As audiences go global and you need to reach more people through technology (including webinars, conference calls and teleconference), you must consider the challenges to connecting with a virtual audience. Here I pinpoint 10 valuable best practices to ensure you communicate successfully.
1. Be Brief
Audiences begin to lose attention after roughly 10 minutes of hearing from the same presenter. If you have more than 10 minutes of content, use interactive activities to keep your audience engaged (for example, take a poll, give quizzes, or ask audience members for their opinions via chat).
2. Be Simple
Keep slides simple — avoid too many words, graphics and animation features. Less is definitely more!
3. Be a TV Personality
Look straight into your camera, not the screen. Wear clothing that is neutral in color (no plaids or stripes). Light yourself well and from above. Be mindful of what appears behind you in the background. Invest in a good microphone.
4. Be Standing
Even though your audience cannot see you, stand when you present. This allows you to stay focused and use good presentation delivery skills such as belly breathing, vocal variety, and pausing.
5. Be Prepared
Practice delivering your presentation with your technology in advance of your talk. Make sure all of the features of the technology work. Record your practice using the recording feature of your tool. Watch and listen to learn what works and what you can improve.
6. Be Assisted
Have someone available to deal with technical issues and to field email/text questions. Also, if you have multiple remote audience members in one location, be sure to pick one of them to be your “eyes and ears.” Ask them to queue up questions and facilitate discussion on your behalf.
7. Be Specific
Ask pointed questions to avoid too many people answering at once. For example, rather than ask, “Are there any questions?” try “Who has a question about the solution I provided?” Set a ground rule that people state their names prior to speaking.
8. Be Synchronized
Transitions are critical. You must connect what you just said to what is coming next when you move from point to point. Transitions between topics and slides are good opportunities to get people reengaged to your talk.
9. Be Connected
Imagine your audience even though you can’t see them. You can place pictures of audience members behind your camera so you can look at people as you present.
10. Be Early
Encourage your audience to access your call or webinar in advance of the start time so you can iron out any technical issues in advance and get them familiar with the technology.
Matt Abrahams is a Stanford GSB organizational behavior lecturer, author, and communications coach.