How to Keep Your Virtual Audience Engaged

BY Tim Londergan
Featured image for “How to Keep Your Virtual Audience Engaged”

Whether you love them or hate them, hosting a successful virtual meeting is a challenge for everyone. These remote meetings are especially trying if your audience looks bored or distracted and the stakes are high. Seemingly, it’s easier when you are one-​on-​one, or the audience includes recognized co-​workers who you can respectfully call on to reclaim their attention. But how do you keep your virtual audience engaged when it’s obvious they would rather be doing anything other than feigning attention to their video screen?

A professional actor shares tips on how to keep your virtual audience engaged

The stark reality of selling in a virtual world is upon us. Therefore, professional salespeople must develop the specialized skill set to master this new experience. Consequently, being great on video or conveying liveliness during your virtual meetings can make or break your next big deal. Learning from those who make their living in front of a camera can help keep your virtual audience engaged. Luckily, master class instructor, actor and author, Julie Hansen, provides insight and advice on how to read your audience and when to take action to get them back on track.

Warm up BEFORE you go on camera

It only makes sense to stretch your muscles before you exercise. Similarly, you should warm up before the camera light goes on. Hansen says, “A good warm-​up can free up your expressive muscles, warm up your voice, release negative tension and raise your energy. And it doesn’t have to take long.” Additionally, she suggests having fun with an “over-​the-​top” rehearsal where you deliver your message with as much energy and excitement as you can possibly muster. Then, convey it again more authentically where you will find you’re speaking with more passion and personality. She offers many more warmup tips to keep your virtual audience engaged. Here is a sampling:

  • Sing or rap the words to your pitch
  • Dance, jog or jump in place while you practice
  • Mix up the cadence and change the emphasis on key words

The camera is your friend

We’ve all seen the images of a professional photographer and an experienced model playfully provoking and teasing each other with the camera as the medium. Well, Hansen encourages this attitude in a more moderate fashion. More specifically, she suggests you befriend the camera, knowing that it is guaranteed to pick up every nuanced expression, action or word. Unfortunately, the camera perceptively transmits your emotions and can expose any negative or inauthentic moods. But when you like the camera, it reflects how you feel and helps you keep your virtual audience engaged.

Handling inattentive or bored virtual audiences

First, virtual audiences are notoriously hard to read. What’s more, the attendees are routinely passive observers. Their body language, according to Hansen, is limited and their lack of expression is easily misinterpreted. Therefore, you should not assume that you or your message is to blame. The author provides tips to keep your virtual audience engaged if you feel you’re losing their attention. Here are just a few:

  • Make direct eye contact – Hansen suggests looking at the camera for 70 to 80% of the time on a virtual call. This is especially important when you are delivering a key point, asking a question or listening to a response.
  • Look for inattentive behavior – When an attendee looks bored or low-​energy, it may be time to act. For example, you might ask that person a direct question or ask them to take notes or monitor online chat.
  • Ask for feedback – Checking in on how your message is being received is not an imposition. In fact, it may be appreciated by audience members and can help you course-​correct in real time.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash