Presenting in a Remote World – Increasing Engagement

Presentation expert Nolan Haims talks about how to increase engagement in your presentations when presenting online.

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Let’s dive in and talk about this thing that is now suddenly missing, or at the very least severely reduced and severely impacted, which is engagement. How do we restore some missing engagement? And Marcus, I’m going to ask you to launch the first poll, because I do want to ask you. I want to get a sense. Do you now feel more engaged with a speaker online or in person?

Right now we all remember in-person speakers, but do you feel more engaged with them now online, in which, if you’re wearing headphones, they might be right in your brain, or when you were in person, where you might have been at the front of the room, you might have been at the back of the room. Let’s talk about that and get a sense. And Marcus, I’ll just let you launch the results when you feel like we’ve got a critical mass on that. Because again, are you engaged? You have one level of engagement in the room when there may be 12 people there. If there are 500 people in the room, maybe it’s less. Similarly, are you wearing headphones? Are you distracted? But let’s launch. There we go.

Okay. All right. So 90% of you felt more engaged in person than online. Not a surprise, but what does that mean? Well, it means basically what we were laying out, that we’re missing a huge part of engagement with our speakers. So how do we help get that back? Well, there are a lot of things we can do. It starts with setting expectations and tone for your remote audience, right?

Using Video

Tell people in advance if it’s going to be a video meeting, right? This is partly coming down to trust and relationships. You don’t want to just surprise people right at the last minute, say, “Oh, everybody turn your cameras on.” I do believe on keeping cameras on, at least in the beginning, since introductions is important, but we need to be sensitive to people’s personal situations and home lives and all that, and we do recommend really giving them the choice, asking and recommending it, but ultimately giving that choice. But if you do want to do this, let them know in advance, not right when they get on.

Using Mics

Next, do suggest keeping mics open for participation and review. Now, this is a little tricky if you’re having a meeting with 500 people, but if you’re just having a half dozen, a dozen people, ask people to really leave the mics open as the default throughout, and that encourages people hopefully to just jump in, like they would in a real meeting. Now you do have to go over how to mute. You want people to know how to mute themselves when they need to, if having it open was a default.

Call Out Attendees Individually

But with that, call out attendees, not only as they arrive, but during. Right? I mean, as you’re presenting, especially if you have a dozen people and you know them, they’re on your team. Just keep addressing them. You make a point and say, “Jim…” I don’t have a list actually in front of me of everybody that’s on, but when I’m using some other web software, like Zoom, for example, even if I’m presenting to hundreds and hundreds of people, I’ll glance over at that participant list every once in a while, and Allie, I have no idea who she is, but just, “Hey, Allie, what do you think of this?” Or, “Jim, when you’re doing such and such…” “Tony, let me know what you think of this in the chat. Let me know.” It’s just a way to keep people on their toes and saying, “Yes, I know you’re there.”

Set An Agenda

And lastly, we hear this all the time, but it is so important. Please set an agenda for your audiences. It’s respectful, it’s giving them the right footing to start off with, and it helps set those expectations and the tone of a respectful meeting. “I’m going to be respectful of your time.” It’ll encourage people to maybe keep their mics open and turn their video on. Interaction, that’s really what we’re losing. And there is just so much that we can get back, right? I mean, we can’t just walk over and put our hand on somebody’s shoulder the way we could. We can’t just make eye contact with somebody, even though I’m trying to make eye contact with everyone right now.

Have a Moderator

But have a moderator, right? That really helps. I’ve got Marcus as a nice host, giving me a nice introduction, but you can have somebody who is just there to keep you on track, depending on the type of meeting or presentation you’re doing. But having somebody to book-end things, to take care of technical issues that happen, right? I mean, look, if somebody’s sound goes off, or they don’t know where a download is, or their screen’s whatever, I can’t stop. You as the presenter shouldn’t have to stop to fix that. That’s your moderator. Try to have somebody in your organization, a buddy or just a colleague, to say, “I’m going to moderate this one. You’re presenting.”

Use Chat and Q&A

Do really try to use chat and Q&A, depending on what platform you’re using, to the best and widest use that you can, right? Use it often. This is also where your moderator can get in. If people are asking questions, the moderator can jump in and answer them so you don’t get distracted. The moderator can throw questions to you, say, “Hey, Nolan, Jim’s asking about such and such,” but really try to exploit chat and Q&A as much as you can.

And let people know that it’s open, that they should get the chat Q&A window open from the beginning, have it off to the side so that they know it’s there. For whatever reason, every time I start a Teams meeting, I always forget about the chat, and then suddenly 10 minutes in, I’m like, “Oh right, the chat,” and then I see there’s this whole conversation happening. By the way, if you don’t want that happening, you can set the ground rules as well. Sometimes, especially in Teams, I feel like there are two presentations going on. There’s the presentation and then there’s chat. That’s up to you to manage.

Downloads and Links

But think about downloads, links and emails, anything that can get people engaged. I’ve seen people who’ve been on webinars and meetings where they’ll say, “Okay, here’s a download link where I just sent something to your email,” to everybody who was registered to their email, with a document, “open it up”, or, “I just sent a link. Go to this site and take a look at what we’re talking about.” Again, just anything that you can do to literally engage people and keep them on their toes, you should.

Collaboration is difficult in the real world. Virtually, it’s even more difficult, although technology makes it easier. Look, we all know Google Docs and OneDrive and SharePoint. Microsoft is trying to step up their game on collaboration. I know Google is still easier to use. But make use of that. If you’re doing that in general, sharing Google Docs and everything, think about doing it in your meeting. In your presentation, say, “Hey, everybody, go open the Google sheet right now, and let’s go to tab three,” and I want everybody to look at this, and feel free to type in your numbers or whatever. Whatever system you’re using, you can have it open during your presentation. In fact, forget the screen-share. I mean, I could open it up and screen-share it so everybody could see it. But you could say, “Don’t worry about the screen-share, just go to the Google Doc, maximize that, because that’s what we’re going to be talking about right now.”

Topic Slides

I’ve got a friend who has to present, I think it’s every week or every two weeks, to this group, and the person that’s managing the group is insistent. He’s like, “Jorge, you’ve got to have slides”. He asked me, he’s like, “Nolan, look, what I’m talking about, it’s not that kind of presentation. We’re ideating and talking about more macro things. I’m trying to get ideas. It’s not a presentation. Why does he want slides?” And so I suggest, okay, fine, use slides, but have topic slides. You have categories and things you want to talk about. Don’t give them the information. Just say, “This is what we’re talking about.”

So create a bunch of slides that you can put up just as topics, right? And if you want to actually take notes, go out of slideshow mode and just start taking bullet-point notes, right? This is also the kind of thing you can have a moderator or a recording secretary do for a meeting. Each meeting, somebody could be tasked with taking notes. And if you’re the presenter and you’re the only one doing it, you can do it live right in front of them. Just go out of slideshow mode and just start typing away.

Polls and Questions

Polls and questions. We talked a little bit about the Q&A, but if you can, if it makes sense to have a poll, to ask questions, we’ll be doing that a couple times. I’ll be asking you to just throw answers into the… I don’t think our chat quite works, but our questions panel does. So you don’t have to do an official poll. Sometimes you just say, “Hey, I’d like to know your thoughts on X, Y, and Z. Can you throw it in the chat?” In fact, right now, somebody just throw in the Q&A panel. Is my audio good? Are you still awake? Is my lighting decent? Is anything landing? Let me know you’re still there. Let me know you’re still alive. Just throw it into the Q&A panel. Somebody let me know that there’s somebody out there. I’ve got a lot of shy people today. That’s okay.

Whiteboarding, Annotation, & Breakout Rooms

Lastly, every platform has different tools that can really extend engagement. Whiteboarding, annotation, breakout rooms. I think Teams just recently launched breakout rooms and have had them for a while. They’re fantastic. Send people out for a couple minutes to five minutes, set a timer, to say, “Hey, I’m going to randomly put people in rooms. You talk about what we just talked about and come back with an idea.” So make use of those things. If you haven’t ever investigated all the advanced features of your platform, do it. Just take some time. Zoom especially. Go through all the advanced preferences on your Zoom account, and you have to do it online, and you’ll see all these checkboxes for add polling, add whiteboarding, add annotation. Most of them are part of your package, but they’re just not enabled. So just find out. I mean, we have to be more technical masters these days. That’s what it comes down to. We have to know our software and be really comfortable with it. So that’s a little bit about engagement. Set expectations and tone, be a master of the chat, whether you want people chatting or not, and really try to bring collaboration into your meetings and your presentations. It shouldn’t just be for outside the meetings. You can make it happen.

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