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THE MAGAZINE      October 2002
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Making Your Point in the Dark

 

TED SCHRAFFT

 

Picture yourself as a speaker in a roomful of people. After you are introduced, someone switches off the lights. Out of the darkness, a voice prompts you to "please begin." Suddenly, you’re struck by the silence of your audience. Making a presentation by Web conference is like making your point in the dark.

 

Your audience is invisible and often silent. There are no facial expressions to read and no body language to observe. Your presentation is carried only by your voice and perhaps a voice on the other end. How do you capture and keep the attention of an invisible audience?

• Take control of the medium. Do everything in your power to control how your voice is delivered and received. Select quality equipment, and use a headset or handset rather than a speakerphone. Eliminate background noise. Always conduct a sound check before the event.

• Keep it simple. Make your point simple and concise. Use your verbal presentation to elaborate on points. To maintain audience attention, keep visuals pleasing and easy to read.

• Speak slowly and with energy. Speakers tend to speed up when there is no one in front of them in person. Speaking too fast can confuse the audience and you’ll lose its attention. Magnify your vocal energy 15 percent more than your ordinary phone voice. Use the same gestures and body language you would when presenting in person. If it feels natural, stand up.

• Interact with the audience. Don’t let your audience drift away. Use your conferencing software’s polling and Q&A features to measure the interest of your audience. Interpersonal feedback is at a minimum in a remote conference. Therefore, it is imperative to use conferencing features to help you tailor your presentation to the level and interest of your audience.

• Use multiple people as resources. Being prepared to answer questions during a session can help clarify the topic for attendees and keep the presentation more targeted. At the same time, questions sent while a speaker is presenting can be distracting. To help facilitate the session, have a second person responsible for taking online questions and offering answers to the audience. Or hold a Q&A session at the end of the event.

Ted Schrafft is President of Premiere Conferencing (www.premconf.com), a provider of multimedia conferencing and collaboration solutions.