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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