What a cost-effective and compelling medium Webinars have become for sales presentations, customer training and internal company communications. But the medium is not the message. Just as with any live presentation, PowerPoint and any other form of contact with others, HOW you communicate is just s important as what you have to say.
With experience, we all learn how to receive and respond to diverse forms of media and communications. You end up confusing your audience, rather than informing, when you ignore the communications conventions that work best for each medium.
Humans have evolved over thousands of years to read each other’s visual cues to get a sense of safety, trust, engagement and connection. We depend on reading people’s body language to understand them, and to adapt our behavior accordingly.
Now, technology has allowed — even forced — us to navigate in the dark.
When Delivering Webinars, Are People Engaged, Confused, Bored
There are many challenges we face, from lack of comfort with the technology and tools of the platform, to not redesigning the curriculum for a virtual platform. And, one of the biggest issues is us as presenters. If it was hard to keep people’s attention face-to-face before, it feels impossible now.
This is where DJs come in – they’ve been entertaining and educating remotely for years. I had a chance to speak to Christine Richie, on-air talent from New York’s Fresh 102.7 FM, who shared her experience and six techniques to keep in mind:
1. You Vs. All of You
“When people are listening on the radio it’s an intimate experience. I’m trying to engage each person individually. If I say ‘all of you’ it puts me on another level, like I’m on a pedestal,” Richie shared, “Instead, I approach it as a conversation with a friend. It should feel like two people hanging out.” This is great advice for webinars – approach them as if you are having a conversation with a friend.
2. Target Your Message to Your Audience
“I know that my audience tends to be 25-44 year old women who are married with 2 kids. Knowing my audience helps me connect with them more,” Richie said. What can you do? Know the names, roles, attitudes, etc., of the people on your webinar. In other words, do your homework in advance. Not only will you be able to use names during the webinar, you’ll also be able to tailor your examples to connect with their heads and hearts. Knowing your audience helps you focus on the WIIFT? (What’s In It For Them).
3. Picture the Person/ People With Whom You are Communicating
One of the most challenging parts of speaking to a remote audience is feeling comfortable when you can’t see them. Richie will often picture a friend as she is speaking to her virtual audience or post a picture to make sure she remembers who she is speaking to.
4. Create a Dialogue Not a Monologue
Webinars can become lectures, which makes people tune out. “People like to be heard, they need to be heard. If you do all the talking and only share your information and experiences it’s like being on a date where it’s a one-sided conversation,” Richie said. Most of us have been on dates like this and we don’t go on a second one. Remember, ask the audience both rhetorical and actual questions: “Has this happened to you?”, “What are your thoughts on…,” “I’d like to hear your insights …” to create a dialogue. Use two-way audio on your virtual platform to have a conversation with your audience. So, remember it’s OK for you to share to help your audience feel comfortable sharing.
5. Work With a Producer or Facilitator
Two heads and voices are better than one. Having more than one person on a webinar adds interest. Whenever possible, work with a producer. That person can introduce you, handle logistics and manage the technical elements. Having both male and female voices adds variety, which helps to maintain interest and engagement. Richie also recommends mapping out the plan if you are presenting with someone else so there is clear direction: “Have a beginning, middle and end and also have an exit strategy (for example, ask the audience to chime in) to keep things moving.”
6. Deliver “Theater of the Mind”
This is a popular radio expression about the importance of telling a story that paints a picture. Without the advantage of face-to-face communication, this is essential. Are we painting the picture for our audience? As you design your virtual messages remember to provide context, explain the why and share vivid stories, examples and analogies for the theater of the mind.
DJs are delivering virtual presentations every day and the best ones make it feel intimate, engaging and keep us tuning in. Like them, our goal is to inform, engage and keep the music (or learning) going.