For so many of us delivering ‘Engaging Presentations’ was already a challenge, and the pandemic took it to the next level. With the advent of Online Presentations on Zoom, MS Teams etc., a lot has changed about how we interact with an audience.
The first time I went for an online presentation, it was a disaster. I knew a hundred people were watching me, but I wasn’t able to connect with them. I couldn’t see of their faces; I couldn’t hear their response and I felt like a fool talking to a machine. The fun of Public Speaking turned into a struggle.
However, I had known this for a long time. Public Speaking has been evolving from many years and I knew this was coming, that one day I will have to master 'Online Public Speaking'. Only thing I didn’t know was that the change is going to happen so fast.
Post lockdown, I have given 100+ talks online to a live audience on various social, corporate and educational platforms and have found out 8 Steps through which online speaking can be made more engaging. I hope these 8 Steps to engaging audience online will help you in your journey as a Public Speaker.
Step 1: Set the Ground Rules
Every time I go up on the virtual stage, I ask my audience 3 things:
1. “Switch-On your cameras and show your beautiful faces” – This helps me see their faces and connect with them. Their expressions help me get an idea of how am I doing as a speaker. However, not all of them switch on their cameras, but even a few doing it is enough.
2. “If you wish to answer a question, unmute yourself and then quickly go back on mute.” This works perfectly 95% of the time without any distractions.
3. “We’ll take all the questions at the end. Please feel free to drop them in the chat box.” – I never take questions in between an online presentation since it can create a lot of chaos.
Step 2: Use less slides with less text
I usually avoid using slides in online presentations since it creates yet another barrier (after online platform) between audience sitting in different parts of the world. Yes, online platform can be a barrier between people. Even if I have to use slides, I use the most minimum number possible with big fonts and less text. Audience can’t read a lot of text and listen to you at the same time.
Step 3: Show more Images and ask questions
One of my most favorite ways to engage an audience online is to show them an image and ask them what they think about it. All of a sudden as if interest keeps crawling back and almost everyone wants to answer. I do this maximum 3 times in a 30 minute session. It works like magic!
Step 4: Do a ‘Thumbs UP’ check
“Are you all with me? Show me a thumbs up!” Checking with your audience from time to time while speaking online is of utmost importance. Since in online speaking, the only way one can assess the audience involvement is by asking them to give you a sign. Thumbs up works best for me. Even those whose cameras are switched off can use emojis to show their engagement.
Step 5: Show them a Video
When you are speaking online and YouTube is just a click away, there can be nothing more engaging than showing a video by sharing your screen. Show them a short 2-3 min video to make your point. This helps break the monotony and bring in some diversity. Since online presentations require more effort to listen to, it is always better to keep bringing in new things for the audience.
Step 6: Use a Prop
In an online setting, most people speak while sitting and the audience cannot see their whole body. They might miss on some important gestures too because of the limited screen size. How can you create your presentation even more visually appealing? I love to use Props. Props are objects that the speakers use to enhance the impact of a presentation. In most of my online presentations in the past few months, I have used a variety of props like a Tennis Ball, a sanitizer bottle, my mobile phone etc. to make different points.
Step 7: Have a Quiz
Making them do something while your presentation is going on is what will keep their attention on the screen. It’s very easy to get lost or zoned out if the speaker keeps on speaking without any action from the audience. I find Zoom Polls very effective in running short quiz in between to enhance engagement. You can also use websites like Kahoot to create your own quiz and make the audience play.
Step 8: Inculcate Humor
This is the most challenging part for most of us. If you can also entertain an audience while you give out information, and do it in a way that makes them laugh, you don’t need the above seven steps. Humor brings people together and helps you connect with your audience. You can plan certain jokes and punchlines in between your sessions and that would work like a charm.
So how can you inculcate humor in your presentations? I know 12 different ways you can do it, but that is an article for another day.
I know for sure that using even 3-4 of above steps will help you take your online audience engagement to the next level. I hope you found this piece of my content worth your time. Have a great day!