An ongoing problem
It’s a problem I frequently hear…
It’s a problem I hear on an ongoing basis.……
“Michael, if I have to listen to another boring ZOOM presentation I’m going to lose my mind.”
During the past two years, I’ve noticed people have gotten accustomed to being online for business meetings. Most have gotten better at looking into the camera.
The BIG Mistake
But, the majority of presenters continue to make a huge mistake — treating the camera the same way they do a live audience.
What do I mean?
You can’t connect with a camera in the same one-dimensional method you do people. When you’re on a stage, speaking directly to them, your five senses are engaged:
- You can see the room
- You can hear all the sounds and noises
- You can feel the physical and emotional temperature
- You can smell any scents
- If there is food at the venue, you can taste it.
You don’t have the same benefit in a virtual environment. Only two of your senses are engaged. Even then, they’re limited to what the audiences’ microphones and cameras allow you to experience.
Breaking The Unwritten Audience Rules
This is a problem because it’s much easier for people to get distracted and bored. In a live audience, there’s an unwritten social contract — individuals typically don’t carry on conversations, don’t eat, and don’t take out their computers and multitask. Well, most people don’t.
That behavior changed during the Lockdown. People became more willing to tune out of presentations because they knew they wouldn’t be seen or heard if they violated the social contract.
The Perfect Solution
Now that you understand the dilemma presenters face, how do you overcome this challenge?
The solution is simple…
Change the Pace of Your Presentations
What does this mean?
You can’t simply stare at the camera or hide behind your slides for your entire talk. Every 3 to 5, minutes change the mode of your presentation.
There are countless ways to do this. Here is one example:
- Start your presentation with a question and ask people to answer in the chatbox.
- Three minutes with an overview of your topic
- Show a 60-second video to set up your premise
- Share your first point
- Send people to breakout rooms to discuss the first point
- Bring people back to the main room and facilitate a five-minute discussion, inviting attendees to speak on camera.
You get the idea. This has been a useful technique for me. It’s helped me keep audience members engaged and interested, which ultimately benefits them.
Don’t “Wing It”
A word of warning, this takes practice. You should never “wing it” for a live presentation. This is more true for virtual. There are too many moving pieces and it’s easy for your online presentation to go off the rails.
With practice and repetition, you’ll be able to handle the inevitable technical issues that arise, and pivot to another mode to maintain the flow of your talk.
If you want to keep the attention of your virtual audience and create a memorable experience for them, stop talking to the camera or hiding behind slides for the entire presentation. Change your pace, and you’ll keep their interest from start to finish.
If you want to create the best possible experience for you and your virtual audience, enlist the help of a host. This person can monitor the chatbox, control people entering or leaving the meeting, and handle questions.
A co-host enables you to fully focus on your audience and the presentation. Just as you would presenting solo, you will want to rehearse and practice with a host to ensure a smooth experience for everyone.
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Great article and I will borrow some of these techniques. I have used some of these practices and they do keep people engaged. I think an active chat as long as it is monitored properly and it does not dominate the presentation is another idea, and you can always open up conversation in main screen as I have seen and experienced as long as it is controlled time wise. You can also simulate an atmosphere through colorful description of where you are ect..
Steve, you bring up an excellent point about controlling the time. I teach clients to always set up their Q&A (whether live or online) by telling the audience, “we have XX minutes for Q&A.”
What are the aspects I like about the chatbox is it gives people I call “Chatox Extroverts” an outlet to get out their ideas. If I have a cohost, that person can monitor for useful thoughts I can share with the entire group.