How to engage your audience in any online presentation

Even for the most charismatic speakers, adjusting to a virtual setting can be a bit awkward. Unlike in-person presentations, you don’t have the benefit of establishing a presence in the room when you present online. With mics muted and cameras turned off, you don’t get the same in-the-moment feedback that you do in person, which can be unnerving if you’re not used to it. 

But the biggest challenge in presenting online may be as basic as getting your audience to pay attention. An InterCall study found that over 60% of people are doing other work or checking email while on a conference call. Others admitted to making and eating food, checking their phones, and even exercising.

These days, you’re more likely to give a presentation online than in person, so it’s a great time to brush up on your presentation skills and adjust them for a virtual setting. Read on for our tips on engaging your audiences online and holding their attention throughout your online presentation.

Keep your camera on

There are few things as interesting to humans as other human faces. In fact, a study by Richard Franz demonstrated that infants will stare twice as long at faces than at shapes. If you want people to pay attention to you when you present online, make sure they can see your face.

Virtual presentations often include screen shares and visual aids that block the speaker from view. With the video presentation tool Prezi Video, you can put all the content of your presentation next to you on screen, so you can keep that face-to-face connection with your audience, even when you refer to something visually.

Prezi Video has helped people continue delivering effective presentations even as things shifted to more remote settings. Moving to Prezi Video was a “complete game-changer” for Belinda Keeble, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Secondnature International. “We could deliver truly effective training online by using an online platform that enabled us to be side by side with our slides”:

Set the scene

Even though you’re not in the same space as the people you’re speaking with, that doesn’t mean they need to be reminded of it. Make sure the background of your video is clean and that there aren’t any distracting pieces, like dirty dishes, bedsheets, or clothes. A bookshelf or houseplants would do.

Make eye contact

Stay connected while you work remotely with Prezi Video

The best speakers hold their audience’s attention by scanning the room and making eye contact with the people in their audience, but you don’t have this luxury when you’re presenting online. Instead, look into the camera when you’re speaking, so your audience can feel as though you’re speaking to them. Your camera should be at about eye-level to make it feel natural and easy.
Make sure you’re not too close or too far away from the camera. In her Presenting on Video series, Jessica Chen of Soulcast Media recommends about 2-3 feet of space between you and the camera. Learn more in her video here:

Keep things moving along

Don’t forget that virtual presentations are more difficult to pay attention to than in-person presentations. A 20-minute presentation can easily feel twice as long when it’s online. Professional speaker Rob Jolles recommends developing a “communication shot clock” and limiting the time you spend on each story to about 45-60 seconds in order to keep things moving.

Less text, more images

Including images in your presentation is a great way to make your presentation stand out and keep your audience engaged. Just by including images, your audience is likely to remember about 65% of the information three days later.

Instead of adding text to your presentation, talk through it. You should keep things moving along, and if you add text, you might want to slow down and let your audience read it before moving on.

Avoid tech fails

Before your meeting, do a test run to make sure everything on your computer is working smoothly and that you’re comfortable with your audio and camera setup. You want to avoid something failing in the middle of your presentation, and having to take an awkward break to get everything up and running again.

If you want to avoid any possibility of an on-the-spot technical fail, record your presentation ahead of time and share it with your audience. Prezi Video makes it easy to record and save a video of your presentation. Share a link within your network or upload it to cloud platforms like Google Classroom.

Presenting online is never going to be quite like presenting in the room, but by making a few adjustments, you can create an online experience that engages your audience and keeps their attention on you. Learn more about how Prezi Video can help you build an immersive presentation that pops online, or get started making your first video today.

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