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The Do’s and Don’ts for Keeping Your Audience

Engaging your audience during online presentations—either live or on-demand format—requires skills different from those used in a face-to-face meeting.

When we attend a face-to-face presentation, most audience members remain seated, despite a presentation that may be dull and boring. Even the worst examples of so-called “Death by PowerPoint” seldom cause a mass exodus. Audience members may mentally tune-out, doodle, or read online email from mobile phones and laptops, but they usually remain physically captive. That’s somewhat good news for struggling presenters who may find a way to recover after the first few minutes. However logistics, scheduling and travel constraints also keep their audiences comparatively small. And having all of the “right people” in a room at one time is virtually impossible.

Live online presentations and webinars provide better opportunities for larger audiences, and easier scheduling for the “right people” to attend. However, audiences can leave without being impolite. Many audience members will multi-task, since they have no presenter eye-contact. Presenters therefore must grab and hold their attention early. Online success requires attention to all aspects of the presentation: excellent script or notes, a well-practiced presenter, clear messages, attractive slide design, and perfect coordination.

On-demand presentations have the highest potential impact of any presentation medium. Often embedded on a website, they can be viewed 24 X 7 for months at a time. Along with typical web and search marketing traffic, on-demand presentations attract viewers through paid search like Google AdWords, and email marketing.

Nevertheless, every on-demand presentation must grab and hold viewer attention within the first 15 seconds or the presentation fails. Without the need to register or identify themselves, viewers treat an online presentation like any web page or video. If they’re not immediately engaged, they bail. And they are usually lost forever.

Our next few blog posts will explore the “Do’s and Don’ts” of on-demand presentation. We’ll begin here with our first “DON’T.”

DON’T ever post the slides from a live presentation on your website or a slide sharing site without embedding voice narration. Slides that may have been easily understood when supporting a narrator’s voice, do not deliver their message without narration. They are somewhat like watching a TV commercial with sound muted. And if slides are filled with text bullets, viewers will seldom read and completely understand them.

DO create a well-scripted narrative and embed it for each individual slide. Re-do the presentation to remove any unnecessary slides. Then embed narration and time it carefully to support the view onscreen, especially if the view changes through animation.

We’ll provide tips for creating a clear, professional style narrative in our next blog post.

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