Guest contributor, Chris Coladonato, shares tips on how to engage your audience in a virtual presentation or learning environment.
She is a learning and development consultant at Farmers Insurance and a rock star at virtual presentations. With more than 15 years’ experience as a talent development professional, she specializes in virtual facilitation and developing employees through social and collaborative learning methods. Chris is a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP). Connect with her via Twitter: @chriscola.
The virtual classroom – those words strike fear and nervousness into the hearts of many facilitators. A lot of times, it’s because they are unsure how to engage and connect with an audience they can’t see. While it’s true that you can’t visually see your audience (unless they are on webcams), you can still connect with and engage them successfully in virtual presentations.
Here are my 5 tips to be a Rock Star from Afar:
- Build Rapport From the Start: I often join virtual presentations and hear silence. You wouldn’t ignore someone who walked in to your physical training room so why would you have silence when people are joining your virtual session? By welcoming participants into the virtual room, you make them feel at ease. Turn on your webcam, greet people by name as they show up on the participant list, have some pre-session slides on your screen or a pre-session activity such as a question for the audience to respond to in chat.
- Use your Voice Wisely: In a virtual session, your voice is a key way to grab the interest of your participants, keep them engaged and focused on your message. To implement more vocal variety, think of your voice as a roller coaster. You can speed up, slow down, increase or decrease volume, pause (like when you are at the top of the coaster hill!) and emphasize key words.
- Be Mindful of your Posture, Gestures and Smile: In the virtual environment, we sometimes get lazy. While facilitating, we slouch in our chair, don’t move and don’t think about our facial expressions. They can’t see you so why does it matter? It matters a lot! Good posture, using gestures and smiling can add energy and excitement to your voice. Try it if you don’t believe me! Say “Be A Rock Star from Afar” while slumped, not smiling and with no gestures. Say it again while sitting up straight, raising your arms and smiling. Hear the difference? Your participants will hear it too.
- Get to Know your Platform: You should know your virtual training platform inside and out. Spend time clicking every button, every menu option and find out what they do. The more you know about your platform, the more you will be able to leverage it to interact with your participants. Be sure to learn every feature from the facilitator and participant perspective. Why? It will help you troubleshoot when a participant has a question and you’ll be able to explain to participants where to find their interactive tools.
- Don’t Rush Questions: When asking questions, be sure to pause and give the participant time to answer. It can be scary to hear nothing and see no one, but don’t jump in and fill that silence. The participants need time to formulate their response and raise their hand, unmute or type their response into chat. Then, be sure to tell them HOW you want them to respond. When there are a variety of ways to respond (chat, voice, whiteboard), sometimes the participant is unsure how to respond. For example, say “share in chat your thoughts on xyz”. This not only clears up any confusion, it also signals to them that you are expecting them to respond.
So, which Rock Star tip will you start using in your virtual presentations? My advice is to pick one, master it and then try out another one. Any of them will help you up your virtual game and get you on your way to becoming a Rock Star from Afar!