FREE DOWNLOAD: 10 Tell-Tale Signs of Rookie Presenters (and how to avoid them)

7 Tactics to Building Audience Engagement into your Online Presentation

If you’ve worked with us in the past, you’ve likely heard us mention the WOSLIE Way. If you haven’t, you’re probably wondering what it is.

WOSLIE is an acronym for six critical strategies for activating audience engagement during your presentations - whether they are online, in person, or a hybrid of both. While shiftED formulated the strategies, it is up to the presenter to determine how best to implement them, based on their audience, their content, their comfort and experience level, and other important factors. After we introduce these principles during our workshops and courses, we discuss practical applications for incorporating them based on specific participant scenarios. We believe there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to presenting, and take a heuristic view with our training and coaching. Because most of our workshop and 1:1 coaching clients have been primarily online for the past two years, the conversations have been dominated by the enigma of online engagement. Lately, however, we’ve been shifting gears with hybrid and in person events.

No matter the method of your delivery, the WOSLIE Way calls for an audience-centered experience that is inclusive and energetic. Online presentations and hybrid events with online attendees are especially prone to losing attention from their audiences, based on the format alone. Because the temptation to multi-task during online presentations is much higher, this approach will help you to captivate and maintain your audience’s attention throughout.

To help you prepare for your next event, we have put together 7 tactics that will ensure your audience remains engaged and enthused about your material, and ultimately your message.

1. Design a succinct presentation

This is easier said than done, of course. You have a lifetime’s worth of knowledge to share, so how do you pare that down into an easily consumable package?

We recommend taking a moment to really think about exactly what you want your audience to do (ie. what is the ONE thing you want them to take action on) and then work backward from that key point. If you find yourself veering too far off from one of those key metrics, make a note elsewhere as that may be an idea for a stand alone presentation or you may have stumbled upon the blueprint for a series! Then wrangle those thoughts back to the objective you started with. Once you have your general outline and messaging in place, take a moment to work through how you can ask the audience to engage with this information in a way that will ensure it is thoroughly received.

2. Share the spotlight or invite a guest

Particularly in the online space, we know that conversations offer a level of exclusivity to those who get to hear it. Inviting a guest presents an opportunity for alternative viewpoints that may answer some of your audience’s questions without them having to ask, or better yet, create new ones! Make sure to choose a co-presenter that you have an established rapport with as this will make the conversation run smoothly and will ignite audience interest and engagement.

If your intention is to have a fully co-led presentation, ensure that you are including multiple opportunities for interaction with your audience. While conversations are typically engaging, without opportunity for input, your audience may end up feeling more alienated than included.

Lastly, ensure that you and your guest are on the same page when it comes to your expectations for online engagement, walking through your interactive sessions several times together before ‘going live’.

3. Gamify your presentation!

Gamification is a great way to boost engagement! In fact, we love it so much, we wrote an entire blog about it last year, 3 Gamification Tools for Audience Engagement, where we dove into three popular platforms: Kahoot, Quizizz & Poll Everywhere.

As we noted there, games are a great way to level the playing field and allow everyone to feel like they are part of the group. Online presentation platforms and software adjuncts, such as native Zoom polls or integrated apps such as Mentimeter, have provided a virtual bridge to highly effective in-person icebreakers and mid-presentation attention retainers. These tools are great as they offer the opportunity of anonymity for the audience, allowing them to feel less vulnerable when answering questions.

Don’t be fooled by the term gamification. Although it may sound like child’s play, there are many psychological benefits to using game-like interaction tools to further the social learning experience and ultimately increase the quality of your audience’s retention of your key takeaways.


4. Spark conversation amongst your audience members

We know that break-out sessions are highly impactful for interactive learning, specifically if you’re speaking to a larger group. This has also been found to be true within the virtual space. Most online speaking platforms have acknowledged this development and have built in capabilities to facilitate smaller sessions or break-out rooms and we highly recommend tapping into this technology.

The same rules apply when creating impactful break-outs: keep them short and sweet, provide clear and simple instructions, and ensure that there is opportunity for everyone to participate. During hybrid events, consider the composition of the breakout groups to ensure online participants are fully included. For best results, assign a moderator to each room, this will ensure that the group stays on task and can tackle any tech issues that may arise. Encourage each group to assign a timekeeper and a spokesperson to optimize the format.

Then have everyone come back together and discuss their findings. This is a great way to foster relationship building and bolster content buy-in.

5. Promote audience questions

We know that question periods can be an intimidating time for presenters, which is why promoting audience questions throughout is such a great feature of online presentations. There are a variety of methods to facilitate collecting questions from your audience, including the built-in presentation software’s chat box, live Tweets or real-time collaboration on a private backchannel such as a shared Google document, or encourage participants to message a designated moderator.

While it is still useful to ask for questions during the designated question period, broadening the opportunity is a great way to get the conversation started and to avoid any awkward silence when a question period is announced. Additionally, allowing everyone to see the questions come in throughout may elicit some new inquiries that may not have come about organically.
Humor & Storytelling go hand in hand.

6. On or offline, one of the best ways to unite a room is through the appropriate use of humour

Tactful amusement is a great way to deliver your story with impact. Due to the nature of an online format, it can be more challenging to build rapport with your audience. This is why using humour and storytelling is so important within the virtual learning space.

Some of the most engaged-with online content works by evoking unilaterally positive emotions, such as laughter. The most artful of storytellers can discuss serious subject matter tastefully and still find a way to make an audience smile. Using these communication tools will immediately unite your room and have your audience looking for more.
Audience Motivation & Action steps.

7. One of the most impactful ways to engage your audience is to inspire action

Be sure to include any expectations or requirements in the presentation preamble and preceding correspondence to promote optimal audience engagement. And, as is the case whenever you’re asking for deliverables, offer distinct expectations by clearly outlining the type of output you hope you’ve inspired the audience to provide. Whenever possible, provide examples.

Lastly, think about how to leave your audience with motivation to activate what you’ve taught them. Are there follow up elements you can create to facilitate momentum? These are important pieces to complete your virtual learning puzzle and provide a great way to stay connected with your audience.

If you’d like more insight on how to boost engagement in your presentations, reach out to find out about our upcoming programs and workshops!


We're delighted by your interest!

The Presentation Skills course is in development, but if you pop your email here, we'll be sure to reach out to you as soon as it is released!