In my new position, I do online training quite frequently. It’s weird. It’s challenging to try and adapt your speech with no visual clues from your audience. It’s entirely possible no one is paying any attention to yo as you talk and get no response, or it’s possible they are following along and hanging on every word, and there’s no way for you to know if either extreme is true!
Of course, since our online training classes are hands-on, I can see whether the students are following along with the things I’m showing them in the software. Webinars, on the other hand, don’t even allow for that small advantage. I did one earlier this week, and I was the only person who spoke for an entire hour. Everyone else was muted. I tried desperately to continue as if I was speaking to an in-person audience, changing my pitch, emphasizing certain points, taking the time to walk through software options, etc. I took typed questions as I was going along, to make it more interactive. It was still weird. It will always be weird. That’s why when I saw 8 Simple Rules for Not Sucking at Webinars I immediately added it to my reading list. I think we all need help in this regard, it’s not natural to present via webinar to an audience that doesn’t have any way to immediately respond. It’s an efficient way to reach a wide-spread audience, but it’s not natural. Sean’s tips can at least give you a better shot at keeping some of people’s attention, even if you can’t prevent all distractions.
If I had one thing to add, it’s that no matter how little response you get, you have to be professional and simply carry on as if your audience is paying complete attention. Just because you are not in front of them, there’s no excuse to not take the communication as seriously. Some of the folks in your audience are paying attention, and sacrificing their time to hear what you have to say, so make sure to honor that.
On the other hand, make it as comfortable for yourself as possible. Unless it’s a video webinar, it’s ok to not dress professionally. 😉