All too often, online presenters are in a one-way conversation during which they push out a bunch of information to a group of silent audience members. This can happen when presenters experience internal and external barriers, such as self-confidence and familiarity with the technology.
The good news is, there are a host of practical strategies that are quick and easy to incorporate in your next presentation.
When I teach my Online Presentation Secrets workshops, I share the WOSLIE Way, shiftED’s methodology for activating audience engagement. When I coach individual clients, we peel back the layers to get to the root of their barriers and then we work together to determine specific WOSLIE tactics to incorporate in their presentations, based on their audience and their objectives...and their comfort level.
WOSLIE is uncomplicated, but it can be as nuanced as your experience warrants with literally hundreds of off-the-shelf and customizable options. I should also acknowledge that the WOSLIE Way is applicable for both online and in-person presentations and that we need to give special attention to some of the specific elements that are unique to online.
Read on for just a couple of easy-to-implement examples that require very little preparation.
Some online presenters are concerned with how they are going to manage the technology - the tools, the features, the functions; instead, we ought to focus on the human experience. It starts with how you welcome your audience. It’s the greeting or first contact.
When I ask my clients how they would normally welcome their audience in a face-to-face setting, they say things like, "I’m usually there ahead of time" or "I’m ready to present before anyone walks into the room."
We wouldn’t necessarily leapfrog into the content or material, so why do we tend to do that in the online format? Let's not forget that we’re humans on the other side of that technology.
A super-simple way to increase audience engagement is to consider your method for welcoming. Set the expectation, in advance, for whether you'll invite participants to be on the webcam or using their mics. Open online sessions early so you can be there to welcome each audience member as they log in, just as you would in an in-person setting.
Say hello, call them by name so they feel seen and warmly acknowledged. Not everyone will feel comfortable ‘speaking up’ or being visible in an online format, especially if they are new to interactive online facilitators or if the audience is sizeable. No matter how large the group is though, plan for a warm welcome.
Start small. Turn your webcam and mic on as soon as that first person arrives, and confirm that they can hear you, see you, see your slides or other content on screen…even if you're confident that they can.
Take a few moments to orient your audience within the platform and offer some context for the presentation.
To effectively do this, we need to understand what the participant's view looks like. And instead of imagining what that looks like, log in on a separate device as a participant to experience their perspective. This way, you can fluently point out the participant functions and features and views rather than guessing.
A good deal of anxiety can stem from the uncertainties so we want to remove as many unknowns as we possibly can.
Having a conversation with your audience is what sets good presenters apart from the average same-old, same-old. Plan for a two-way dialogue, even if you’re the one doing most of the talking. And if those internal barriers start to creep back up, park them. That inner dialogue can be distracting, and we should be focused on our audience, not ourselves.
If you want a cure for crickets, WOSLIE is a proven formula based on decades of experience presenting online.
Curious about the other elements of this acronym?
Click here to download the WOSLIE Way infographic for tips on Welcoming, Orienting and more!
You know your stuff.
Connect with your audience.
And, if you need help with engagement for your presentations or want to see if the Online Presentation Secrets workshops could benefit your teams, reach out.
-Tisha Parker Kemp