Presenting an Online Workshop – Tips for Engaging your Audience: Part 1 – Visual Representations

Presenting an Online Workshop – Tips for Engaging your Audience: Part 1 – Visual Representations

Presenting a workshop to an online audience is not without its challenges. Primary among these is the inability of the presenter to gauge the audience’s reaction or to use any of the non-verbal (read: eye-rolls, nods, smiles, confused looks, etc.) or verbal cues (laughter at your jokes 😉 ) that are typically available when presenting in-person. This five-part series describes tips and tricks for engaging an online audience and making the workshop experience an interactive one, including: Visual Considerations; Ice Breakers; Chats & Open Discussions; Polls, Surveys & Quizzes; and Breakout Rooms.

The simple fact is that it is difficult for anyone to pay attention to a presentation for any real length of time but when the presentation is online, and the presenter is not in the same space as the participant, this becomes even more difficult. The demands of life and the reality of attending a workshop online from one’s home or office presents multiple additional distractions than are likely when the workshop presentation is in person.

To reduce ‘zoom fatigue’ and to encourage active participation on the part of your online audience, several different techniques can be used. First, we begin with Visual Considerations.

Part 1: Engaging an Online Audience – Visual Considerations

Whether online or in the classroom, the first step to engaging your audience is a visually appealing presentation. Heavy text can crowd your slides, making it hard to follow and even distract your participants from following along with you. Striking the balance between presenting the important information while not adding strain on your audience will help keep participants interested and engaged throughout.

Large blocks of text or paragraphs should be avoided unless absolutely necessary (such as presenting a short vignette). Even too many bullet points can overcrowd our slides and distract your participants from the key points being communicated. You want your audience to be following you, rather than reading. Between two and four sentences or bullet points per slide is ideal for highlighting the core takeaways that you want your audience to attend to.

Another great way to rely on less text is the use of visuals, graphs or diagrams. As a rule of thumb, if something can be represented graphically, it should be. This is especially important if you know that you will have international participants, where English may be a second language to many.
Example: Visuals help your audience put things like statistics or prevalence rates into perspective, and can communicate a lot of information in a simple and approachable way. Use tables, charts, or graphs to show participants trends over time, rather than just writing them out.

Online lecture-based presentations can be draining for both the participants and the presenters. Integrating videos can be a useful way to break up your slides and lecture to demonstrate practical applications of your content.
Example: Skills-based workshops can pre-record role-plays of core skills being taught to give participants a concrete example of what they’re learning. Afterward, engage your audience in a discussion about what they just watched and how they can apply those skills.

Sometimes, you do have information that you want to ensure your participants can have handy to follow along, or use in the future. Hand-outs can be sent out to participants before or after the workshop to cover specific topics in more depth or present additional information (such as further readings) that couldn’t be incorporated into the slides.

Need some examples or more tips and tricks? Check out these helpful resources for designing engaging presentations!

10 Tips for Engaging Slides

28 Tips for a Great Presentation 

Next Up: Icebreakers

Authored By Leila N. Wallach

Leila N. Wallach is a clinical psychology doctoral student at Palo Alto University. Her research and clinical interests focus on alternatives to incarceration, culture and trauma-informed care, policy in the juvenile justice system, and risk assessment for community offender management.

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