Increasingly public speakers and presenters are finding themselves presenting to online audiences...audiences they can't see or make eye contact with. In this guest post, Darlene Christopher, Learning Officer at the World Bank Group, offers us some tips for presenting online.
If you’ve made a presentation to an online audience you’ve no doubt noticed that connecting with and engaging that audience can be challenging. Speakers who rely on their techniques for engaging and interacting with an in-person audience, without making any adjustments for an online audience, will soon become frustrated and frustrate their audience as well.
In the work that I do at the World Bank Group, I work with presenters and facilitators who are making the leap from in-person presentations to presentations delivered to a live audience using web conferencing technology. These types of presentations are referred to by a variety of terms including webinars, web conferences, online meetings or online synchronous training*. Regardless of the name you use, if you are speaking to online audiences there are a few things you need to do differently to ensure success:
Use Polls, Chat and Instant Feedback: Let’s face it, there are far too many online presentations where the speaker lectures to the audience for what seems like an eternity. This type of presentation is boring in person and almost deadly online. The beauty of an online presentation is that it’s built for two-way communication to allow you to easily interact with your audience. Integrate questions where the audience responds by "raising their hand," chat questions, polls or other types of instant feedback into your presentation. It’s good to set the tone for an interactive session by engaging your audience early. Weave early interaction into the first few minutes of your session by asking participants to type their location into chat, respond to a poll about their background, and “raise” their hand if they can hear the audio clearly, for example.
Focus on your Voice: We can learn from the pros at NPR [National Public Radio] how to maximize the use of voice to improve the delivery of a web conference. Since the audience won't see the speaker, the speaker’s voice carries additional importance in an online presentation. So think of yourself as a radio talk show host. These professionals use clear and precise language that is free from slang, umms and other ‘fillers.’ Keep your voice interesting by using a variety of tones and pacing.
Annotate While You Speak: Most web conferencing tools include a pointer device as well as annotation tools like a highlighter and writing instrument. As you speak use these annotation tools generously but wisely to emphasize key information. Here’s how it works: as you display a slide, underline or circle key words as you speak or point to a specific part of a graph that you are describing. Annotating the screen helps the audience know where to focus their attention and it helps you simulate the gesturing you may be used to in an in-person presentation.
Rehearse your Session: Practice your session with a mock audience to fine tune the timing and flow of your material. Rehearsing will also help you get used to the lack of body language and visual cues. Ask your mock audience participants to give you feedback on their level of engagement, your voice and use of annotation tools. If you cannot rehearse with others, use the recording feature of your web conferencing tool, then listen to yourself.
Presenters who are skilled in online presentation techniques can expand the range of delivery channels they offer to clients or employers, reach wider and more global audiences and have fun while doing it. By interacting with your online audience, using clear language, annotating the screen and rehearsing all of these techniques, you’ll be on your way to delivering first-rate online presentations.
*A webcast, on the other hand, is typically one-way communication and not the focus of this blog post.
Flickr/Travelin' Librarian's Photostream C.C. 2.0
Darlene Christopher is a Learning Officer at the World Bank Group. She has been designing and delivering online training programs for global audiences for over nine years and is a frequent presenter at ASTD and E-Learning Guild conferences. She blogs regularly on this topic at www.webconferenceguru.com