By DeVry University
Video conferencing technology has made staying connected easy, especially when it comes to working remotely. But virtual meetings can present their own challenges with keeping your audience engaged.
According to B2B growth marketing company information from Markletic, event marketers said they rate audience engagement as the biggest challenge they face when it comes to virtual events.
So, how can you ensure your meeting takes center stage over other distractions? Read on for some helpful tips.
The Challenges of Video Conferencing
There are several reasons why virtual meetings might cause attendees to lose focus. Working from home means they may now be sharing office space with loved ones, kids or pets who need their attention. Or their attention may get pulled away by the inherent distractions of the online environment. When people log in to a meeting, they may also be tempted to multitask and lose focus by browsing open tabs, cleaning out their inbox or responding to side chats.
The size of the meeting may also have an impact. According to the “Ringlemann Effect”, when more people are involved in a task we each feel less responsible for participating than we would as individuals, so we assume we can check out. In the context of large virtual meetings, for example, it may be easier to feel less motivated to pay attention and contribute than it might on a call with only one or two other people. Therefore, the key to keeping people focused in your virtual meetings is engagement and connection. When you grab their individual attention and help them see the value of their participation, they’ll stay with you.
6 Tips for Making Virtual Meetings Engaging
Just because video conferencing presents challenges, it doesn’t mean you can’t master the art of audience engagement. Here are 6 tips for helping keep participants on-task in your virtual meetings:
1. Make It Interactive
You're unlikely to keep people's full attention for long when they're staring passively at the screen. Whether you’re meeting to discuss a team issue or making a formal presentation, make an effort to get your audience to interact with you and the content.
Consider including some form of interaction every few minutes. This can include simple things like asking questions and calling on people to respond. You can also open up for questions from the audience when appropriate.
Another option is to engage in a simple Q&A by pausing after introducing or explaining an idea to ask, “Are there any questions?” Give people a moment to collect their thoughts and show that you are interested in hearing their concerns. The more they feel invited to interact, the more engaged they’ll be.
2. Use Your Virtual Tools
There are plenty of great video conferencing tools available. Learn which is best for your needs and use its features to boost interaction.
For example, use a polling feature to run real-time surveys. Ask people about their experience or preferences around the topic. When they have to take action and respond, they’re going to think more about what you’re saying.
The chat feature can also get more people to take part and helps you get a sense of what everyone’s thinking. With large groups, try posing a question and asking people to respond in the chat window. Or direct people to the chat feature at the start of the meeting so they can ask questions and provide helpful comments throughout.
If your software has a whiteboard feature, you can create more dynamic interactions. Building out a model or outlining a process while you describe it will help people follow your train of thought more easily and keep them more visually engaged.
3. Make Slides Engaging
If you’re making a formal presentation, plan your slides so they capture the audience's attention. Don’t overload them with dense text. Instead, cut back on words and include meaningful images. Images grab our attention and have the potential to create an instant emotional response.
You can also keep people’s attention by introducing more motion to the screen. Move between slides more often than you might in person and consider adding different forms of media to switch up how you’re presenting info. You can include relevant videos or infographics that focus people’s thoughts back on your message and help keep them interested.
4. Respect Your Audience’s Time
Be respectful of people’s time. When meetings run long, people are going to start thinking about what they have scheduled next.
Instead, plan only for the amount of time you need and stick to it. Could your web conference be 45 minutes long instead of an hour? Are you prepared to begin and end your meeting precisely when you told people you would? Help people stay focused by removing the distraction of worrying about the meeting running over.
5. Make a Focused Agenda and Stick to It
Keep your meeting focused. Attempting to cover too many topics will divide people’s attention and could confuse them about what you’re trying to communicate.
Be sure to create an agenda and share it so people know what to expect. A good agenda is a road map that keeps a meeting from getting sidetracked and helps it remain productive.
6. Practice Public Speaking Skills
Remember that the need for dynamic speaking doesn’t apply only to in-person events. If your voice is monotone and your expression is passive, it’s going to be hard to draw people away from more engaging distractions.
Use the same skills for a virtual meeting as you would to add energy in front of a live group, and make sure your head is in the performance mindset. A few tips include:
- Standing during your presentation to boost your energy.
- Add inflection when you’re asking a question or making a big point.
- Pause between thoughts for emphasis.
- Practice gestures that keep you within range of your camera.
- Look into the camera regularly, not just down at your screen.
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