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Presenting online

Online training, online demos, online EVERYTHING! It is cheaper and more cost effective, very true. But the success of such an event really comes down to the following:

1. Presenter.

2. Material.

3. Audience.

All three need to work together in a weird sort of synchronicity. The most vibrate presentation can be ruined by a dull speaker. The best speaker can be stymied by bad materials.  The audience can ruin or enhance the whole experience.

Presenters – practice if you have never presented in an online environment (WebEx, Connect, GotoMeeting, etc). Heck, practice if you are using a different program than usual, each one has neato cool stuff with different ways to use them. Gather your friends and have them log in. Record and listen to yourself. Ensure you know the program – how do you import slides, go to live websites, type text for the audience to see, etc.  Become familiar with the tools and tricks of the world you will inhabit.

Material – evaluate both the type of presentation and the audience before developing your materials.  Are you training or giving a sales/marketing pitch? Different approaches and materials will be needed. Also, check your online environment to ensure a smooth use of whatever you wish to use – does the system interact well with Prezi or does it freeze? Is there a preferred browser for websites? Find out before you spent time creating your presentation.

Audience – the key to everything. Who is going to be there? What do they expect? Is it a really big group? Is there a”live audience” with an online audience? Let’s spend some time here, mmkay?

With a mixed audience (live and online), the presenter needs to aware of the invisible audience. That microphone the techies so lovingly setup for you? It is really necessary for the online audience to hear you – even if the live audience can hear you just fine when you walk 20 feet away from the microphone. Be sure to engage the online group as well as the live folk, check the chat, repeat questions given in the live event into the microphone for the online audience.

Do you use a laser pointer? Great! You do realize the online audience has no idea you are pointing to anything, right? They cannot see the fancy cat toy burning a hole into the screen, so use your words to explain what you are doing.

In an online-only environment, the non-reaction and non-feedback can befuddle a presenter used to hearing or seeing reactions.  The presenter is generally alone in front of a computer, speaking into a headset and hoping the audience is hearing and engaging but the only way to know is if the audience types in chat, uses the online environment tools to clap or raise hands – worse is not knowing until the session ends and the evaluations are read (be sure to read these, it will help you present better in the future).

A great way to throw the presenter off-stride and to ensure the wrath of the rest of the audience is to keep the audience microphones live – ensuring all ambient noises echo thru the headsets and computer speakers across the land. It is wonderful to be able to ask questions in an online event. It is great to be able to speak rather than type into chat (although chat is really my fav). However. The dogs barking, the doorbells ringing, the potato chip crunching, and the general static sound of several microphones will distract the audience from whatever the presenter is presenting. The best presenter with an awesome presentation will fail when the audience cannot hear.

Hands up – how many have attended a session online where one of the audience members puts the session on hold and everyone in the room is overcome with hold music? Please tell me that wasn’t you. BTW, Presenters, when someone puts you on hold they cannot hear you ask, repeatedly, “will whoever put us on hold please take us off hold”? But is it pretty funny that you say it so many times… it’s right up there with “If you can’t hear me, please let me know”. Both statements I have heard from multiple online presenters in a variety of sessions. It never gets old. No. Really. Never.

Be the best you can be – learn to mute, practice before, learn your environment as well as your material. Now, go succeed!

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