Engaging online seminars

Dozens of conferences around the world have been cancelled due to the coronavirus. It’s hard to imagine the amount of stress and frustration that event organizers, vendors, and participants must have felt. While some conferences were completely cancelled, others postponed, and still others went remote. 

But what about you as a speaker? As a speaker you maybe wondering if your seminar can still have an impact now that it is online. As you begin to reimagine your new online seminar its important to remember the context. The world has drastically shifted from when your gathering was originally planned. So take into account the current situation and the impact that this will have on your guests.

When considering your content, reflect on some of these things…

  • You’re 10 times more likely to switch off during an online conference call than an in person conference
  • According to Facebook, 15 minutes is the optimal time for watching a video online
  • Screen fatigue is a real problem
  • We live in a world that is isolated and desperate for community
  • Optimal group conversation is groups of 4
  • 70% of communication is non-verbal

Having read these points, what might you need to stop doing? What might you need to continue doing? What might you need to start doing?

Its so easy to forget the human, relational aspect of a conference online. Here are some tips to help…

  1. Keep your seminar engaging – use interviews, cut your original content by 50%, use images, rhetorical questions and stories.
  2. Screen fatigue is a real problem – Using the 20-20-20 rule can prevent this problem. Using the 20-20-20 rule can help you prevent this problem. The rule says that for every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, you take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away, which relaxes the eye muscles for 20 seconds and gives your brain a much-needed respite.
  3. Encourage audience participation – we live in a world where we want genuine interaction with others. Work hard to bring the seminar together in collective real time. and create a sense of learning together. You may well be watching the training content as a pre recorded video, but encourage guests to engage with each other. This can be done in the chat, a shareable Google Doc, an app like Sli.do or ask them to send in questions for the live Q&A. We have limited access to collective meetings working hard on this could be precious and profound for your seminar.
  4. Maintain eye contact – this study showed that during video calls, eye contact greatly increased the likelihood of the participants retaining what was said. The same goes for church – where should you look on your computer to ensure maximum eye contact with your audience? Your screen? Camera? You may want to video yourself and see. Ensure if you are using notes that they do not cause you to look down too often, or too dramatically.
  5. Challenge your ideas of ‘non-verbal’ communication – When I teach, I do a lot of my teaching with my hands – but learnt quickly that on camera this is potentially distracting. If you see me with my hands flapping around, this will be magnified on your screen. This means I have to do those non-verbal cues in another way – focus on your facial features. Smile often.

Published by Nay Dawson

Nay works with IFES Europe as their Regional Training Co-ordinator, training staff and students across Europe. She works on the European Regional leadership team for the charity. She was the Revive Extra Plenary Director for one of largest Student Conferences in Europe. Nay is the founder of Passion for Evangelism. PfE is a network of creative, public female speakers. Helping hundereds of women grow in confidence in public communication. Nay set up an initiative called Community in a crisis. CIAC has been helping churches and charities across Europe get online during the pandemic.

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