Wednesday, July 25, 2007

5 Fast Ways to Engage Your Audience in a Web Conference

The last thing you want is to get the feeling that the audience of your web conference has been spirited away to the lands of email, instant messenger, and YouTube in the middle of your presentation. Here are 5 attention-getting ideas:

1. Polls
This feature should be built in to your web conferencing platform. Make some polls ahead of time to see if your audience is grasping your key points, or make things up on the fly. Use polls to assess interest level (by seeing how many of your viewers respond), too. It's hard to shirk a question that's being asked of you directly.

2. Rewards
Incentives like gift certificates, a free consultation or other service, or other industry-appropriate gifts don't have to be expensive in order to grab your audience's attention. Whether you use them as sign-up bonuses, offer them randomly to participants who complete a meaningful (not just multiple choice) exit survey, or give them as prizes for the most insightful question or comment during a presentation, rewards are sure to keep everyone on task.

3. Live Q&A
This works for similar reasons as #1 - if your viewers know that you're presenting live and taking the time to answer questions during the presentation, they'll be more inclined to pay attention. After all, they may have questions, too!

4. Invite a Guest Speaker
...especially if you're doing a series of presentations. Even if you can't afford to invite someone of note, the change in voice and presentation style alone will wake up your audience. (This one requires some advance planning, but you could always just plan to split presenting duties with someone else in the office or an offsite colleague.)

5. Take a "Commercial Break"
Every 15 minutes or so, plan to take a quick break - maybe this is the time for a poll or Q&A, maybe it's a chance to show an appropriate comic panel or play a quick video clip. Maybe your break can be as simple as switching gears and going from presentation to live demonstration (or letting the group "test drive" your product using application sharing) - just make sure to offer something different from time to time.

Bonus: Liven Up your Presentation
This one isn't quite as quick to implement, but make sure to brush up on presentation skills, even though your audience will be virtual. A lively, upbeat tone and engaging, well-designed visuals make it very difficult to tune out on your presentation.

Bonus #2: Remember Your Audience
Write down the defining characteristics of your audience, like industry experience and/or demographics. Remember what time of day it will be for your participants, and what it's like to be at the office at that time of day. Then, run through your presentation as if you were an audience member, and be very honest about what you see. Don't be afraid to drastically reduce text on your slides or spend more time on demonstration and less on presentation.

No comments: