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How Do You Engage with an Audience You Can't See?

As a virtual presenter, I am sure you have asked yourself the same question. So how do you engage your virtual audience?

Roger Courville gave us a great answer to this question during our April Ask The Expert Webinar. What you're about to read will lend credibility and engagement to your next presentation and help you to execute a brilliant online event.

I will be referencing the handout Roger shared with us, which you can download here. A glaring statistic featured in Roger's presentation indicated that a recent search for "presentation skills" in a single job search engine yielded more than 5000 hits. In the current economic client and with the growing trend in webinar and online event, it is necessary if not essential to be a skilled presenter. In this next section I will summarize the three main takeaways Roger shared with us throughout the webinar.

I. Design your Presentation for Engagement
  • Design for attention - have one concept per power point slide. The goal is not to add more content but rather break up the content over more slides to continually change the "scenery."

  • Design for memory - use "structure" slides that remind people where you are at in the presentation and reinforce key concepts with reasonable repetition. (For individual slides consider putting the key idea in the title.)

  • Design for interactivity - turn passive participants into interactive participants by using your web Q&A throughout the presentation. Pose a question or a poll and have the audience involved.
II. Deliver with Authenticity
  • Remember your virtual body language - use both visual and verbal direction. Use the presenter tools built into your software, for instance, Microsoft Live Meeting has a pointer and highlighter tool that allows you to draw attention to certain portions of the slides.

  • Make virtual eye contact - use your tools to watch your audience in real time. Keep the questions and chat panel open, make sure you take notice of the "hand up" question feature or the use of seat colors i.e. someone who turns their seat red means slow down.

  • Dialogue - DO NOT JUST READ OFF YOUR SLIDES! Respond to your audience, talk with your audience, and do not talk at them. ***A personal suggestion would be to use your chat and Q&A throughout the presentation. If someone talks at me for 45 minutes and then asks me join the conversation, I have already checked out.
III. Think "Beyond the Webinar"
  • Rehearse by verbalizing - you might not be a professional speaker but it is likely you speak as part of your profession. The best way to rehearse for a presentation is to literally have the words come out of your mouth. Your voice conveys confidence, authority, and trust, be genuine.

  • Use handouts and recording strategically - Focus your presentation on the "big ideas" and then compliment the presentation with a handout that highlights more of the details.

  • If you remember nothing else tuck away this principle or what I call the Golden Rule of Presenting, don't talk AT talk WITH your audience. Time is money, and a great presentation on a thought provoking topic can make people feel rich.

As a wrap up, I have included some of Rogers's favorite resources below. Enjoy!

Free Alternative to Photoshop -

A Chart to Jumpstart Thinking Visually -

100 Legal Resources for Free Stock Images -

Color Tools -

List of Speaking Blogs -

Favorite Blogs - and

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