Barriers to Presenting Online Effectively

Think back to the last presentation you attended. Was it engaging? Did it captivate your attention and imagination?

Presentations require careful content and agenda planning to be successful; yet, there are some serious communication barriers that can arise when using an online digital tool – such as a webinar – to engage with a large audience.

Delivering presentations via webinar is no longer a trend. It is a reality that is here to stay as budgets shrink and organizations look for ways to cut travel costs when holding meetings, delivering presentations or training staff. Your employer may not be asking you to present online today or tomorrow, but will you be prepared when the time does eventually arrive?

To me, preparedness hinges on being aware of all the challenges you face and having game plans ready to overcome them. Here are some factors to consider when planning your next online presentation:

The Inability to “Read” Your Audience

Webinars do not allow you to read the body language of your audience. The option to allow participants to communicate verbally with you and other attendees is available, but is often not the most effective option.  Time constraints often result in presenters muting their attendees’ microphones to keep the presentation flowing as well as to reduce background noise.

This option allows presenters to be “in control” of the situation by keeping the presentation safe from interruptions and inappropriately timed questions that can result straying from the agenda. Yet how can you expect an attendee to pay attention to your material if you’re not paying attention to their need to voice their questions or have their concern acknowledged?

If you’re going to limit or eliminate your participants’ ability to add their input, then why bother to present it live? Why not record a video that attendees can view on their own time?

The one-way model doesn’t lend itself to engaging your audience or evaluating if they understand your material. When your audience is under the impression that their role is to listen and scan the screen when you switch between slides, is it really that shocking when they pop open their internet browser or smartphone for a little “multi-tasking”?

In-person presentations allow the watchful eye of the presenter to curb the desire to engage in distractions. Online presentations, however, often delivered to the attendee in the comfort of their office workspace, often equipped with dual-monitors elevates the temptation for webinar attendees to use their second monitor to browse Google News articles or scan Twitter feeds by the second.

How can presenters address this issue? I will present some solutions in my next blog post.

Technology Troubles

A second hurdle to overcome with online delivery is the technology itself. If the presenter is not comfortable with using the webinar software, it shows like unsightly sweat stains on a collared shirt.

Being comfortable with navigating the software’s interface does not prepare a presenter for technical issues faced by attendees who may not be able to login, hear audio, use their microphone or see your presentation on their screen. These issues must be addressed and resolved by the presenter or an assistant in a timely manner or their credibility will start to drop faster than Facebook’s stock value.

Let’s say you’ve prepared for these potential concerns. You’ve educated yourself by practicing the presentation in the webinar platform to familiarize yourself with the interface as well as prepared an assistant to be on hand to assist with attendees in distress.

Another snafu to avoid is assuming your
audience is technically literate. If you think you’ve got it covered because you asked them if they are technically literate, think again. Asking a vague question with ambiguous wording is never an accurate indicator of skill level. Plus, people rarely want to admit that they don’t know something. Most importantly, people don’t know what they don’t know.

Technically savvy individuals who may intuitively know how to program a TV without reading the manual are not immune to the first-time software use jitters. This fact compounded with the fact that you’re adding an additional layer to the mix – your presentation’s content- can lead to stress. When your audience is uncomfortable with the medium, their tension and negativity can easily rub off on your presentation.
How much, if any time, have you allotted time into your presentation agenda to educate your attendees on how to use the webinar tools available to them? Is it enough? Are you prepared to discover the five minutes you set aside was not enough when you’re half way through your allotted 60 minutes of presentation time?

How can presenters address these issues? I will present some solutions in my next blog post.

Webinar Etiquette for Attendees 101

Educating attendees on the technology itself should not be the end of their education. It is important to impart a set of agreed upon rules around appropriate behaviour before, during and after the presentation. For example, if you arrived 10 minutes late for a meeting in the company boardroom, would you walk in and interrupt? If the CEO was delivering a speech, would you cut him off to add your two cents or ask a question? Without all eyes on you, it’s surprising how easily social morays can disappear.

Nothing eats into precious presentation time faster than an interruption. How does a presenter start on time then stay high energy and focused on their agenda’s  flow with people arriving late, missing introductory instructions, interrupting with questions that have already been answered, and more?
These are just a small number of the risk factors present when delivering online. In my next post, I’m going to address each of these issues and provide an ample list of suggestions and solutions that we employ here at Sector Learning to ensure our online presentations run smoothly.

Are you a veteran webinar presenter with lots of experience under your belt?  We’d love to have you share other challenges you’ve run into during delivering webinar presentation.

Have you attended dozens of online presentations?
We’d love to hear any stories you have about frustrating webinar presentations experiences.

-Kelly Marshall,
Director of Communications,
Sector Learning Solutions

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One response to “Barriers to Presenting Online Effectively

  1. Great article Kelly! Thanks!

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