I have attended quite a few live conferences in my business career and there has been one significant change over recent years that has astounded me in its social acceptance: the complete lack of attention for the person speaking. By this I mean, the use of laptops, cell phones, talking to one another or just plain old nodding off during a presentation! Now I get it, there’s definitely the “I’m taking notes on this device to better comprehend the content and review it later”, but I have personally looked over the shoulder of many a user to see Outlook, Excel and yes, even Netflix.
Is there a solution to this or are we doomed to present our content to an audience with their noses in their phones? Well, I have seen a few things that get people’s immediate attention with laser focus. One of them is a contest or a game. People love to compete. It is in our mental nature to see who is best and who can solve a problem first. And, let’s be honest, if you are the winner, having the center stage for one brief moment is incredible. But, in this day and age, getting out to view a trade show or large meeting live is becoming a thing of the past.
Enter the new virtual meeting system (webcasts). With these new mediums, we can reach thousands for a fraction of the price. But is there a sacrifice? In my opinion, I think yes. Given the privacy of the attendee, the lack of attention problems escalates exponentially. You see it all the time, immediately after login, people minimize the webcast and begin other work leaving the “show” to proceed in the background. As a presenter, your audience has left even before you’ve had the chance to wow them with your content and quippy banter. I have to admit I am guilty as charged during certain events. But, luckily, I have a few tips to keep your audience thoroughly engaged for the duration of your program.
- Use polls – At strategic moments you can “bring back” users that might have strayed from the path. After regulatory messaging, familiar content or complex content – the levity of a quick poll will bring back users and raise comprehension.
- Give away a prize – Announce that you are giving away a prize and tell the audience that the winner will be revealed in an upcoming important slide. Keep them hanging for a while but not too long.
- Play a game – Split the audience into groups and ask content based questions during key moments of your presentation to keep them engaged with high retention.
- Use WordCloud – A wordcloud is a collection of words where your audience determines the content by entering a word pertaining to your subject and the more popular words are emphasized.
All in all there really is no magic secret to retaining audience attention. Mankind has been trying to do this for centuries, from the Roman senate to the modern-day webcast, we seek to be heard and understood. I think the virtual meetings industry needs to up their game and start holding attendee’s attention in more creative and intuitive ways. But then again, you probably didn’t even finish my article…