As the head of an online communications company, I’m frequently asked,
“How do I do a better job connecting with my online audience”
“What tips can you offer me?”
“What’s best practice?”
Whilst the answer depends on your context, I believe there is a common fundamental foundation for effective human communication – Ethos, Pathos, Logos. I first came across this in a training course in my early 20s. Now, 30 years later, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to practice delivering presentations to international audiences and can vouch for its effectiveness, particularly in our digital world.
From the Greek, ethos is one’s attitude or disposition. Whether you’re speaking to fifty employees in a townhall or in front of a camera facing an online audience, people want to feel that you want to be there, want to offer them something they can relate to. It’s a chance for you to build credibility early and to show that you wish to be of service to your audience. If you start off rushed, fidgeting, not sure who you’re addressing or why, you’re going to have a hard time keeping people’s attention. In the real world, they might continue looking at you out of politeness whilst they zone out, but online, they are likely to be gone much quicker with all the other distractions in their location and the absence of your eye contact holding them still.
So high energy, a smile, a well-prepared opening statement, an acknowledgement of where people are conferencing in from, a short description of what they are about to see and hear on the presentation/webinar/townhall are all really positive examples of things you can do.
Then comes pathos – feeling. You have to be able to empathize with your audience. This may be good time to give a shout out to a couple of colleagues calling in at midnight from a different time zone or acknowledging the fear, pride, joy, anxiety, excitement that your audience may be feeling at this time – you will know what will be authentic. You will just need to have thought about it in advance. You may even want to ask them how they feel. In an online recruitment webinar by a major corporation, the host asks the graduates who are logging in from around the world to use one adjective in the chat box to describe how they feel. Many are excited, some are anxious, thinking there will be some kind of test involved. The host then makes a joke about how she felt in her first panel interview with the company, assures her audience that no test is involved and thus expertly engages her audience to focus on the information she’s about to impart.
Which brings us to the rational part of the communication – logos. Now that you have established your credibility with your audience and engaged them at an emotional level, here’s the part where you can present the data dense section of your presentation. Whether it’s information about your company, its products, a new initiative or you’re delivering an online training webinar, you’ve got your audience in the most receptive mindset possible to receive the information. If you’ve thought deeply about your audience, you may have recorded a short, automated, segment using for example FLOW’s Autoflow feature to ensure a flawless delivery in short amount of time.
Online communications tools include polling, dedicated Q&A modules, document downloads, surveys and chat. Be selective in using a subset of these tools to keep your audience engaged. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself what would make sense?
Finally, how did you think about closing the presentation? Is this a one-time event, the beginning of a conversation or a is there a call to action that comes next. In the online presentation world, you have several options to continue participant engagement from downloadable links, to follow-on sessions, to email follow ups. So, as you’re preparing your presentation in the weeks before, always begin with the end in mind.
If at the end of your session, you managed to get people to think (or even better, to say) that you were interesting and delivered valuable content, you’re onto a winner.
If you’re considering an important online presentation, please get in touch for a free consultation.