The techniques effective presenters should use face-to-face also apply to presentations via video call. However, when using Skype, Webinar or similar software, there are some challenges that you need to be aware of.
Let’s be honest. Presenting updates, proposals and ideas when you are ‘removed’ as a presenter is tough. And receiving such presentations when you are ‘remote’ can be even tougher! That’s because these types of ‘enabling’ technologies actually disable many of the natural communication cues and sensory tools that we rely on to communicate effectively.
As a result, presentations via Skype and Webinars are often delivered in a flat, boring way. They feel extremely transactional and so impersonal that it’s all too easy for the audience to get distracted or worse, to tune-out.
In this post, we tackle the three biggest challenges to engaging an audience effectively via a video presentation. We focus on maintaining engagement, keeping a remote audience on track, and making the presentation experience enjoyable.
1. Maintaining the Engagement of a remote audience
The best way to keep an audience engaged is to get them involved. Include interactivity in your presentation planning, early on in the piece and also throughout. This will help create a more interactive atmosphere and let the audience know that this is your intention. Do this during the introduction. Explain to your listeners that you’ll be stopping at various points within the presentation to see if anyone has any questions, input or concerns.
Check in with your Audience
There are various points throughout your video presentation or conference which are prime points to engage the audience with a simple check-in:
- Check in early: You could do this as early as after taking the audience through your agenda – simply to make sure that everyone understands the journey you’re about to take them on.
- After delivering the key message: You should most certainly check in after delivering your first key message. If appropriate, use people’s names e.g. John and Petra, are you comfortable with this? Or refer to people by location/region e.g. ‘Can I check in with the team in India – do you have any questions at this stage?’ Using names in this way will force a response and keep the audience tuned in.
Involve the Audience
Wherever you can, passively involve the audience. There are a number of simple methods presenters can use to do this:
- Direct Reference: Refer to the audience directly to grab their attention. For example, you can say something like ‘As most of you will be aware…’ or ‘Some of you might be wondering…’.
- Rhetorical Questions: You could include rhetorical questions to get them thinking e.g. ‘So how are we going to achieve this objective?’. This will encourage the audience to formulate answers to your question for discussion at a later point in the presentation.
- Acknowledge Challenges: You could acknowledge the impact of your message upon the audience or perhaps any relevant challenges e.g. ‘I appreciate these targets will be stretch for some in the team.’ This will not only establish a more personal connection with the audience, but it will also position you as a representative of their interests.
Use the Element of Surprise
Also, consider using surprise to keep the audience stimulated. This can be done by incorporating clever/unusual visuals within your slide deck. In a similar way, you can paint unusual images with words by including a memorable analogy or metaphor to help get a message across. And of course, a short story or clever example to illustrate a point is a great option to consider.
Remember, if the people you’re speaking to aren’t engaged, then you don’t have an audience.
2. Keeping a Remote Audience on Track
Engaging the audience is only the first step. If they’re lost, they probably aren’t really listening. Keeping a remote audience on track is not as easy as managing one directly before you. Here are some ways to help your audience follow what you’re saying, and retain their attention.
Have an Agenda
Make sure you have a clear agenda and verbally signpost to the audience exactly where you are in the presentation. You should regularly refer back to it as you move through the presentation. With a longer presentation, you may need to summarise where you’ve been and where you are up to. Do that before moving to the next section or chapter if you are telling a story to illustrate your point.
Emphasise Your Key Message
Because of the constant barrage of emails, texts, calls, and social media updates, remote audiences can easily get distracted and quickly tune out. Bring their attention back to you and your presentation by making sure you really hammer home your key message.
You will sound much more focused, and thereby, help remote audiences relate points and examples back to the core of your presentation.
Refer Directly to Your Slides
Refer directly to your presentation slides, particularly those that are more complex (e.g. with detailed graphs, flow diagrams or graphics). Make sure you verbally indicateto the audience where you are on the slide so they don’t get lost on the page. Remember, you’re not in the room with them. If possible, use your cursor to do this.
Pause and Breathe
Harness the power of pausing to help people keep up and absorb what you’re sharing is even more important in a removed presenting environment. That’s because, without an audience in front of us, we tend to speed up and truncate our pauses even more. So be extra mindful of this and of your audience.
At the end of the day, listeners lost means a missed opportunity to get your message across.
3. Make the Experience Enjoyable
Video calling through Skype and other technologies is incredibly useful and convenient but can make presentations dull and boring for both the audience and the presenter. For this reason, it’s even more important to find ways to have fun and inject some humour during the presentation (if possible).
Now, this doesn’t mean you need to tell them reams of jokes! What it does mean though, is that you need to give yourself, and the audience, the permission to have some banter and moments of ‘lightness’ during the presentation. Don’t take the entire experience too seriously or you’ll bleed the presentation dry of any interactivity.
There is no secret recipe for this, but as a start, be sure to allow your natural personality to shine through. This will refresh the presentation with an air of genuine spirit, much needed when your audience is remote and cannot interact with you in person.
Remember, if you sound like you’re enjoying delivering the presentation, then the audience is more likely to enjoy listening to it.
Curb the Challenges and Present Remotely
Presenting to a remote audience via Skype or webinar, while extremely useful, will never be able to replicate the energy of a live seminar or presentation entirely. You can, however, employ the techniques and strategies we’ve mentioned to produce as enjoyable and informative an experience as possible for your audience.
Remember to keep them engaged, check in with them to ensure they’re still on track and allow your audience some moments of light-hearted fun to make it an enjoyable event. This is how you’ll convert your attendees from listeners to an audience.