Blaire Palmer is a keynote speaker and a world authority on leadership and the future of work. A former BBC Journalist, she shares her insights from 20 years of coaching and provoking leadership teams with conference audiences all over the world.
Being in the audience at an in-person event can be quite a passive experience. But it’s nothing compared to being in the audience at an online event.
At least, in person, people have to put their pants on. Online, they might not even be there. The event is “on,” but they’re chilling in another room.
That’s why, if you’re speaking at an online event, you absolutely MUST find a way to keep your audience engaged. We’ve touched on this topic briefly in an earlier post, but now we’re going to dive head-first into one of the essential parts of being a speaker…
Engagement is the number one metric
It doesn’t matter how many people are logged in to your event. What matters is how many people interact with you or the rest of the audience during your session.
Why? Because you want to make a difference to the people you’re addressing. For them to act on what you say, they need to remember it. But people only remember between a third to a half of what they’ve heard… within 8 hours of hearing it.
There are a number of reasons for that. But what it mainly boils down to is that we aren’t taught to listen! We think it comes naturally, but it’s a skill to actually focus on what someone is saying and not allow inner dialogue or other distractions to take over. Also, people speak an average of 125 words per minute, but our brains operate much faster, meaning there is space for us to take in a lot more than just people’s words. When that space is left empty by the presenter, the audience will find other things to fill the rest of their brain…and that might be their online shopping. Of course, we aren’t as good at multi-tasking as we think so, because, in the end, we simply stop listening to the talk and just focus on whether to go for the two-for-one offer on smoked salmon.
So, the question now is how can you actually keep your audience engaged…
How to engage
If you want to keep your audience’s attention, there are three simple tricks…
- Get them involved. Encourage the use of Remo’s chat function. Pose questions you want your audience to discuss in the chat. Ask them to raise their hand – explain that they can do that at the bottom of their screen and then ask a simple question which requires a hand raise e.g., “Who is still in their pajamas?” Or, “How many of you have already seen this slide?” Keep your audience on their toes by asking them to get involved in conversations in the chat or even private chat with other delegates. Don’t be afraid of that – you can’t keep their full attention anyway, so direct them to activities on Remo that will enhance their experience rather than leave enough brain space to go elsewhere while you’re talking.
- Interact. Refer to the chat. Take a moment during your speech to look at the chat and respond to some of what you see there. When you are writing your speech, consider inviting members of the audience on stage with you, co-presenting, doing “An interview with..” or inviting a panel on stage rather than performing a one-person show. When you shake up the format a bit, otherwise known as “creating dynamics,” you are more likely to keep the audience’s attention. There’s simply more for their big brain to concentrate on.
- Speak the language of emotion, not of fact. I will write more about this in the future, but speeches aren’t the best way to communicate complex data. However, they are brilliant for making an emotional connection. People find it easier to concentrate when they are emotionally engaged. People will sit through a 3-hour movie but not a 3-hour online meeting. Tell stories, use human, everyday language, and don’t be scared to get personal with your audience – it’ll keep their attention for longer.
Don’t leave interaction and engagement to chance. Design it into your presentation from the start and always try to improve audience participation every time you speak.
Blaire Palmer is a speaker mentor. Speak to us if you’d like to know more about how she can help you and your speakers give presentations that inspire and engage their online audience.
Blaire has also created some additional free resources for Remo users, including cheat sheets to help you write a strong opening to your presentation and identify the areas you need to work on to give an online presentation that knocks people’s socks off. https://thatpeoplething.teachable.com/p/10-ways-to-start-your-online-presentation