Let’s face it, virtual presentations are just not the same as those that happen when everyone is collocated in a room. Take it from me. I used to spend virtually every day on the road speaking to rooms filled with groups of amazing people. Now, I’m speaking to the camera on a 13” Apple MacBook. And those on the other side of the screen are experiencing something that’s completely different from the excitement and energy of a real, live event. They’re looking back at me, but their virtual experience is fraught with woes that we never had to worry about when we met in person. There are three big reasons why people are less likely to pay attention to your online presentation:
1. Temptation to multitask. The most significant obstacle to presentation engagement is the temptation of participants to multitask. When you’re sitting in the room with a person presenting at the front of the shared space, you’re more likely to pay attention. When you’re looking at your screen, the same screen that can show your current emails and your Facebook feed, the temptation increases. And this is caused by a false belief: 100% of people seem to think they can multitask, yet only 2% can do so effectively.
2. The physical environment. The second problem is the screen itself. It’s easier to be engaged with a human being standing in front of you than it is to stare at a screen, a seemingly insignificant rectangle that actually dilutes the potency and power of the presentation. And when you are attending a presentation in person, the entire audience is experiencing the event from the same environment. When people are home, each person’s environment is different.
3. Sameness. The third reason is that online presentations aren’t very different from regular online meetings. They are quite similar to every other meeting you’re having on your computer. This means there’s no reason to pay special attention. You go from a team meeting to a webinar to a meeting with clients – moving from one shade of beige to another.
To counteract these challenges and make your presentations personal brand builders, you need to be deliberate in how you design and deliver your virtual presentation. Here are five easy fixes that will make it likelier that your audience will stay glued to your presentation:
When you’re presenting to your boss or a group of clients in the real world, you’re often standing in the front of the room. Yet the most common way presentations are delivered online is from the comfort of your desk chair, which puts you in the same position as your audience. When you stand up, you stand out.
Start with a bang
First impressions as critical. Your opening needs to be different from the way typical Zoom meetings begin. When you start with something fresh, provocative, unexpected, or unique, you’re telling your audience: This is different. Pay attention.
Keep it visual
Videos and animated gifs are ways to use the shiny object syndrome to keep your audience’s gaze on your content. Multimedia is far more engaging than words on slides. In addition, keep the format of the content in flux. Go from telling a story to sharing some data to referencing a famous quote, and always include images that reinforce the content.
Make it fun
Neuroscience tells us that we learn more when we’re having fun, so work hard to make the presentation to feel less like work to your audience. Add games, polls, funny stories, relevant jokes and anything else you can think of that will make your performance seem more like an award-winning Netflix original and less like a black-and-white public service message from the 1950s.
Make it interactive
One of the best ways to keep your participants’ attention is to follow the advice of Benjamin Franklin, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Integrate polls, whiteboards, hand raising (for agreement) and other forms of interaction so you’re not just talking at your audience; if you’re connecting with them, you’ll leave a lasting impression.
When you integrate these five simple strategies into your presentations, you’re sure to deliver big results, no matter how small the screen.
William Arruda is a founder of CareerBlast and co-creator of BrandBoost – a video-based personal branding talent development experience.