Tips to keep virtual audiences engaged

Navigating through uncertain times with virtual meetings

Do you want to learn how to be a successful presenter at a virtual event? 

Now, you may be thinking, “I’ve presented dozens of times at huge live events. This isn’t my first rodeo.” Whether you are a brand new presenter or an old hat at it, here’s what could happen if you don’t properly prepare for your virtual presentation. So how do you keep your virtual audience engaged? Let’s break it down: 

1. Choose Your Setting Wisely

Where you present from matters a lot! Assuming you don’t have a professional production crew to help, here’s what to do: 

Set up in a quiet space

Your audience doesn’t want to see or hear your colleagues, family, or pets in the background. Be sure to let people know you are giving an important presentation so they’ll know to keep 

Silence ALL your nearby devices and disable notifications

From an attendee perspective, it is distracting to hear every messenger ping and text that you receive. 

Choose a plain backdrop

Remember, you want your audience to focus on you and the material you are presenting, not what’s behind you. 

Front lighting on camera is key! 

Your audience wants to see your face. For the best video quality, make sure the lighting is in front of you and there are no windows behind you.  

Choosing the right setting for your virtual meeting is key

2. What to Wear When Presenting on Camera

A question we most frequently hear from presenters is, “What should I wear?”.  The short answer: Dress comfortably but dress for your intended audience. What we mean by this is if you are a CEO and your audience is 50,000 software developers, a nice blouse or button down would be appropriate in lieu of a suit. Here’s a few additional guidelines on how to dress on camera.

Wear solid colors

Avoid green if you are being filmed in front of a green screen. Avoid stripes and patterns, if possible. TIP: Everyone looks good in light blue.

Avoid flashy jewelry

Ladies, save your flashy bling for in-person events. 

Everyone looks good in light blue

3. Pay Attention to Your Body Language

Look at the camera

This is how you make eye contact with your audience. Yes, it’s tough, especially when presenting from a laptop where there is a lot happening on-screen. But important!

Avoid excessive movement

Is your presentation style to use your hands a lot? Then this tip is for you! Every movement is exaggerated on-camera and could distract your viewers so try to keep your body quiet as you present. 

Never touch your face while on camera

Ever had a pesky itch on your nose? DO NOT SCRATCH!

Avoid negative facial expressions!

This is particularly important if you are speaking on a panel. If you don’t like what another presenter is saying, try not to frown or roll your eyes. This might seem obvious, but we’ve seen it happen on numerous occasions and viewers definitely notice.

Your facial expressions say a lot about you

4. How to Deliver an Engaging Virtual Presentation

Start with an emotional story

To be an effective presenter, face-to-face or virtual, you need to master the art of storytelling. So, tell your audience a story that’s meaningful to you and don’t be afraid to get emotional. Do this, and your audience will be hooked. You’ll also be more relaxed and primed to deliver a more powerful message. Check out some best practices for incorporating storytelling into presentations.

Engage early and often

Make it fun from the start to reset your viewer’s expectations. Set a goal to get your attendees to interact twice within the first 5 minutes. Use polling or gamification tools available with your virtual engagement platform. Try to build in some type of interaction at least every 10 minutes and vary the types of polls and interactions. Be sure to make them valuable for your audience, rather than self-serving. 

Q&A

When you answer virtual Q&A, you may not be able to physically see your audience. When publicly answering questions, acknowledge who asked the question before answering. This will make the person feel included in the conversation. If you receive a question that you plan on answering later, let the person know you’ll be answering their question later so they don’t feel like you are ignoring them.

Pay close attention to chat

If your virtual event platform has chat enabled for live stream or pre-recorded sessions, pay as much attention to chat comments as you do Q&A. In many situations, audiences feel more comfortable expressing themselves through chat instead of formal Q&A. This will give you a gauge on what your audience is truly thinking and feeling during your session.

Slides and Visuals

Don’t feel like you have to show slides the entire time or at all. Use videos or other interactive visuals as alternatives. Sometimes, slides can’t be avoided so if you do decide to use them, think about how you would present the same information visually, without bullets. 

How do you create engaging pre-recorded sessions?

If you feel more comfortable pre-recording your content than going live, there are still great opportunities to make your session engaging. For instance, you could make yourself available on chat during the pre-recorded session and then go live to answer Q&A at the end. You can even set up polls in advance to make your session feel live, even if your content is pre-recorded.

Keep track of time!

Just because your session is virtual does not mean you should go over your allotted time. Be courteous to your audience and other presenters and wrap-up your session on-time. 

5. What Technology Do You Need?

Depending on what kind of virtual event you are speaking at and whether you have a video production team, the equipment you need can vary. Let’s assume you are presenting from your home or office. Here’s what we recommend:

A high-speed internet connection

No internet connection is fool-proof, but with a faster connection, you’ll limit the change of poor audio, video, and your screen freezing up. This is especially important for live streaming. If you are using a laptop for your presentation, close out all non-essential applications while you are presenting.

Quality microphone

In a virtual situation, audio trumps visuals. So, it’s worth investing in a quality microphone for your presentation instead of relying on your computer mic. If you do use your computer mic for input, mute your output speakers to avoid distracting feedback.

Video cameras for virtual

Can you do your virtual  presentation with a webcam? Certainly. But keep in mind that not all web cams are HD. For best results, choose a camera that outputs a clean HDMI signal. 

Virtual Event Software

Have you ever heard of the term Zoom fatigue? As a speaker, you may not get a choice in your virtual event software. But if you do and if budget allows, consider options that take engagement to a new level and provide more lifelike experiences. Your audience will thank you. 

What’s Next?

We’ve shared with you some tips be a successful virtual event presenter.

Hope they come in handy when you are delivering your awesome content!

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