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:
- Meta-Debate at Work
- Workplace discussions sometimes take the form of informal debate, in which parties who initially have
different perspectives try to arrive at a shared perspective. Meta-debate is one way things can go wrong.
- How to Waste Time in Meetings
- Nearly everyone hates meetings. The main complaint: they're mostly a waste of time. The main cause:
us. Here's a field manual for people who want to waste even more time.
- Costs of the Catch-Me-Up Anti-Pattern: II
- When we interrupt a meeting to recap the action so far for a late-arriving attendee, the cost of the
recap itself is just the beginning. There are some less-obvious costs that can be even greater.
- Interrupting Others in Meetings Safely: I
- In meetings we sometimes feel the need to interrupt others to offer a view or information, or to suggest
adjusting the process. But such interruptions carry risk of offense. How can we interrupt others safely?
- Formulaic Utterances: III
- Formulaic utterances are phrases that follow a pre-formed template. They're familiar, and they have
standard uses. "For example" is an example. In the workplace, some of them can help establish
or maintain dominance and credibility. Some do the opposite.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 8: Kerfuffles That Seem Like Something More
- Much of what we regard as political conflict is a series of squabbles commonly called kerfuffles. They captivate us while they're underway, but after a month or two they're forgotten. Why do they happen? Why do they persist? Available here and by RSS on February 8.
- And on February 15: Four Razors for Organizational Behavior
- Deviant organizational behavior can harm the people and the organization. In choosing responses, we consider what drives the perpetrators. Considering Malice, Incompetence, Ignorance, and Greed, we can devise four guidelines for making these choices. Available here and by RSS on February 15.
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