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Webinar Best Practices: How to Engage an Invisible Audience

Posted by Anthony Salas on
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webinar audiences are easy to engage with practice“I’m used to speaking to an audience I can see, so I’m really nervous about speaking to an online audience I can’t see!”

“How do I know the audience is paying attention to me?”

“I can’t see the faces in the audience. I’m not sure if they understand what I am talking about.”

These are just some of the frustration points speakers might encounter when speaking to a webinar audience – and they are valid frustrations!  Luckily there are some ways to encourage your audience’s engagement.

Following are some pointers from speakers who have gone through the frustration of presenting to an invisible audience – some are pretty logical; some are pretty creative!


  • Co-workers can make a great stand-in audience.
    If people sense that you are reading from a script they will tune out very quickly. Instead, make it feel like a conversation. Each person should feel as if you’re speaking directly to him/her. Our recommendation for doing this is to have one or two people in the room with you and speak directly to them as if they are your audience. They will react, and when they do, you should respond accordingly – just like you would in an everyday conversation. Using this technique, your intonation will sound natural and interesting.

  • Use the keyboard!
    Make sure your audience has to touch their keyboard at least every 10 minutes. In ReadyTalk’s web interface you can have them answer questions via the chat feature or answer polling questions. There is also a ‘raise hand’ feature that is a great engagement tool. An example of how to use this would be to ask a question such as “Have you reviewed the documents provided to you prior to this webinar?” You can then ask the audience to raise their hand if their answer is yes. And speaking of providing documents...

  • Distribute PDF files of documents before the webinar.
    These could be note-taking versions of your slides for your audience to use during the webinar, "quizzes" that ask them questions they'll need to answer at the end of the webinar or a worksheet they'll need to complete during the webinar. Keep them busy writing something down. They'll not only pay closer attention to what you're saying; they'll remember it better.

  • Consider the “talk radio” approach.
    If you only have one speaker, you might consider using a host to make the presentation more engaging, and it will keep the audience interested since they will hear two distinct voices. At the appropriate moments, turn your presentation into a radio show by allowing your speaker and host to banter back and forth while incorporating audience questions and/or comments.

  • Picture this…
    If you are using slides you should consider including more pictures and less text. This is particularly helpful with an international audience when certain words or phrases may not translate easily. If you do this, make sure the pictures are clear and large enough to show details. If it is a picture with text, make sure the text can be read easily on a slide. Using pictures to tell stories that relate to the concept you're trying to get across works wonders. If you don't do this, what do you think will happen? Precisely what we've all done; people will minimize the webinar windows, check their email, take phone calls or drop off entirely.


Hopefully you have found these pointers helpful, and can put some of these to personal use. I’m sure there are many more great pointers out there, so if you’ve done something different to engage your webinar audience, please let us know!

As we come to the end of this entry, here is one last, very important point to remember whether you are speaking to a live audience or an invisible one…every individual is there to learn something, so seize that opportunity!

 

As an event manager, Anthony works with clients on all aspects of their audio and web conferencing needs. Prior to working at ReadyTalk, he was a ReadyTalk customer, so he brings a great understanding of developing and running webinar programs. He enjoys spending time with his family and two dogs, watching movies, reading and exploring Denver’s top restaurants.


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