It’s a challenge to keep an audience engaged, even when face-to-face, but in times when remote participation is the new normal, you’re also competing with the additional distractions of emails, phones, other people, and even pets. Here are some simple tips to help you get your bearings and connect with attendees during your next webinar.
1. Take it personally.
So, how can you connect with your audience when you’re not face-to-face? Start by sharing a personal experience – especially if it relates to your chosen topic – after all, the reason they’re attending is to learn from your expertise. You can increase your opportunity to make a personal connection by using your camera or including a photo of yourself. Various studies have shown that people build stronger relationships when they see your face, along with hearing your voice. And when it comes to your voice, you will sound more natural and relaxed if you present standing up or walking around.
2. Made you look!
If you are using your camera, make sure to position it so you’re making eye contact. This helps your audience feel as though you’re speaking directly to them. Make sure to practice where to look if you will be using a dual monitor setup. Will you be looking away at a secondary monitor to reference your notes? In a joint study between the University of Wolverhampton and the University of Stirling, researchers found that eye contact during a video call directly increased retention of what was said.
3. You talkin’ to me?
Words have the power to ignite but can also alienate. You’ll need to know who your audience is and adjust your language in a way that will resonate. This will also help establish trust. For example, if you’re speaking to Millennials and Gen Z, they find it natural not to use full sentences or words when they communicate. So, don’t force them to endure long-winded descriptions or explanations. When you think about your audience, consider both what they have in common and where they differ. Speak in open terms – for example, you wouldn’t use “good morning” when presenting to a global audience.
4. Snap out of it.
When in front of an audience, it’s a good idea to limit visuals and keep the focus on you, but during a webinar, using fewer visuals may allow their attention to wander. Keep things moving by using more slides and subtle animations. Call attention to key areas of a slide to help tell your story; most webinar platforms include drawing tools you can use, but it’s more effective to use builds or animation as a way to highlight where you want the audience to focus. For more on this topic, you can read our post on 5 Tips for Creating a Well-Designed Presentation.
5. Make it a conversation.
Jump-start interaction by asking questions through online polling or discussion breaks. Don’t just set out the facts, stir interest by quizzing your audience – ask a question and wait before revealing the answer. It’s a good idea to start with a few planned questions that you can include within each section of your presentation and even recruit a few champions in your audience who feel comfortable sharing their perspective.
To connect with a remote audience, we as speakers need to adapt, practicing the skills we learned so naturally in a physical world, so they shine in a virtual one. The 5 simple tips we just reviewed will help you make the most out of presenting remotely, and if you want to dig deeper on general presenting skills our post Present Like a Pro is a good read.