A Trainer’s Perspective – How to Secure, Retain, and Maintain Your Online Audience’s Attention
While COVID-19 measures are gradually lifting in Singapore and around the world, the norm of working from home remain. In what is being termed as the “new normal”, meetings, family/friends gatherings and even performances are held on countless online platforms and sessions. We have heard the term “Zoom fatigue” being discussed and plenty of discussions on why multiple online sessions, while at home, can be as or even more tiring than physical interactions. In such a set-up, how can you secure and maintain your audience’s attention effectively?
One of the more common questions we have received so far concerns the ability to effectively engage an online audience. This comes about whether it is that formal training setting or even a casual get-together. Worse still, what if you are tasked with a full hour slot for an online presentation to your team? We find that a core challenge of online presentation is the need to balance meaningful content (to cover the allocated time) and interactive elements (notwithstanding the virtual barrier).
To help guide you, we have prepared three quick tips on how you can manage your online audience’s attention, no matter the setting!
Tip #1: Decide Your Audience’s Focus
For a physical setting, the focus points for your audience is fluid and varied. They can watch the presentation slides you have designed or shifted their focus to you as a speaker. They can check their phones or look around the room for a pattern break before turning their attention back to you. The stage is huge and wide to engage with your audience thoroughly. This is different for an online setting. No matter how big your home stage is, your audience’s perception space is limited to that screen before them. This means that an hour-long presentation requires them to keep their focus on the same screen for the full hour. Pit this against the other distraction tools that are within reach (e.g. email, Web Whatsapp), and you find yourself having the challenge to keep your audience tuned in.
One important planning aspect is to decide your audience’s attention point. The question is – what should they focus on? One powerful way to start is to paint the overview or plan for your entire session. This sets the expectations clearly for the audience and ensures they know what they must commit to. Building on this, add pattern break or alternative media elements that help to spread your audience attention. You can transit between your slides, to a video, and even to an interactive session. The sessions can be divided further into break-out rooms or smaller sessions. With proper planning, you can even break a full hour into digestible packages, with sufficient breaks in between!
Tip #2: Keep it Small, Interactive, Engaging
It is easy to say that the session should be interactive and engaging. The difficulty lies in achieving this interaction element over the virtual space. This element can be replicated easily through conversation. Discussion-based interactions allow your audience to be active in participating (making it feel less like a monolithic online seminar!). Prepare some guiding questions for your audience or appoint a moderator to manage the session before diving back into the main content!
Where practical, it would also help to break a session into smaller groups/settings. Just because you are allocated a webinar slot for 50 people does not mean you need to engage with all 50 at one go! Instead, break the session into phases. You can start with initial housekeeping, overview, and theory phase focussed on delivering content to the entire group. This can be followed by smaller group interaction session before a return to the main group for broader discussion themes to be extracted. The entire session can then conclude with an open, conversational question-and-answer segment as well!
Tip #3: Create End-Goals and Deliverables
Saying goodbye is not easy – I am sure you have been in that awkward situation where you are not sure with the online session has ended or whether it is safe to leave the session. As a presenter and communicator, it is your responsibility to ensure a clean and confirmed conclusion to the session you have guided. You won’t want to unravel all the good work from the session earlier with a hesitant last few minutes!
A unique way to end on a strong note is by having clear deliverables for your audience. This is relevant, especially if you are leading an online meeting which involves actionable goals. Have a precise summary of what was discussed in the meeting and what is expected for the next one. Remember to guide your audience through the last part of the session as well. For example, instead of ending abruptly for the last few minutes of a training session, we allocate an open leave-or ask slot for participants to end the session or stay on to clarify further doubts. This balances the reassurance of a clear structure and the interactive element.
e-Impress Your e-Audience!
As communicators, we want to impress our audience, no matter what the stage is. The change to an online platform does not change that. While it is more challenging, managing your audience’s attention online is a tedious, meticulous, but fruitful endeavour. Once you secure their buy-in for your first online session, the positive impression will carry over for your future sessions. So, jump into the three tips above and impress your audience!
WATCH on YouTube – “How To Speak In Front Of A Camera (for online meetings/ webinars)”
WATCH on YouTube – “How To Be An Effective Trainer (for online trainings or briefings)”
By The Way…
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