I am an in-person trainer. My specialty is engagement. I pride myself on audience participation and feedback, be that laughter, games, questions, activities or even interruptions. These are the things that tell me if I’m doing my job and if the attendees are finding value in my sessions.
The pandemic has rocked my world and forced me out of my comfort zone because getting engagement is really challenging when training is done in a virtual environment. Feedback is all but non-existent as one flips through their slide deck and talks to what is essentially an empty room (except for the dog and she’s not very interested in personal development).
There is some good news, however, when it comes to virtual trainings and meetings. With more of us working from home than ever, people are becoming familiar with and willing to use the tools that exist for remote training. That has allowed me to find some new ways to engage my audiences, even from hundreds of miles away.
USE YOUR CAMERA
Even if you’re sharing a slide deck or showing your computer screen, make sure that users can see your face too. Once the learners read the content on the slide, they’re likely to get bored or distracted and be tempted to multi-task. Sharing your face gives them something else to focus on.
Secondly, most experts say that 70 to 90% of communication is non-verbal. Your eyes, your expression, even the use of your hands can help you emphasize specific points that might’ve gone unnoticed otherwise.
(Hint: I’ve gotten positive comments when I’ve used the green screen feature to display my content and myself equally.)
ASK ATTENDEES TO USE THEIR CAMERAS TOO
In person, you can see people’s faces and reactions to your presentation. That can provide you the non-verbal cues that you’re either doing well or failing miserably. Without that, you really have no idea until the post-event surveys roll in. Explain this to your audience before you begin and ask them to leave their cameras on so that you can do a better job for them.
As an added benefit, you’ll be forcing them to pay closer attention and eliminate their ability to scroll through their Instagram feed while you’re presenting. 😆
ASK THEM TO INTERRUPT
I struggle with webinars and virtual trainings that are just one person talking for 30+ minutes. I’m not a fan of attending them, or hosting them. So when I host a live virtual event, I ask attendees to keep their fingers on their mute button and to be ready and willing to unmute themselves so they can interrupt or ask questions.
By giving them permission up front and setting the expectation, they are less self-conscious and more willing to play along. The interruptions create some of the best unplanned, unscripted parts of the presentation and dial up the engagement element that I love so much when I’m there in person.
USE THE CHAT FEATURE
Even after setting the expectation for cameras and interruptions, some attendees are still shy to participate. They may not have washed their hair or gotten out of their pajamas, or they may not have any comments or questions they feel are worthy of unmuting their microphones.
But even these wallflowers are willing to use the chat feature, and the results are often a lot of fun. It can be something as simple as asking them their favorite self-improvement book or streaming TV show. As you and everyone in attendance watch 30-40 answers roll in on the chat window, you now have a new organic element to work with and you’ve gained participation from nearly everyone.
It’s also great for asking the audience for immediate feedback. Maybe you have a great stat you want to share. Instead of just telling them the stat, consider asking them. Something like this: “If you were to guess, what percentage of consumers say that it’s important that they are able to watch streaming television on any of their devices?”
Then, as you watch the guesses come in, you can tell them the answer (81% btw… didn’t want to leave wondering) and you can follow up with a question that makes it even more real to them personally. “Use the chat feature now to share with the group which devices you use to watch streaming TV.”
This technique really gives the speaker a lot of audience feedback all at once and amps up that engagement gauge to eleven.
At the end of the day, virtual events won’t replace the engagement that can be gotten from an in-person event, but hopefully these ideas will help you make the most of your virtual presentations.
Thanks for reading.