Tips for Online Audience Engagement
I am guessing that most people by now have been to an online meeting or event. We all thought this time of needing to be online vs in-person would be a short-term thing but even if things changed overnight, most likely online meetings and events will continue to be used in the future.
I am Guilty of Tuning Out
I also will admit that I have attended online meetings and events where I just tuned out. This especially happens when I know the presenter cannot see me. Some online meetings and events do not use a live video format. I almost feel like they did not want to see me so why is it necessary for me to pay attention? Usually I catch up on emails, check out Facebook or LinkedIn, and maybe shop for something that I need. I have even cleaned my house while attending one of these meetings. If there is live video, and they have not instructed me otherwise, I can simply turn off my video and do the same things.
Audience Engagement is Important
I am probably overly critical since part of what I do is help businesses/companies create meetings and events whether in-person or online where I make engagement something that I purposely plan into the event. I also help to facilitate some of these. Keeping the audience engaged is extremely important for information retention, learning, and just feeling part of the whole. It also needs to be addressed differently whether the meeting or event is in-person or online. If the meeting or event I attended was engaging, I would not want to turn off my video camera and would stay interested and present. Unfortunately, too many meetings and events that are currently online are not engaging. I would like to help.
Be Aware of all the Distractions!
First, you need to be aware that right now a lot of people are still working from their homes. There are distractions that would not exist if people were in their offices. There may be children present or pets that disrupt the meeting or event. There is also the temptation of your phone while you are on computer or iPad. There is also online meeting fatigue. Too many online meetings and events in a day can drain your energy.
Here is what you can do!
You can do a lot to have an engaging online meeting or event and this can also apply to anything online – including online learning.
You Need Good Connection, Sound & View
Make sure that you have a good connection to the internet. This includes having enough bandwith in your internet system not to have “freezes” on the online platform. This may mean upgrading your internet service or as with me, I ended up linking myself directly to the router.
Make sure your sound is good. I have invested in a headset to drown out outside noises and have my voice better heard.
Make sure you have a good camera. My computer camera made me look fuzzy, so I invested in a web camera to get a clearer look online.
Make sure you have a nice background. I did not, so I invested in a green screen where I can put up a virtual background that looks nice.
Use a LIVE Platform
Being online is already a large separation to being in-person. The best platform to use is a live platform where faces of all people attending and participating can be seen. You ask your attendees to be present and seen and to keep their video cameras on. This way you can see them, can see what they are doing and what their facial features are showing. A live format also allows interaction with talking and use of the chat box that is better than not having this option.
Have Good Content Delivered in Shorter Segments
Only go online with a meeting/event if you have good content that is valuable and interesting to your audience. Think about delivering this content in shorter segments – nothing lasting more than 20 minutes at a time.
Use Dynamic Speakers and Multiple Participants
Not only do you need good content, you need a speaker that is dynamic and can hold the attention of the audience. It is also good to have more than one person speak and have multiple participants to keep things more interesting. Use of multiple person panels and conducting interviews during the meeting or event can keep it more engaging.
Encourage Participation from the Attendees
Put together a program that includes ways for the audience to participate in the event. Have them introduce themselves verbally or in the chat room. Include a Question & Answer part to any speaker segment. Either send or email a Workbook or Worksheet to have your attendees follow along and take notes during the presentation. Give your attendees homework prior to the event and have some of them present their results. Start the meeting/event or break up the meeting/event with icebreakers and/or games.
Make Good Use of the Your Meeting Platform’s Tools
You may need to educate your audience on how to use them but using the interactive tools that are included with online meeting platforms can increase engagement in the event/meeting. There is the chat function where you can encourage your attendees to use for different purposes. There are emojis to ask for feedback. You can send your attendees polls and show the results. There are ways to raise a virtual hand to call upon different attendees to participate in the meeting/event. There is a breakout room function where you can divide the audience into smaller groups for different reasons. Being in a smaller group usually makes people more comfortable to share more than in larger groups. A person from each of these breakout rooms can report back to the larger group with something special about the breakout room.
Use Different Media to Make Things Interesting
Break up your online program to include uses of different media to make things more interesting than just having people talk. Use PowerPoint slides, video, music, sharing of different online screens and documents to break up the program.
Do not forget to Recognize and Highlight People and Share Celebrations
To help personalize an online meeting/event and to keep people more engaged in the event make sure to recognize any achievements, highlight successes and share company or group celebrations. Have these people say a few words to increase participation.
Include Some Unscripted Time
To simulate an in-person meeting where people can easily bump into one another and chat before and after event, build this element into your online meeting/event. Give time before and after the event to allow some free unscripted talk. It is also good to encourage an earlier start time to the actual meeting start time so people can fix any online connectivity issues.
Build in a Break
If the meeting/event goes over an hour you should build a break into the program. This will allow your audience to be more present during the actual meeting by giving them personal care time. Time this before an interesting part of the meeting/event to make sure they come back. Be clear on timing.
Keeping Audience Engaged Brings Good Results
Keeping the audience engaged will make it more interesting to the attendee. They will retain more information and remember important parts of the meeting/event. They will learn more and enjoy the experience. It is also good for the one hosting the event to have engaged audience depending on the purpose of the meeting or event it could lead to increased sales, new learnings, or better employee culture.
Get Professional Help
No one can do everything by themselves. Get professional help to make sure your online meeting/event program is set up for success including keeping your audience engaged. You also may need help to facilitate the online meeting/event so that all the event platform tools such as breakout rooms, chat are fully used while letting you as the host, be fully present to deliver your content.