Whether you are running a webinar to generate leads, educate your customers, launch a campaign to your sales team, train your workforce or share thought leadership, the greatest content in the world won’t matter if no one is listening.
You might think ‘they took the time to show up so they’re listening, right?’. Not likely. If a webinar is approached in this manner, it’s more likely they are checking Facebook, emailing, daydreaming, eating a snack or drooling on their keyboard…
Unless you have mastered the art of virtual interaction!
Even though you can’t see all your webinar attendees’ faces, that doesn’t mean you can’t see their interaction or engagement level. I have had the honor of working alongside some incredible Virtual Interaction Masters. These Masters are able to grab the attention of an audience before the webinar even begins and hold everyone in rapt attention for 60 minutes. Amazing! Here are 9 of their secrets:
Use an interactive ‘Lobby’
- Using a ‘Lobby’ with interactive features where early birds can wait is a good time to get the audience touching their screen and using your platform before the event even starts. For details and ideas on how to create a ‘Lobby’, see my previous blog ‘Anyone there?’.
Provide an Open Chat pod with an Ice Breaker question
- Whether you use a ‘Lobby’ or not, consider including an Open Chat in the webinar room prior to the start of the webinar. Use it to ask a simple ice breaker question like ‘what is the weather where you are?’ or ‘where are you joining us from’?. The more simple and generic the question, the more likely your interaction level – think of this as a warm up. It also helps set the tone and lets the audience know they are not alone in cyberspace.
Ask for everyone’s first name and recognize them
- This is a crafty way to set an interactive tone right from the start and also let your audience know you are a live person paying attention to them instead of a recorded voice. Ask them to enter their first name in the Q&A and then welcome a few of the attendees by name. It’s amazing how much more interaction you will get throughout the webinar if you try this simple technique right at the start. This is especially true if you are using a moderated Q&A where attendees cannot see other submitted questions– this lets them know they are not alone and you recognize their presence.
Get to the content fast!
- Housekeeping items are a good way to drive people straight to their email and lose them before you even start. Keep is short and provide any tips they need for using your platform as you go and when appropriate. You could also add a Note pod to your layout to display answers to frequently asked questions.
Answer questions and acknowledge comments as you go
- Not every speaker can do this and it takes some practice. Once you are comfortable, keep an eye on the Q&A and answer relevant questions or recognize a comment as you go. Now, I don’t mean that you should stop the presentation for a designated ‘Q&A moment’, which can ruin the flow– I mean that you should have a conversation with your audience. For instance, if you are taking about widgets and John comments that widgets are great, verbally agree with him and keep on going. Or perhaps someone needs clarification on an acronym you just used. Watch your Q&A go nuts if you can master this!
Ask the audience about their experience, input or thoughts
- Everyone’s favorite topic is themselves. If you can get them thinking about how your topic relates to them personally, they will be more likely to remember the content and engage their minds around what you’re presenting. Ask them what their experience is in the area you are discussing, or ask them to share their insight or learning around the topic at hand. Using a Poll or Open Chat is a good way to collect this feedback and get them interacting with you.
Get the audience to interact with each other
- Think about dividing up your audience in some way and asking them to provide the pros and cons about something related to your presentation, or ask each group to brainstorm and provide input on separate topics. Then recognize some of the ideas and feedback you receive. Using multiple Chat pods is a great way to set this up and, if you have it prepared on a separate layout ahead of time, it’s a seamless exercise you can fit into your presentation.
Plan an interaction every 5-7 minutes
- Studies show that webinar producers and virtual presenters should plan some sort of interaction every 5-7 minutes throughout a virtual presentation to keep the audience engaged, attentive and more likely to retain the content. This could be anything from using emoticons to polls, chat, Q&A or anything that gets them touching the screen to interact with your webinar platform.
Use the Engagement Meter
- If visual confirmation that your audience is attentive via their use of polls, chat, emoticons, and Q&A is not enough for you, try the Engagement Meter. This will give you a good understanding of the audience’s overall engagement level. You can even go back through your presentation at the end of the webinar and check to see at what points you lost your audience – this is a good tool to use as you work to improve your skills in this area.
For the most part, anything you can do during an in-person event, you can find a way to replicate virtually. If you have other tips and ideas, please share.
Good luck on your journey to becoming a Virtual Interaction Master!
Written by: Shelby Britton
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