By Haritosh Srivastav, Toastmasters International
We’ve all been in hundreds of web meetings over the last year or so, but the biggest issue remains. The issue of engaging and retaining the attention of everyone in your audience.
According to a survey for Prezi conducted by Harris Poll, while attending an online presentation 28% of the audience sends text messages, 27% check their emails and 17% nod off. So, the big question is how you keep audience members involved and prevent them being distracted?
Here are some quick tips to help you reinvigorate your online presentation and keep everyone focused on the content, not the pings from their mobile:
1. Add Storytelling
“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today” – Robert McKee
As humans we all crave a good story. And this applies to online presentations too. Whether it is a sales presentation, a keynote speech, or teaching students, a good story will always add to your presentation. The best stories are personal first-hand experiences. As a rule of thumb, good storytelling should follow these five steps:
An effective story does not have to be long. It could be as short as 30-seconds. But done effectively, it can build an instant connection and rapport with your audience.
2. Use relevant video, audio & images
We all have seen those slides with 40 lines of text – and they aren’t engaging. The great advantage of an online presentation is that it gives us the ability to easily replace text with relevant video, audio, or images. You can show a recording of an event, an illustrative picture, or play a portion of a relevant podcast.
Here are a few useful sites that provide copyright free images and videos:
3. Engage in Fun Games
Nothing engages your audience more than a fun game. And once again, online presentations make this easy. You can do a live audience poll or a fastest finger first or beautiful word cloud in a matter of minutes. Being fun and easy, such activity stimulates the brain enough to keep attendees from getting distracted.
Here are few sites I personally love to use:
4. Make use of chat
Chat features have been around a while but are probably one of the least used tools for effectively engaging your audience. It doesn’t require any set-up and is always effective at keeping an audience engaged. Not everyone likes to speak up or interrupt during a presentation and chat can really help the presenter engage with those quieter people.
Here are some ways you can use chat feature:
A note of caution here. As a presenter or moderator, you need to keep tabs on what is being discussed or chat can have the opposite effect and actually become a distraction. If that happens, be sure to bring the conversation back to the matter presented or restrict the chat to ‘host-everyone’ only. Most of the major online platforms have a mechanism to do that.
5. Engage Humour
“Laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy” – John Cleese
We all miss those times when we used to get together in a conference room or at a convention and had a good laugh together. While online presentation does make it difficult to have those in-person laughs, there is always a place for inserting a pinch of humour to make your presentation lively. Done right, it can enhance your presentation and increase your audience retention.
Here are a few ways you can use humour in your online presentation.
As a side note, never make fun of your audience. It can lead to awkward conversations and even ruin your reputation.
6. Use Advanced Features
As the technology evolves, new features are always being added. Therefore, as a presenter, it’s important to check you are using the best possible features for your presentation and your audience.
A few options to explore include:
And always remember
We all have heard the phrase – ‘Practice makes a man perfect.’ And it is true; there is no better way to improve your online presentation skills than to practice, get feedback, tweak, and practice again. Ask family, friends, and colleagues or in public speaking clubs like Toastmasters to give you feedback and suggest improvements. Once you get feedback, do a critical analysis of what makes sense and then tweak your presentation. Make sure to get as much feedback as possible.
By using these tips, as you get ready for your online presentations, you will find your future audiences are engaged, able to retain information and contribute. And, importantly, potential distractions will be ignored.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Haritosh Srivastav is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org