Five online-presentation hacks that command audience attention

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April 15th, 2020 Richard Mulholland

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The more online talks I deliver, and the more online events Missing Link runs for our clients, the more true this statement has become.

At the best of times it’s hard to hold people’s attention. Brains are distraction machines, they are constantly looking for opportunities to do something else.

PAYING ATTENTION IS A GRUDGE PURCHASE

In livestreams and webinars this is way harder to manage than in live events as there’s no door at the back of the venue to keep people in. One minute you’re a keynote speaker delivering a talk at a desktop conference, the next they change tabs and then you’re essentially a podcast. This is fine so long as their distraction doesn’t require active processing, the moment it does you reach the bottom rung. Now you’re just background noise. That, my friends, is not good.

So, if paying attention is a grudge purchase, here’s five wee hacks that I personally use to keep them spending:

1. Refer to your visuals

FOMO is a real thing, people don’t want to miss out. That’s why I often use lines such as, “As this next slide shows” or, “If you look at the slide” or even, “behind me you will see…”

What will I see?

What am I missing?

They jump back, and you have them again. This, of course, means two things. The first is that you must have decent visual aids (bad slides are probably twice as bad on a webinar or live stream). And two, have more slides, with less content. Keep them coming back. A slide a minute is a good guideline.

2. Comment storms

When presenting on a live stream, one thing that will be distracting at first but will soon become comforting (empowering, even) is the live chatter. Often it can be random, discussing the sound or video quality, or sharing links to things speakers mention. You get a vote though, you see you can ask your audience to share something relevant t your topic, and believe it or not they will. So if I’m talking about a business book, I may ask the audience to share the book that impacted them the most. Am I creating more distraction? Yes… but it’s intentional, contextual distraction. I’d rather have them distracted by my event, than from it. Here’s an example from a recent event (note the icon I added to my slide to remind me to invoke the storm)

3. Polls

Just like comment storms above, polls are great, they just require a bit more pre-work. That said, they are fantastic tools to contextualise your audience to a way of thinking. If you ask them a question, that you know will get a certain answer, you can then perhaps use data on the slides that follow to expose a gap in their knowledge. This is a fantastic way to give them a reason to care.

4. Prep

The barrier to entry for online events is super-low, that’s why everyone does them, and why Missing Link’s view on this is as follows:

Any idiot can put together a webinar or live stream, we’re in business because so many do!

Most people just show-up and throw-up. Two people sitting on in their rooms pontificating. That’s not enough. If you want your audience to care, you first have to show them that you do!

The other day I had 600 people watch me present for 90-minutes. That’s 900 hours of attention being paid to me, I had better act accordingly. And so should you.

And on that point…

5. Be brief

The 90-minute event no withstanding, as a whole you need to keep it shorter than you usually would. If it’s a 45-minute talk usually, do it in thirty. If you cut away the fluff, you’re left with the good stuff, and it’s far easier to hold someone’s attention with the good stuff!

It’s why Missing Link has had to re-think the 22-minute sales decks we create for our clients. In the world of video meetings and events, we’ve had to create a “10-minute to win it!” sales deck. If their sales meetings are shorter, then their messaging better be scaled to fit (is yours?).

That’s it! Five super-simple steps that anyone can do. If you only do one though, pick number four. Prepare. It’s by far the most important and will give you the best results.

Respect their attention…!

Learn more about presenting online in our EPIC online training. Check it out!

Posted by Richard Mulholland

A motorbike riding, boardgame playing, punk rocking, kung-fu fighting, kettlebell swinging, business running, microphone abusing inked-ellectual gentleman. And Missing Link founder.

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