Remember those days where you could stare into the audience to see if
what you are saying was making an impact or even stare at a few people
to see if they are paying attention.
Maybe that last bit is just me.
With more of us just speaking to our laptop and hoping that the
system we are using will at least let us see a few faces on the screen
to see if they are still with us, it’s a completely different
experience for the presenter as well as those watching and taking part.
It’s not always easy to replicate the same levels of excitement and
energy of a real, live event and keep them engaged. They’re looking
back at me, but their virtual experience is so different from when we
met in person.
And with more and more of us running virtual meetings, workshops,
events, webinars etc to support our online groups to help them stay
active and thrive we need to adapt.
Below we detail out three of the common challenges your online group
members will have and four ways you can deal with those challenges.
1. The physical environment
We are not all blessed with our own office at home, and space where
we can block out the noise of everything that’s going on around us.
Sometimes we are working from the kitchen table, in the living room
and we may have to venture to the bedroom for a little bit of peace
and quiet. You also have the issue with looking at a screen,
continuously. You may have already been looking at it for a few hours
already. Just seeing slide after slide of text or a single person
talking will not make you automatically switch into that engaged mode
where you can listen and take part, which you may have been able to do
when you attended a presentation in person. The entire audience
experience has changed with everyone participating in the event from
their home environment.
We all do it, you go into listening mode and an email or messenger
pops up and you’ll go to just quickly answer it as you’re still
listening in, and then all of a sudden you're down the rabbit hole. As
you're no longer in that physical shared space where it’s easy to see
that you're not engaged, you feel that you can do it all, but will
probably miss out on something key.
Those people who struggled to engage the audience during
presentations or meetings face to face might be finding it more
challenging to do so virtually. Some presentations tend to use the
same format too, where the guest speaker talks with boring,
unimaginative slides in the background. And if you have had to attend
10 or so of the same presentation style this week, it’s no wonder you
So how do you deal with these three challenges? How do you
plan and deliver a virtual presentation that will keep people engaged?
Here are a few tips that I have picked up over the last few years of
running virtual presentations where I have presented but also where I
have been a host to other great presenters.
1. Stand up or sit down
Personally, I don’t think it matters - it’s what you feel comfortable
with and your style of presentation. If you are going to stand up make
sure your audio is clear and you stay on the screen. If you choose to
sit down, don’t feel you have to stay still. Just relax and feel like
you are in a conversation.
2. Start with a bang
If you're great at doing your own introduction and it brings
something to the party, go for it. If not, let the host introduce you
as it provides a different voice. There is a reason why radio shows
always have more than one voice. You can do something new,
provocative, unexpected, unique, or you can tell them what they are
going to get out of it and why they should listen or even how they can
3. Keep it visual
Ariel size 20 and 10 bullet points per slide is a no no. You can make
text fun and engaging and there are lots of great examples out there
that you can use. But don’t forget to use relevant and appropriate
visuals to help you get your messages across. Using simple images,
gifs, video, graphs, comics, quotes etc. can help you tell the story
and keep the audience engaged, and reinforce the content you are sharing.
4. Make it fun and interactive
From previous virtual presentations having a nice blend of the fun,
engaging elements can take the session to another level. Polls,
breakout rooms, virtual whiteboards, great stories, chat discussions
and Q&As can bring the audience into the session. Allow them time
to contemplate and react to what you say. Where possible, try to keep
each section or topic of your presentation to under 8 minutes while
using other interactive activities to help mix up the format for your audience.
What tips do you have for hosting virtual presentations with your
online group? We would love to hear what works well for you and your members.