Audience engagement should be the main focus of any presentation. Some speakers excel and some struggle to achieve it, but in this ‘new now’, where we have pivoted to virtual platforms, it is more important than ever to focus on capturing and keeping the attention of your audience.
There is pressure on a live audience to remain seated and pay attention. Not so for virtual presentations. Online, it’s especially easy to ‘lose’ your audience. An unengaging presentation may result in audience members dozing off or switching off.
We have previously discussed how to become a better virtual speaker, but today we are going to focus on what you can do to make your virtual presentations more engaging.
1. Lure your audience with a ‘hook’
When we were at school and were asked to write a creative writing piece, our teachers would always emphasize that we should make the start of it interesting so the reader would want to read on.
The same holds true for presentations. Any time we are in front of any audience, virtual or face-to-face, it is a great idea to start with a hook, then reel the audience in and get them interested in knowing more.
Hooks can be many things: a simple question, a fun fact, or any other starter activity (Word clouds, polls). It’s a little something to get your audience interested in your presentation.
Experts say you only have 60 seconds to get your audience interested in what you are saying. So focusing on your presentation’s hook from the get-go is a great way to pique their interest before their attention can drift.
2. Create appealing slides
Used properly, slides play a great part in enhancing the overall effect that your presentation has on the audience.
People tend to retain more if there are visuals. For example, a slide with dry data and numbers on it will not be as effective as a slide with diagrams, charts, or graphs when presenting your data.
Also, slides should not be text-heavy, as the audience is there to listen to you present, not to read your slides. If there is too much text on the slides, the audience will be busy reading them rather than listening to what you have to say — they can’t do both at the same time. Rather, your slides should be there to complement and help emphasize your words.
3. Focus on the key takeaways
Key takeaways are points that we’d like our audience to benefit from the most. Extra emphasis should be put on them in order to try to instill them in the minds of your audience members.
You can revisit those key points on and off throughout your talk, but do it in a way that doesn’t make your entire presentation redundant. Instead, think of creative ways to include them in your presentation on multiple occasions.
Maybe you can create a fun engaging wrap-up activity around them? Or you could create a social media toolkit, including images representing these key takeaways, which your audience might like to share on their social media accounts post-event. This will also help spread your name.
4. Use Smartphones to your advantage
Living in a digital world and moving to making virtual presentations where most of the audience has smartphones has made things easier with regard to audience engagement. Now, many activities can be created using the digital tools which are available on smartphones. These can help you connect with your audience.
Other engagement apps include polls, word clouds, break rooms, feedback forms, and so on. They can even be used for questions and answers, group activities, or as a presenter, you can invite input on your audience’s experiences.
5. Give perks to your audience
The presentation is almost over and you feel you have done a good job, but it shouldn’t end there. You should have ideas on how to keep your name top-of-mind among your audience members post-presentation as well. Leaving them with something impactful in your presentation is already a good way to do that. But you can do more.
It would also be nice to have some concrete measurables, like an increased number of connections on your social media accounts, or even referrals for future speaking events. The best way to go about this is to give your audience a call to action, but include a reward or perk for them in it so that they have an incentive to respond.
A call to action can be something like following you on social media, sharing your social media toolkit with their contacts and followers, direct messaging you on a social media platform, or similar.
Perks can range from a one-on-one chat, to access to your eBook for free, or any other reward that you think will be of value to people and provide an incentive to respond to your call to action.
Virtual presentations need to be interactive and engaging if you want them to be meaningful. Make sure that you have your audience interested right from the start and you are continuously engaging with them using the tips above.
What to read next:
- Captivate your webinar audience and create an engaging online event
- World of Speakers E.87: Sarah Weise | Mapping your presentation
- How to use smartphones effectively in online workshops
- World of Speakers E.86: Neil Sahota | Adapt your story to make it work for the audience
- The 3 things you need to kickstart audience engagement