3 things speakers should know about virtual presenting

This is a guest post by Roger Courville. You can find out more about Roger in his bio at the end of this post.

Web seminars (AKA “webinars” or “webcasts”) are online seminars or presentations used to synchronously engage remote audiences with any content that can be presented from a computer desktop. Using Web conferencing is simple, like logging into a Web site. Participants engage aurally with audio conferencing using their telephones or computers with headset, and many solutions offer video to enhance the visual connection between presenters and audience members.

Besides reducing travel, webinars deliver many potential benefits such as reaching audience members who may not otherwise been able to attend your presentation or including additional presenters who are also remote. Web seminars don’t replace face-to-face presentations, but any speaker who hasn’t added live remote instruction to their toolkit is missing a unique opportunity.

Webinars are a change of environment, and adapting to a new medium ideally means adapting one’s delivery strategy. Like pilots learn to fly both by sight and by their instruments, remote presentation is much like the latter. Step one in adapting to a new medium is adopting an attitude of creativity. Here are the 3 things to do when you have to give a virtual presentation:

1. Start planning by thinking through the user experience

To plan for presenting at a web seminar, think through how you engage audiences when face-to-face. What interactivity or questions do you plan in advance (e.g., “raise your hand if you traveled more than an hour to get here today)? What types of engagement tend to be ad hoc?

As you familiarize yourself with the web seminar tools available, you will find that some parts of your presentation will present the same, some requires transformation, and some may not translate at all, requiring an alternative approach.

In the process of discovering and adapting, serendipity will also emerge – you will uncover new opportunities. For example, because a Q&A or chat tool usually captures input in a post-event report, I’ve asked audiences to share a favorite resource (e.g., book, website, or tool) with their peers. Collating and distributing this user-generated content now goes from a time-consuming manual process to a few seconds of copy/paste.

2. Keep the presentation changing visually

A frequent concern of virtual presenters is how to keep remote audiences engaged – a fair concern in an age where even in-person audiences are multi-tasking with Blackberries.

The first key to engagement: keep the presentation changing visually. Imagine a television show where the images were still images for five minutes at a time. It wouldn’t take long before the audience figured out they only needed to glance up occasionally. Particularly with PowerPoint, err on the side of less content covered over more slides.

3. Increase the frequency of audience participation

This need not be a full exercise – ad hoc questions serve nicely and save you from needing to script your entire engagement. Assuming your intent is to educate, influence, or motivate, your chance for success will be increased dramatically if you have active, rather than passive, participants.

The bottom line

Companies are feeling pressure to reach audiences with tight, if not shrinking, budgets. Fortunately, technology may provide at least part of the answer. Like many technologies, Web conferencing is something presenters have long lived without but are now finding indispensible (think “mobile phone”). Live web seminars uniquely deliver interactive presentations at a distance, and they very well may be the answer you are looking for to increase your own marketability.
Bio
Roger Courville is author of the forthcoming book The Virtual Presenter’s Handbook, blogger at TheVirtualPresenter.com, and sought-after speaker on how to improve productivity using live, remote communications. Roger is the principal at 1080 Group, LLC, an independent training firm that helps companies learn and optimize online presentations and webinars, and his real-world expertise is backed by that of the seasoned professionals at 1080 Group – who together have worked with hundreds of clients on thousands of events involving more than a million event attendees.

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the write up. One suggestion if I may add would be to offer a small question/answer session at the end of presentation if possible. This will help folks who may have questions and would like to get feedback while the presentation is still fresh in their minds.

    Thanks.

    Waseem Sufi

  2. Nice article – reminds me of a seminar presentation we delivered to RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) regarding the use of webinars/standalone presentations.

    The presentation was focused on supporting RIBA affiliates in the development of their CPD (Continuing Professional Development) collateral however echoes many of the points raised by Roger. An online version is available to view at http://www.eyefulpresentations.co.uk/riba Hope you find it of some use!

    Regards,

    Simon

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