An excerpt from “Virtual Presentations that Work” by Dr. Joel Gendelman, published by McGraw-Hill Professional (May 2010).
By Dr. Joel Gendelman
Attendees will not always be actively engaged in your virtual presentations. They may feel overworked, resent their boss for making them attend your session, or not feel positive about the message you are about to share. Either way, it is up to you to overcome this potential silence and resistance as best you can without further upsetting them. Here are some points to remember that might help you do so.
Your Mother Will Always Love You
If you are fortunate, maybe you have a significant other, a dog, a cat, or a child who feels the same way. Attendees, on the other hand, are not under any contractual obligation to love you. They are attending your virtual presentation merely to meet their own needs, not yours. Often they will exert only as much effort as is needed to achieve what they want. The rest is up to you. Sometimes it will not be easy, and other times it may be downright unfair.
Always Assume Attendees Are Multitasking
When you talk to someone on the phone, there is the illusion that both parties are sitting still on the edge of their respective seats, engaged solely in the conversation at hand. It’s best not to think that the other person might be knitting a scarf or fixing a sandwich, rather than devoting all his attention to you—even though chances are, that is what he’s doing.
Virtual presentations work the same way. Participants could be reading their latest sales report or answering e-mails instead of hanging on your every word. Sometimes they are attending only out of obligation to their manager, and most of the time they have something else on their mind. It is your job to get and keep them interested. Accept that you are not entitled to their undivided attention. You need to connect with the people who attend your session, motivate them out of their own self-interest, and draw them into your virtual presentation. Once this process starts, it is contagious, and before you know it, you will have a group of people who are communicating and sharing. It’s magic, but it takes practice. It is only a matter of time. Until then, though, just assume that everyone is also checking her e-mail.
Many People Will Hide if They Can
Remember elementary school. Some kids would sit in the back of the room, hoping the teacher did not see them and would not call on them. It is the same way in virtual presentations. Quieter attendees hide from view, and they can do that very effectively. As adults, folks feel they are entitled to be silent observers. If your presentation is a requirement, they may not have that option. First of all, work hard to make your virtual presentation relevant, economical, interactive, dynamic, and enjoyable. If that is not enough, try coming up with some positive ways to involve them, such as using the types of activities discussed in earlier chapters. You can also send an attendee a private note asking him for his valuable perspective. If these techniques do not work, let him be and move on to another attendee. If you are too aggressive in trying to draw out a specific participant, he will not be happy, and you can bet this will be reflected on his session feedback form.
Dr. Joel Gendelman has more than 25 years of experience developing activity-rich training and communications. He has written three books and is a speaker at international conferences and corporate events. His book, “Virtual Presentations that Work,” is available at most booksellers, as well as Amazon.com. You may order this book, or any of his other books from his Amazon.com author page at www.amazon.com/-/e/B002YFSLH8. For information on Dr. Gendelman’s services and workshops, contact him at email@example.com visit www.FTtraining.com.