Most of us have experienced presenting face-to-face. Whether it’s standing up at your most recent team meeting and telling your colleagues what you’ve been working on, or pitching a business case to the boss, presenting is part of modern-day business. But when it comes to presenting online — including presenting webinars – you need a completely different skill set.
What’s the biggest difference?
Well, when you’re speaking directly to someone, they might be interested in what you say, or they might feign interest. Even if you lose them completely, it’s still pretty rare — and in fact, it would be downright rude for them to just turn around and walk away.
This is not the same in the online world, where it is very easy for an audience member, whose attention has wandered, to shut down your webinar with the click of a button. Attendees can exit a webinar whenever they please without being shamed, which makes it a much less forgiving environment than the real world.
Luckily, there are many things a good online presenter can do to keep the audience’s attention until the end of the webinar, and even keep them coming back for more.
Here are 5 presenting tips for keeping your online audience engaged:
1. Interact with your audience
Right from the outset, it’s important to grab your audience’s attention and work at keeping them interested by getting them involved.
Injecting a little humour, sharing an interesting anecdote, or asking people to share their personal experiences are good ways to break the ice.
Interactive tools are a great way to set expectations from the start that you’re going to be presenting a dynamic, interactive and entertaining webinar that will require your viewers to pay attention.
Try polling or quizzing your audience, or drawing a diagram on a virtual whiteboard. Include interactive Q&A sessions throughout your webinar in which your audience gets to question the presenter or panel while the information is still fresh in their mind (make sure you keep a record of any questions for future reference and follow-up).
Finally, make sure you regularly touch base and check-in with your audience and ask for any questions about content you’ve covered.
2. Share the load
A webinar presenter should be responsible for just one thing – presenting your content in an engaging way.
Using a facilitator or moderator is a great way to make sure your presenter is able to keep their mind on the job while ensuring all your behind-the-scenes housekeeping is in order.
At the beginning of your webinar, your facilitator can share details such as how attendees can pose questions or request technical support. Your facilitator can also introduce your presenter and briefly provide an overview of the agenda.
During your webinar your facilitator can moderate the chat box, prioritise questions, activate videos, polls and surveys, and take care of any technical issues.
How much interaction your facilitator has with the audience is entirely up to you. If they are familiar with the content, consider running the webinar in an interview style where your facilitator asks your presenter questions, or get them involved in the discussion itself — a second voice or point of view is often a great way to break up your content and can make for a nice change of pace or tone.
3. Make your visuals engaging
When it comes to webinars, visual presentation is key.
PowerPoint and similar products are great tools for hosting webinars, but it’s important you keep them interesting and visually appealing.
Incorporate bold colours and images, easy-to-read graphs to command attention, and use concise text on each page that you can elaborate on verbally throughout your webinar. Stick to one idea or thought per slide. If your content is text-heavy, send an extended presentation to your attendees once the webinar is over.
When referring to facts, don’t embellish. Use proven data and statistics to establish trust with your audience.
Make sure you frequently refresh your slides. While all webinars are different, a general rule of thumb is to move to a new slide every one to two minutes to maintain a dynamic, engaging presentation throughout your webinar.
4. Stick to it
People will register for your webinar because of the information you’ve provided them on your invitation — so make sure you stick to that outline and deliver what you promised.
That not only includes the topic and discussion points, but also the timing. If you’ve stated the webinar will be 60 minutes long, make sure it is.
Sticking to the time limit and agenda is crucial in preventing drop-offs, and you don’t want to lose your attendees before you’ve arrived at your call to action.
5. Fail to plan and you will plan to fail
We all know the importance of planning for any event, but it is especially important when presenting a webinar.
If possible, get to know your audience before they’ve logged in by conducting a brief poll of registrants.
We’ve already discussed the importance of planning your visual presentation, but take it one step further and make sure your topic is one that your audience will be interested in and has enough depth to last the length of time you’ve planned.
Make sure you polish up on your presentation style and rehearse your presentation so you feel comfortable with the visual content and the verbal content you’re going to provide around it. Try and include your facilitator in these sessions because the better they understand the structure and the content, the more valuable they’ll be when it’s show time.
Finally, keep the conversation going after your webinar ends by creating calls-to-action for your audience. Your final message should be to direct the crowd as to the next steps you’d like them to take and share a custom URL that’ll make it easy for them to do so.