Got a webinar coming up? To maximize viewer engagement and interest, be sure to practice these four ways to help your audience stay tuned!
You're scheduled to give a webinar. You know you have great content—but how do you perform well when it feels like you're speaking into the vacuum of space? More than that: how do you help your audience stay tuned all the way through? After all, talking to your computer screen for an hour rather than the people you're actually trying to influence can be a daunting task.
(About that "hour": If you've been invited to give a 90-minute webinar instead, I suggest you respectfully decline. I've done them, and for the presenter they feel like heading into deep space toward a destination in another solar system.)
Since you don't have an audience in front of you to give you nonverbal feedback, your strategy for launching dynamically is particularly important. Your “vehicle” needs to generate enough lift to reach escape velocity if you're going to accomplish your mission, right?
When it comes to speaking remotely, your voice is one of your most important assets. Skillful use of your voice can help make your material come vibrantly alive for webinar attendees. To learn the tools of effective vocal performance, download my essential cheat sheet, "The 5 Key Tools of Vocal Dynamics."
To stay with the space metaphor, you need a four-stage rocket for a successful mission that (1) describes your material clearly and powerfully, (2) directs viewers to the right landing zone, (3) generates enough forward thrust, and (4) communicates clearly across cyberspace in real time.
Stage One: Descriptive Power. Since webinar attendees aren't seeing you in person, they lack the rich array of visual clues you'd provide if you were in front of them. (A small square showing you speaking doesn't count.) To compensate, you have to boost your vocal expressiveness. To help with this, I recommend that you stand and move as you speak and use a headset-with-microphone setup. Listeners will benefit from the ways body language makes your speaking more powerful. The headset just allows you to do that more freely.
Stage Two: Hitting the Target Zone. Viewers may be confused and miss the “target zone” of where you want them to look on your slides. You've experienced this yourself in webinars, haven't you? With data-heavy slides in particular, webinar attendees may spend valuable time trying to coordinate what you’re saying with what they’re seeing. Make it easy for them by saying something like, “If you look at the pie chart in the upper right, you’ll notice . . .” Here's more on how to tell your story and move audiences while using PowerPoint.
Stage Three: Forward Thrust. Nothing kills the buzz more at the start of a webinar than an initial slide that stays displayed for 15 minutes. Remember: a webinar is primarily a visual learning tool. You need to move at a good clip through your visual selections, keeping things interesting while achieving forward thrust. We're all aware that everyone's attention span keeps shrinking because of time spent on the Internet, with video games, etc. It's a fact of life worth noting when you're ready to take those same individuals through your webinar's content.
Stage Four: Keeping the Communication Channel Open. Webinars-as-monologues are deadly. Just as bad is the tag-team of webinar presenters who sound like they're playing hookey from middle school and are more excited by technology than by the people listening. So keep your audience and their responses front-and-center at all times. Build in questions participants can answer online, and welcome their own questions; then carve out time to discuss the answers. Even though you’re presenting virtually, participants need to feel they're on a two-way street they can drive on as well. Never forget the multiple distractions that, minute by minute, are seducing attendees away from you and your message.
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