Engaging your audience is critical for presenters — especially those who are addressing audiences online. While most of the techniques we learn about leading a live crowd apply to online events, there are a few strategies that are specific to virtual presentations. If your job involves web-based presentations, here are six approaches you can use to engage your virtual audience.
As obvious and mundane as this is, many people deliberately or ignorantly jump into virtual presentations unprepared! Being prepared means having a clear agenda, such as the outcomes, stakeholders, and purpose of the meeting, but also making sure your camera, microphone, and internet connection are working properly. You must also familiarize yourself with the software you will use ahead of the speech. You certainly have been put off by those speakers who waste a considerable amount of time fixing technical problems that could have been prevented with minimal preparation and practice. So avoid that!
Get Your Audience Involved
Get the audience to take part in the presentation by allowing them to share their thoughts in the chat or by using breakout rooms. There is a caveat though: be sure to set the rules for how long anyone can intervene—verbally or by text—and be ready to mute participants who act disrespectfully.
Keep Your Background Distraction-Free
To keep the audience fixated on you and your topic, avoid those distracting backgrounds, whether it’s a dynamic virtual wallpaper or a swinging pendulum in your living room. Keep the background clean and free of distractions.
Pause More Frequently
Talking to a virtual audience needs more effort to maintain the audience’s attention than in-person presentations. In his book Brain Rules, John Medina, using electrocardiograms, found that participants need stimulation every 4 minutes during virtual presentations, as opposed to 10 minutes for in-person deliveries. So, to get your audience stimulated throughout your speech, avoid talking for long stretches of time.
Keep Your Camera On and Encourage Your audience to Do the Same
If you have spoken to a virtual crowd, you know how unsettling it is when most participants turn off their cameras. It’s your duty to motivate the audience to turn on their cameras right from the start. I normally begin my online speeches with some warmup and chitchatting; if the audience is small, I might even address participants by name. That way I ease the tension and make the audience feel appreciated, thus increasing their likelihood of showing their faces.
Maintain Eye Contact
Proper eye contact with the audience is also essential for internet-based deliveries. Experts recommend looking at the camera and its surrounding areas rather than the screen to maintain eye contact with the participants.
It’s been two and a half years since the pandemic began, and there is no ending in sight. As more employees work from home, the need to present online is greater than before. If you follow the above rules, you will be able to convey confidence, transfer your message effectively, and make your audience want to listen to you.