Here at Citrix we love a good webinar. We regularly use them as a lead-generation tool because they’re a cost-effective way to share our content with a big audience.
One of the most common questions we are regularly asked is “how do I engage an online audience?”
Your attendees are surrounded by a ton of distractions — emails, instant messenger, social media, phone calls, personal devices, colleagues — so the challenge to keep them watching your webinar is pretty fierce.
But they registered for your webinar, so they obviously have an interest in your topic. As they log on in anticipation of learning some real gems, you have to use a number of techniques to keep them engaged and listening.
Here are a few top tips we’ve learnt along our webinar journey.
Tip #1: Reduce your webinars to 30 minutes.
In a recent Citrix survey, 49% of respondents stated that their preferred webinar duration is 30 minutes. Less than a quarter preferred 20 minute and 45 minute webinars, and a lonely 9% favoured webinars that are 1 hour in total.
With attention spans decreasing and workloads increasing, this really isn’t a surprise.
Tip #2: Start off strong; otherwise it will be difficult to make a comeback.
The first few minutes of your presentation are arguably the most critical. You could use an interesting fact (and I mean interesting!), some sort of shock tactic, a quick story or an activity like taking a photo (let’s go with a selfie as it seems to be the thing to do right now) and asking them to upload it to Twitter using the webinar hashtag.
Whatever it is, nail it. Your audience won’t hesitate to exit the webinar – no one can see them leave. And nine times out of 10, they haven’t paid to attend.
Their time is valuable — emails are backing up as you speak. You have to keep them engaged.
Tip #3: Drop out of PowerPoint and show something different on your screen.
OK, confession time. Hands up if you use a PowerPoint-style presentation during your webinar? Yep, most of us do — and that’s because it’s an easy way to display and share information. However, with some platforms, you can drop out of PowerPoint at any time and share anything that is on your desktop.
Give users something different to look at, like highlighting something on a website or bringing up a document to annotate on during the webinar itself.
Variety is the spice of life and all that. Shake it up a little.
Tip #4: Use planned and ad-hoc engagement breaks to involve the audience.
This is a must for any webinar. Getting the audience involved during the course of a presentation is one of the most effective ways of keeping their attention.
Ask a question and get them to respond by typing their responses in the webinar platform – and read a few out to make them feel loved. Or ask them to participate in a polling question so they can see what their peers are thinking there and then.
However you do it, regularly check in with your audience and you’ll instantly lift attention levels and reduce drop-outs.
Tip #5: Speak with energy.
This one’s a personal favourite of mine. Whether it comes naturally or requires practice, try and sound energetic. If you’re passionate and excited about your content, then your audience will feed on that enthusiasm.
On a recent webinar, we asked the audience to tell us what the most disengaging thing a speaker could do on a virtual meeting/presentation — and the most popular response was “talking with a monotone voice.”
Tip #6: Unmute participants and allow them to speak. (One at a time!)
This one is for the bravest amongst us. Ask your audience if one or two people have a comment or question they’d like to make verbally. Yes I said it – verbally. That means unmuting someone! Ask them to raise their hand, and you can unmute their line.
A couple of things to note when doing this: first, be ready to press mute quickly should you need to. I have never had someone say something negative or abusive on one of our webinars, but ultimately you have no control over what they will say.
Second, if the participant is listening via their computer speakers, then they may not have a microphone. When asking if someone would like to say something, remind them that they will need a microphone or a telephone.
Tip #7: Show your webcam for a deeper audience connection.
You might want to do this at the beginning of your presentation as you introduce yourself, or you may want to keep the webcam streaming throughout the entire event.
Showing your webcam adds a personal element to your webinar — and you know how hot personalisation is at the moment. It might feel strange at first, but I promise you: the more you do it, the more it will become a compulsory part of your webinar programme.
To sum it up
There are many techniques that you can employ to keep a webinar audience engaged and listening – I’ve only listed a handful here. But one thing is for sure – you must involve and interact with your audience throughout your presentation in order to decrease drop outs and to provide positive exposure to yourself and your organisation.
Try testing these methods out on your upcoming webinars and let us know how you get on.
What else would you suggest? How else can we keep webinar attendees engaged? Share your ideas here.