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  • Writer's pictureViva Sarah Press

5 tips to make online webinars more interactive and fun

Covid-19 changed the speakers’ circuit. No more face-to-face banter with audiences, no more raising hands, or nodding faces.

Now, when speakers like myself give talks or host webinars, we’re looking into a camera, sharing our screen presentation and trying to hold eye contact with participants (who are many miles away).

Speakers know that keeping talks interactive and fun are key. Perhaps even more so, now.

Zoom fatigue is real.

Online webinars must be fun to hold attention.

No one wants to watch a person speak (or even worse, read) into a camera.

Fun backdrops are an option and can be amusing at first. I find them distracting in the long run. When I give Zoom talks, participants can see a few books on a shelf and mainly a white wall. I want them to concentrate on what I’m sharing.

Having hosted webinars across oceans and for a range of ages, I’ve put together 5 tips on how to keep Zoom talks more interactive and fun:

  1. Pro-active pauses: Ask participants to imagine something. And then pause. A lot of people are afraid of pauses –and afraid that if they pause, the silence in speech, and especially online, may feel awkward. I find pausing engages the audience. It allows people to think for a minute. To be a part of the dialogue.

  2. Ask questions at random: I always ask questions during my presentations. Some of them are rhetorical and I’ll answer them myself. Others, I like to hear from the audience. In face-to-face events, it is easier for the speaker to see who may want to answer a question. Online, it can be a tad harder. While Zoom has a hand-raising button, I tend to ask people at random to guess an answer. I keep it light. Funny. Humorous. It’s okay if they don’t know… I’ll pick someone else. And in picking at random, everyone knows they may be picked. I always give the option that the person can say ‘pass’ or ‘no thanks’ – but in making everyone part of my choice, engagement remains high. It is important, of course, not to ask too many questions. In online presentations, I don’t usually ask more than two during an hour talk.

  3. Real-time polls: Real-time surveys, polls and word clouds add to any presentation. When it’s online, even more so. There are mobile and gaming apps that are easy to incorporate into an online webinar. Audiences become part of the presentation when these apps are used.

  4. Q&A: At the beginning of every talk, I say there will be Q&A at the end of the presentation. Audience involvement creates a give-and-take of information. No question is trivial. Some people prefer to ask via chat, others will ask into the camera. And when no one asks a question, I’ll ask the first question about something I know my audience will have the answer to (See tip 5). That has always worked out as a spark for a good Q&A session.

  5. Make local references: Before every live talk, it is important to know who you’re talking to. When I speak to communities online, I pepper my presentation with local references to something in their lives. When I’m speaking to a younger crowd, I always Google trending topics before the presentation. Audiences want to feel connected. When your references are local (for them), they do.

I tell Israel’s innovation stories in the global context. Feel free to read more about my talks, here.

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