So, you want to host a virtual event and you want your audience involved and engaged? Today is your lucky day. Here’s where I grant you the secrets of the virtual universe. Behold!

If the audience doesn’t know how to participate they won’t. You are the all-powerful Oz during a virtual event so remind your audience early and often to interact in polls and/or an event survey (if you have them) and how/when to ask questions such as “tweet your questions,” “ask the question you want to know,” “please interrupt me, really!”

One Size Fits All

Bollocks! It’s not true with clothing and it’s not true with your presentation. Gauge the audience’s expertise, skill, and expected outcomes during event registration and/or by incorporating event polls before starting the presentation. By doing this you can easily adapt the presentation to the needs of the audience. If you (or the presenter) aren’t subject matter experts invite an industry expert to present all or some of the material.

The Funny Thing Is

People connect with people who are at ease, personable and relatable. So relax, incorporate your sense of humor, present in your own words, and show your human side.

  • Get Personal – Support the point you’re making with first-hand experience. This not only enhances credibility with the audience but proves your knowledge of the subject.
  • Metaphorically Speaking – You can get your point across in less time, with better understanding, and with longer retention using a metaphor. Especially when presenting something complex.

One-Trick Pony

Nothing is a bigger turn-off than a presenter who reads the presentation word-for-word. As soon as the audience is aware that you are reading the slides, they’ll read ahead, and you’ve lost them. Slides should be a reference for attendees not a transcript of the presentation. So identify the most salient points and know how to explain them well.

Present only the numbers and statistics that are necessary to illustrate a point, keep graphs and charts simple, and provide detailed calculations in a handout or the slide appendix. Additionally, avoid making these common mistakes when creating your slides:

  • Using content heavy and/or cluttered slides
  • Too many slides
  • Using decorative fonts that are difficult to read
  • Using fonts that are too small

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Live demos and hands-on instruction are worth their weight in gold. People learn 83% of information through sight and only 11% through hearing. Of this information, they’ll retain 10% of what they read, 20% of what they heard, 30% of what they saw, and 50% of what they saw and heard. Additionally, recall increases from 10-29% with telling or showing alone, to 65% by showing and telling. (Giblin, 2010) It’s no surprise that incorporating a live demo into your presentation will go a long way in engaging your audience, creating an active learning space, and helping your audience retain more information.

If you plan to do a live demo or show step-by-step how to do something, be sure to account for the time this will take during the presentation to ensure you leave plenty of time for closing remarks and audience Q&A.

Time Keeps on Tickin’

Be brief and wrap up early. Your audience is juggling deadlines, commitments, and shortages of time. Respect their time by planning how long each section of your presentation should take and stick to it. Giving people time back in their day is always appreciated.

And the Award Goes To

Never underestimate the power of free. People love prizes. Incentivizing is a powerful tool that can be used to encourage the audience to participate. Arrange it so that your audience members qualify for a prize when they meet certain criteria, such as answering a summary question correctly or as a reward for staying the entirety of an event. Using incentives in combination with the suggestions above for engaging the audience is likely to turn prize-seekers into engaged audience members.

Beg the Question

Not really, don’t beg. But according to Tero International, “audiences remember less than 30 percent of what they heard during the presentation and more than 85 percent of the questions asked.” (International, 2013)

In the event that crickets have consumed the audience be prepared to solicit questions. Facilitate Q&A by posing frequently asked questions and responding to them verbally. Additionally, “rhetorical questions work as well as questions that require a response by turning the audience members’ brains from passive to active. Stick to questions that advance the topic or add value to the presentation,” says Tero International. (International, 2013)

In Closing

Recap the main points you’ve covered. Reiterate your purpose and reinforce what’s important for the audience to take away from your presentation.

This list is by no means exhaustive. These are merely suggestions for how to give your virtual event a shot in the arm and in doing so inspire your audience to engage in a meaningful way. The audience’s consumption of content has evolved in this technological age. Presenters who understand this and set clear expectations of the virtual audience have a greater chance of fostering audience participation, boosting retention of information, increasing ROI and lead generation, and brand awareness.

Adam Adam

Adam Eggleston

Adam began his career in virtual events as a webcast producer where he managed and produced hundreds of events over four years. He transitioned into business development where he now helps organizations plan and develop virtual events solutions to meet their goals.