These days, public speakers are turning to webinars in place of in-person presentations. And why not? That technology is cheaper and more convenient than traveling on-site to give presentations. That said, because of the format, you risk losing your audience’s attention more quickly than in an in-person presentation. People aren’t likely to be rude to your face, but if they are joining in from another location, there’s not much keeping them from checking their email, working on assignments—or even dozing off.
Follow these tips to make your next webinar presentation an engaging one:
- Personalize the experience. Seventy-two hours prior to the webinar send a personal email reminder to each attendee and include any handouts. Ask them to send you their questions at least 24 hours prior to the event. That way you can ensure that you answer all of their questions during your presentation. The morning of the webinar, send them a short, friendly message like “Looking forward to connecting with you during the webinar today!” that will serve as a gentle reminder.
- Don’t send your presentation slides beforehand. If attendees have the slides, they may not have a reason to listen to you. Instead, create a worksheet, using a combination of fill-in-the-blank, multiple-choice and essay questions that they can use to follow along and take notes. That ensures that they are actively listening and homing in on your key points.
- Answer questions throughout your presentation. Rather than save the Q&A for the end of the presentation, offer attendees the opportunity to ask questions during your presentation. Every 10 minutes or so, ask attendees if they have questions so far. Immediately answer those questions. If the answer will come later in the presentation, let them know that. For off-topic questions, say that you aren’t discussing that topic today but that you will respond in an email following the webinar.
- Ask attendees questions. Poll the group or call out attendees by names (you should compile and print that list prior to the webinar). Aim to integrate a question to the audience every 4-5 slides. People will stay focused on the presentation because they don’t want to get caught not paying attention.
—Adapted from “4 Tips for Hosting an Engaging Webinar Strategy,” Tiffani Frey, Business 2 Community, http://www.business2community.com.
Stop dwelling on your occasional misstep and focus instead on your success as a speaker. Photocopy your certificates of achievement, copies of positive evaluations from previous speeches and testimonials from clients and friends. Pull together everything that makes you feel good about yourself as a speaker. Use that material to create a book of your speaking successes, and refer to it when you need inspiration before you take the stage.
—Adapted from “How to Write and Deliver an Outstanding Speech,” www.speakingandmarketingtips.com.
Overcome the perils of confusing and losing your audience when presenting complicated concepts.
Excessive information and details can baffle the audience, while oversimplifying ideas loses your point and patronizes listeners. Strike a balance and keep your audience engaged by following these guidelines:
- Define terms and acronyms to lay the proper groundwork.
- Present the conclusion first, not the evidence. Then provide just enough proof to support your findings.
- Break down concepts into smaller, more easily understood parts, and explain each one.
- Demonstrate your product or procedure while explaining each element or step.
- Gauge audience comprehension by asking for questions every 8-10 minutes.
- Offer details after your presentation, in the form of support materials that you hand out, email or post online.
—Adapted from “Don’t Dumb It Down,” Christopher Witt, Communication Matters,http://christopherwitt.com.
If you want to make a lasting impression on your audience, stay in character even after you have delivered your closing statement. Do the following:
- Hold yourself accountable for your words. Stick around to answer questions, address concerns, pose for pictures or simply chat with audience members. If you don’t run and hide immediately following your presentation, you’ll show that you stand behind your words—enough so to face any negativity that might be headed your way.
- Keep your performer face on. During those minutes following your presentation, maintain the professionalism you exhibited on stage. When people congratulate you on a job well done, graciously accept. Don’t point out your flaws or talk about how nervous you were. You don’t want to diminish the audience’s perception of you with self-deprecating comments.
- Follow up. Find a good reason to contact attendees following the presentation. If you didn’t know something during the presentation, send an email with the answer. Or mail or email audience members additional information relevant to the presentation. One easy way to make that connection is to resend electronic copies of the presentation visuals.
Note: Whenever you do reach out to audience members, invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn or to follow you on Facebook or Twitter.
Giving an effective presentation depends largely upon how well you know your audience. As you write your speech, ask these questions:
- Who are they? Are you speaking to younger or older people or a mix? If you’re dealing with a mixture of ages and backgrounds, speak directly to certain parts of your audience at times. Example: “Some of you folks born before 1980 may remember …”
- What do they know? What kind of knowledge do your attendees have? Are they well-versed in your topic? Do they have the needed background details? Will you need to simplify your message?
- Why should they care? What benefit are you offering your audience? Consider the audience’s level of investment and their needs and wants; then cater to them.
- How might they respond? Anticipate their questions and prepare answers ahead of time. If they could become negative, you may want to address potential objections upfront.
— Adapted from “Match Your Presentation to Your Audience,” Guest blogger, http://hbr.org.
Engage your listeners by having them speak first. Pose a question for them to answer before you launch into your remarks. You can even display it on the screen as they enter the room, to start them thinking and talking with the people around them.
Then invite the audience to share their thoughts, concerns or experiences by answering the question in front of the group. That immediately involves them in what you have to say, building their interest.
Throughout your presentation, refer back to their comments to show that you listened to them and that what you have to say is relevant to their situations.
— Adapted from “Have Them at ‘Hello’” Elizabeth Mortensen, Forbes, http://www.forbes.com.
Public speaking skills are highly sought after by organizations. If you are a talented presenter, it is a great skill to list on a resume—even if you aren’t a professional speaker. If you are a professional speaker, you should be getting the word out about your skill. Here are some great tips to market yourself:
- Publicize your availability. People may not know that you are interested in speaking. Mention to your boss that you’d be open to offering customer demonstrations or to training a new group of employees. If you are a professional speaker, create a website advertising your services, and provide a schedule of your availability.
- Use social media. Use sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to announce that you are available to speak on specific subjects. Also post updates about sessions you recently led.
- Add the skill to your resume and social media profiles. Being an outstanding public speaker is considered a rare skill. It can make you stand out from the pack and lead to jobs that offer you the potential to address a crowd regularly.
- Ask for reviews and recommendations. After you give a presentation, ask your audience members to write a testimony or to recommend you on LinkedIn. Those firsthand accounts can seal the deal when people are looking for keynote speakers for their own events.
- Write articles. Submit articles or blog posts in your area of expertise to appropriate media outlets. Many content producers accept article submission or guest blog posts. You may even want to consider creating your own blog or weekly e-newsletter if you plan to speak professionally. It’s a great way to share your knowledge with people—and keep your name and services in front of them.
- Work pro bono. Consider presenting for free an audio conference or webinar. It gives you practice, but more important, it offers you exposure and the opportunity to showcase your speaking talents, which can lead to paid gigs.