Small screens can multiply already busy graphics. Animations can appear jerky or out of sync with your talk track.
Keep your graphics simple and crisp and limit your animations to simple fades and transitions and you can avoid alienating any audience members.
Slides with lots of text are confusing and hard to read. Worse, people won’t remember much of what’s on them. Use your slides as brief reminders of the topic. Use a simple headline and three or four bullet points to support the main takeaway. Later, your team can go back and review the presentation and the brief slides will act as simple reminders.
Online Presentation ## Use purposeful movement
There is an area of the brain called the Limbic System that is highly sensitive to movement. This was probably meant to keep us safe from dinosaurs, but what this means for today’s presenters is that any onscreen movement will draw your viewers’ eyes. This has its pluses and minuses.
Purposeful movement, i.e., changing slides or using your web tools to guide your audience’s eyes to different areas on screen works in you favor. Random or chaotic movement, i.e., jerky animations, a racing mouse, or rapid transitions work against you. Wield the power of movement purposefully and wisely.
End the party on time.
While this applies to in-person presentations as well, ending on time plays even greater importance in a web presentation where it’s easy for people to drop off or tune out. Make it very clear upfront that you plan to stop at a specific time. When that designated time arrives, deliver your closing and take any additional questions off-line or schedule another call.
Keeping your virtual audience engaged is no small task. Understanding where and how you are at risk for tune out and making some adjustments in your presentation will help you achieve your goal and keep you from talking to yourself.
Keep your audience fully awake during your online presentation by not only applying these expert tips but also using the right tools to deliver it. The last thing you want is to botch your presentation because your attendees are busy downloading bulky software and can’t get on the same page as you.
One way to prevent these kinds of technical problems is to use a browser-based tool like Visme that allows you to share a URL and conduct your presentation online. Another advantage is that you have plenty of graphic and animation tools at your disposal to increase the visual interest of your slide deck. You can try it for free here.
And if you have any questions or tips on how to keep your online audience from multitasking during your presentation, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line in the comments section below!