Of the thousands of TED Talk videos on their YouTube channel, the fourth most viewed video of all time is Julian Treasure’s “How to speak so people want to listen.” More than 30 million people have tuned into the nearly 10-minute video. I’m sure their reasons for watching vary, but speaking for myself, it’s safe to say that public speaking can be nerve-wracking—even if your audience is virtual and isn’t in the same room as you.
With industry conferences still out of reach due to the pandemic, brands are finding more value in hosting or participating in webinars. There are plenty of resources online that will help you nail the technical part of your webinar, but less addressing how to speak to a digital audience. Below, you’ll find some tried and true tips for speaking during your next webinar.
Polish the beginning and end of your presentation
Most of your audience will be watching your presentation from home. The likelihood of them getting distracted mid-presentation is probably high. Use the beginning of the presentation to introduce yourself and present an agenda, so they know what to expect. The end of your presentation should focus on telling the audience how to contact you while driving home the key points you made during the presentation.
Tell a story in between facts
One reason TED Talks resonate with such a large audience is that the presenters always tell a story. They make their content personal and engaging, allowing the audience to reflect on their situation and apply what they learn to their own life. If someone decides to attend your webinar, they are already interested in what you have to say. Ensure they walk away remembering what you say by keeping it engaging and memorable by presenting stories, important data and highlighting your expertise in the subject. Remember to read the question aloud before answering to give context to your audience as they may not be watching the chat feature.
Engage with your audience
Unlike an in-person event, webinars don’t allow you to see your audience’s faces and, more importantly, their reactions to the things you say. If you have the option, turn on the chat feature so audience members can ask questions—either during or after you are done presenting the information.
Resist the urge to sit down
We’ve gotten so used to having Zoom meetings, most people have probably forgotten what it’s like to present to a room full of people. A webinar is no different than a presentation you would give at a conference or a lecture, so resist the urge to sit down and instead stand up. It will free your body language and encourage you to use your hands while talking.
Practice, practice, practice
Practice by yourself; practice with your co-presenters; practice in front of stuffed animals; practice on video. You shouldn’t wing any presentation, let alone one as important (and often expensive) as a webinar. Write a script, practice it, then tweak the content after listening back to make sure your message will resonate with the audience. Play around with areas like tone and transitions to make sure everything flows. An excellent presentation will have more visuals than words, so practice as much as possible, so you aren’t left flailing in front of a live audience.