Monday, September 1, 2014

Presentations that POP Online

Presenting online presents as many opportunities as it does dilemmas for us all. What is the best way to present? How do I best engage my audience? What medium should I use? How do I convert online engagement into offline engagement?

Having managed and presented hundreds of webinars, we are often asked by clients how they can create more compelling and engaging presentations. In response, I share here in a series of blogs some of the findings from our experience using the webinar medium of communication. 

In this blog, we will focus on you as the presenter and share five key findings to support your online delivery.

1.  Keep the main things, the main things.
Start by thinking about what you want your presentation to achieve then build around this a handful (five) of key concepts or points. Keep it simple and don’t try to squeeze in too much information, or your audience will quickly become overwhelmed and mentally (and possibly physically) switch off. 

2.  Tell great stories.
Great stories have a natural flow – beginning – middle – end. Build stories around each of your key concepts or points to reinforce the learning and/or cement the understanding of your audience. Keep the content specific, relevant and timely. Demonstrate how the theory translates into real world experience. Share anecdotes; inject humour and personality as appropriate. Encourage interaction and connect with your audience on a personal level – let them know there is a real person there with them and that you’re not just a recording.

3.  Make your presentations visually stimulating to reinforce your message(s). 
We don’t have the advantage of physically being in the same room as our audience. Unless we are using webcams (another story entirely which we’ll get to in future blog), our audience cannot see us, interpret our facial expressions, or our body language. Because of this use of photos, charts, graphs, cartoons and key words are important factors in helping us to reinforce our verbal presentation and to capture and retain the interest of our audience. We get asked a lot by our clients “how many slides should I have?”. The answer is – it depends. I once had a client that used 58 slides in a one-hour presentation. My first thought was – is this overkill? As it turned out, it was the perfect number for his fast-paced, gritty delivery style. A number of his slides contained only one word – each supporting his verbal delivery – and used by him as a tool to keep him on-track. He had practiced and practiced his delivery before the live broadcast and this was right for him – which takes us nicely onto my next point.

4.  Practice really does make Perfect.
The key learning here is find out what works for you through practice, practice, practice. Put your presentation together, make notes, then take your entire presentation onto your webinar platform and deliver it from start to finish just as you intend to in the live webinar. Record your practice sessions and watch the recording afterwards (as painful as that may be for some!). Check every detail of your delivery – including timing – and make sure you are happy. You could also get someone you trust to critique the delivery and provide you with some considered feedback. Put yourself in the position of your audience – see what they will see – hear what they will hear. The question often arises - should you script your delivery?  Scripting can be effective and we use it ourselves in some situations. The key to script as you speak and not script as you write. When you script as you write, it is clear to the audience you are reading something. When you script as you speak, it comes across like your natural presentation style.

5.  No man (or woman) is an Island.
In an online presentation tone and expression are as important as the words and pictures you use to convey your message. Talking too fast or too slow or boring monotone delivery can kill an audience’s interest very quickly. Distraction, or sounding distracted, can be just as damaging. That is one of the many reasons why the best presenters never webinar alone.  Consider getting support for your live webinar broadcast and free yourself up to focus on your presentation. Your audience can hear in your voice when you are distracted, reading audience questions, and fiddling with your webinar technology. This is distracting and a turn off for listeners. Another ‘voice’ in your presentation team creates higher interest, engagement, and a level of comfort for the audience. They are also great when the unexpected happens – and that is definitely another blog.
Look out for our next blog – Ways to Engage your Audience Online.


  1. Great article Helen. Its great that you are sharing you expertise. From someone who is on the other side of the microphone, as a presenter, it is always such a comfort to know you are there to make things right. We've been at these webinars a few years now and I'm always learning something new. Cant wait to read your next post!.

  2. Excellent advice. We've been hosting webinars for some time now, and adhere to most of your points, and have just picked up and/or been reminded of others. Definitely recommend separate person to monitor events when you have (say) 6+ attendees so the Presenter can stay focused, and remain on schedule. Great job - looking forward to your next blog.