People are accessing digital media at an astounding rate if the number of media player downloads is any indication. They probably aren’t using these players to view high-quality video or audio online thanks to the slow modems that continue to dominate the home Internet scene. So what is it that draws viewers to online media events?
Perhaps it is the hope of great content. Current statistics suggest that the typical Internet viewer has the attention span of a gnat. He (yes, they are mostly male) probably stays connected to a Webcast event an average of two to three minutes.
I have come to a different conclusion: The reason why Web events don’t stick is because the people who put them on are not good e-communicators.
Being a good e-communicator requires you to use all the skills you learned in public speaking class: organize your thoughts, keep to a central theme and know your audience. However, you can’t stop there. Delivering your message via PC is a more intimate form of public speaking. You must work harder to engage and involve your audience when you communicate online.
My husband shouts at the television or radio every time he sees a dumb commercial or hears a self-important political commentator. But no matter how loudly he yells, no one hears him. The beautiful thing about watching a live, interactive Web event is that he can be seen, heard and, if he types in capital letters, he can even shout. What this means for the presenter is simple. Your audience has a voice, and if you don’t give them an opportunity to exercise it, you are wasting the medium. If all you want to do is talk at your audience, then an interactive Web event is probably the wrong platform to use to deliver that message. (Maybe all you really need to do is write a column.)
E-communicators should aggressively build community around their events by encouraging discussion not only with the presenter but with other audience members. Unlike attendees in a darkened seminar or conference hall, audience members at an e-communication event can engage in back-channel discussions that heighten the experience and open them up to new ideas and opportunities. Bring your sales force together to share stories about customer interactions or encourage developers to exchange perspectives. Consider a topic that is important to your company and think about how you can enhance support for that subject by enlisting evangelists for the cause. And then watch how your events attract and keep a loyal following who support your business.
We’ve all been there – the presenter gets up and reads the slides he or she prepared, bullet point by bullet point. It doesn’t work in a live meeting and it fails miserably in an online event. The Web has become an increasingly visual medium filled with eye candy galore. Web banner ads flicker with tempting games, and home page after home page flashes with moving pictures or throbs with pounding rhythms. Any potential audience member who registers for an online interactive Web event will have high expectations for the level of visual communication. Select graphics that underscore your key points and reflect your company’s brand personality. Let photos and images emphasize your point. Remember, rotating through text-heavy PowerPoint slides and reading bullet point after bullet point is a sure way to watch attendees head for the exit button.
Many Webcasting software vendors talk about using their tools to communicate in a one-to-one manner using a one-to-many environment. By presenting your event online, you have raised the bar. Interactions with your audience should be richer and more intimate than when you stand behind the podium in the meeting room of your favorite hotel. The one-person, one-message advice of presentation coaches takes on new meaning in the world of live interactive Internet events.
The pressure is on for the content to truly carry the day. But don’t fret, there’s good news: You don’t have to worry about what you wear or if you’re having a bad hair day – just blame it on that fuzzy streaming video trying to push its way through that tiny little pipe to get to your audiences’ desktops.