Presenting online has quickly gone from nice to necessary. It’s a great – and sometimes the only – option, but understanding common issues and how to avoid them is the key to success.

My colleague, Ellen Finkelstein, is a recognized expert, speaker, trainer, and best-selling author on PowerPoint and presentation skills. Her articles have appeared in numerous magazines, newsletters, and blogs, and she is a PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional),

She recently updated an older blog post on eight deadly webinar sins and how to avoid them, and I want to share it with you. I’ve shortened it, but make sure you read the full post here.

1. Reading the slides

If you just show slides with the text you’re reading, here’s what happens:

  1. Your audience scans the text quickly
  2. They then listen to you, but you’re saying the same thing they’ve just read because people read much faster than you can speak
  3. So they start multi-tasking — checking their email, checking out other web pages, doing other work, etc.

You’ve seen this a million times as a webinar attendee. Slide after slide of bulleted text read to you, with a few additions. When there is a lot of text on a slide, the audience assumes the text is all that’s important, but that’s often just part of the message.

Put less on each slide. Elaborate on the text that’s on the slide and use a relevant image to reinforce your message. People remember images better than text. In addition, keep your background and overall design simple so the audience can focus on your message.

2. Staying on the same slide for more than 2 minutes

Two minutes is a long time for your audience to watch the same slide when they can’t see you. Sure, they can hear you, but you cannot listen and read at the same time — that’s just how the brain works. The more lively your voice and the more compelling your message, the longer you can keep a slide up.

Use more slides than you would for a live presentation. Consider changing slides every 30-60 seconds.

3. Using animation improperly

When you switch from slide to slide, interest is created because our brains become alert when we see a change. However, that does not mean you should go wild with animation. Animated text can be very annoying. Plus, you can’t control your audience’s internet connection, or what device they’re using. Slower connections and older devices may not show animation properly or at all, resulting in a confusing and disjointed message.

Simple animation that makes a point clearer — such as an animated diagram showing a process step-by-step — can help keep your audience interested.

4. Not using interactive features

Use a service’s interactive features if available. Invite attendee contributions by asking them questions. If you have several people in your meeting, reduce talking by asking them to use the chat feature. If your attendees can’t see each others’ comments, read them out loud just as you would repeat a question in a live presentation. Attendees love to hear the answers of others in the group.

Consider using the poll feature, if available, and a whiteboard option can give a feel of immediacy and interactivity, as long as it’s done professionally – no scribbling!

5. Talking in a monotone and hiding behind your slides

Because people can’t see you — unless you show your webcam — your voice needs to be more lively than usual. Standing as you speak is a helpful technique to practice.

If you have a script (and you should) be careful not to sound like you’re reading it. Practice and record your practice using your webcam to help determine where you need work.

Consider starting your webinar with full-screen video of you to help your audience engage with you quickly, then move to sharing your screen. Practice making the switch so it’s clean and seamless.

6. Not knowing the webinar software and related technology!

Few things are more distracting than a presenter fumbling with the software. Learn it, practice, and if possible, have an assistant to help with issues and to monitor questions and comments.

7. Not providing follow-up

Attendees are often alone at home, in their office, at their desk. Their attention tends to wander because they can’t see you. They need follow-up to connect with you and your message. The more you follow up, the better your results will be!

  1. Offer a handout with your script. Near the end, show a slide to a location where they can download the handout.
  2. Send a follow-up email asking for questions and comments, with a link to further resources
  3. Ask for feedback. Some webinar software includes a feedback form; or ask attendees to go to an online survey that you create.

Follow these simple tips, and your next webinar will help you communicate your message more effectively!

For more information about Ellen and what she offers, contact her: Ellen Finkelstein, Inc. 515-989-1832.