By Wayne Turmel

If I were to describe the following scenario to you, how would you react? “You are going to be speaking for an hour or so. You ask the audience to hold all their questions to the end, not to speak to either you or one another, and you are not going to look at them much either. How long would it take before they completely lose all interest?

It would probably take less than five minutes.

Unfortunately, virtual team leaders are guilty of all that when they lead webinars, web meetings and virtual training.

Great speakers relate to the audience, draw them in, and check their assumptions with facial expressions, body language and active questioning. Yet even the best speakers become less effective in a virtual environment. Instead of connecting with and engaging their virtual audience, it’s more like “Sit down, shut up, and listen. Once I get this over with, we might talk.”

Here are four things that could be causing you to run boring, ineffective virtual presentations:

Technology makes you uncomfortable

When you are in a familiar setting, your brain relaxes and let’s you go with the flow. During virtual settings, however, you worry about which button to push or whether people can see and hear you well enough. It steals your focus from delivering a good presentation. So instead of mastering the technology, you ignore it. You avoid chat or webcams altogether, and go into lecture mode just so you don’t have to worry about the technology. Unfortunately, it hurts the presentation.

You aren’t getting feedback from the audience

In a standard meeting or talk, you receive visual input of how well you are doing. Audience members laugh, smile, nod, frown, look confused, stare at their phones, or offer some other clue. If their body language is positive, you can keep going. If it’s not, you can adjust and recover. Additionally, you can redirect or answer questions in the moment.

Online it often feels like you’re speaking into the void. If you ask people to disable their chat function or to mute their microphones, you further reduce their ability to offer input, so make sure you are utilizing tools like polling, the white board and chat, to gather feedback in real-time. You may need to ask for it, though, because people may be reluctant to share. Occasionally, stop talking, pause and solicit input by either allowing questions, asking questions of your own or just giving people a chance to process what you’ve shared.

You data dump to make your point

When you aren’t sure if the audience understands you, or you don’t get a chance to test their understanding, you may pile on the data in hopes of helping them “get it.” That’s usually a mistake. The more data and information you provide, the more likely it is that you’ll overwhelm or bore your listeners. Don’t overload them with numbers and statistics. Touch on the data, but send it to them as an email attachment later when they can process it on their own time.

You don’t speak like a presenter

Despite the fact that you are presenting online, your voice and body language still matter. Even if your listeners can’t see you, your body language, volume and other traditional presentation skills still come across to them. If you are slouched over, speaking in a monotone or (heaven forbid) reading your script, your audience will tune you out quickly.

The simple, irrefutable truth about presenting online: It’s more like a traditional presentation than not. The relationship with the audience remains the same, although the way you will interact and gather feedback is very different. Learn the tools, practice and be aware of the dynamics.

Wayne Turmel is a speaker, writer and co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute. He’s passionate about helping people present, sell and lead people and projects using today’s virtual communication technology.

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