That is likely all the time you’ll have with an audience of active listeners before their minds wander and you’ll need to recapture their attention.
This is not, of course, new information. Public speakers have been grappling with this issue for generations. But it is certainly more challenging with virtual meetings. Not being able to see or hear your audience makes it difficult to gauge if you’re losing the crowd.
No matter the type of event – whether it’s a company-wide town hall, a new employee orientation, a training course or a new product launch – try to share your information in six- to ten-minute chunks, with brief, planned breaks or transitions in between.
Here are four simple suggestions for pausing the presentation and engaging your audience:
- Give a quick summary of the last few minutes. While this may be fairly basic, it is still a good way to signal the end of the first major piece of information, a natural message to attendees that it’s now time to refocus on the next part of the agenda.
- Ask a question. Unlike a poll, a question that needs only a quick one- or two-word response in chat, or that can be answered using the feedback options available on conferencing platforms, is an effective way to check in with your audience. You can use it to add a little humor to your presentation, make sure they’ve understood a key point in the previous section, or gauge what they’d like to hear more of, thus informing the rest of your presentation and making it more relevant to your audience’s needs.
- Answer a colleague’s question. Seeded questions can help clarify more complicated points made during the previous part of the presentation and are always good ways to encourage attendees to ask questions of their own.
- Show a relevant, visual example. A live demo, brief (one minute or less) video or animated infographic can stimulate participants, break up the word salad, and get them prepared to focus on your next points.
No matter how you plan to break up your presentation, using that time to change speakers will go a long way to shake things up for your audience. A different voice is an auditory signal of change, a clue to our brains to perk up and see what’s happening now. Having another speaker summarize the key points or ask you a question or having your Event Producer moderate responses from the audience will go a long way toward breaking monotony and help get attendees ready for the rest of the presentation.
What do you think? Have you been breaking up your presentations into bite-sized chunks? We’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas and success stories.