The differences between virtual presentations and face-to-face presentations have such dramatic psychological implications that presenters accustomed to face-to-face presenting are sometimes disappointingly ineffective. To be effective in the virtual environment they must reset their expectations and alter their practices and behavior, both technically and psychologically. The goal is audience engagement. The strategy is to gain and keep audience attention.
Here's Part I of a collection of tips for achieving audience engagement in the virtual environment.
- Deliver just one big idea
- Virtual presenters are competing with the goings-on in the audience members' environments. The audience is weeks behind on everything, and flooded with stimuli. They can't handle seven, five, or even three big ideas. Pick one. Develop it fully.
- Having too many big ideas causes audience multitasking — not good if you want 100% of their attention. If you have three big ideas, make three presentations. Deliver them one after another with big breaks in between, or on three consecutive days, or make them available for viewing on demand.
- But "one big idea" doesn't mean "one idea." Include smaller ideas within that big idea, if they fit snugly together.
- Keep it short
- Brevity is easy if you have just one big idea. Presenting for more than 20 minutes in a virtual environment, using only voice and possibly slides, risks audience boredom. When they start checking their inboxes or voicemail, or tweeting, you've lost them.
- Get to the point
- Suspense is your enemy. Deliver the headline first. When the audience can't tell where you're going, they start multitasking. After the audience has the headline, only then can they receive supporting and motivating information.
- Use videos to add interest
- Still photos are Virtual presenters are competing
with the goings-on in the
audience members' environmentsOK. Videos are better. A two-minute video every 7 or 10 minutes is about right, if it's relevant and well-produced. Fluffy or amateurish video causes multitasking.
- Break it into three- to five-minute bites
- Think of being interviewed. The interviewer poses questions. You deliver crisp, full replies, with at least one "sound bite." A few of those and a wrap-up make a presentation. Segments must be small because a 15- or 20-minute story can't compete with email clients or smartphones that beep, chirp, or play swatches of pop tunes whenever new messages arrive. If you're recording for a podcast, this short-bite structure lets audience members pause if they must, resuming when they're able.
- Stand, don't sit
- It's tempting to present while seated, but standing elevates your energy level, and you're more likely to be captivating. Standing for a long time can be uncomfortable — yet another reason to keep it short.
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More articles on Effective Meetings:
- Our Last Meeting Together
- You can find lots of tips for making meetings more effective — many at my own Web site. Most are
directed toward the chair, or the facilitator if you have one. Here are some suggestions for everybody.
- Remote Facilitation in Synchronous Contexts: II
- Facilitators of synchronous distributed meetings — meetings that occur in real time, via telephone
or video — encounter problems that facilitators of face-to-face meetings do not. Here's Part II
of a little catalog of those problems, and some suggestions for addressing them.
- Virtual Meetings: Indicators of Inattention
- If you've ever led a virtual meeting, you're probably familiar with the feeling that some attendees
are doing something else. Here are some indicators of inattention.
- The End-to-End Cost of Meetings: II
- Few of us realize where all the costs of meetings really are. Some of the most significant cost sources
are outside the meeting room. Here's Part II of our exploration of meeting costs.
- Polychronic Meetings
- In very dynamic contexts, with multiple issues to address, we probably cannot rely on the usual format
of single-threaded meeting with a list of agenda items to be addressed each in their turn. A more flexible,
issue-driven format might work better.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming May 2: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: VII
- Narcissistic behavior at work prevents trusting relationships from developing. It also disrupts existing relationships, and generates toxic conflict. One class of behaviors that's especially threatening to relationships is disregard for the feelings of others. In this part of our series we examine the effects of that disregard. Available here and by RSS on May 2.
- And on May 9: Unethical Coordination
- When an internal department or an external source is charged with managing information about a large project, a conflict of interest can develop. That conflict presents opportunities for unethical behavior. What is the nature of that conflict, and what ethical breaches can occur? Available here and by RSS on May 9.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.