What’s your most precious resource? Think about it for a second.
Don’t spend long though, because I’d say:
The answer’s your time!
It’s precious because it’s a finite resource for which competition is fiercer than ever.
No prizes, then, for guessing what your audience’s most precious resource is. Yup, they’re time-hungry too, just like you and me.
So what’s the number-1 mistake presenters make, especially online?
It’s wasting listeners’ time, or more accurately, failing to show you’re not wasting people’s time. Time-wasting’s a big enough problem in face-to-face talks (think “death by slideware”), but it’s even more so online, where people are even less patient.
I’m willing to bet that you sometimes waste people’s time if you present online. I know I have at times! That’s because there are a couple of near-universal time-wasting habits that webinar presenters use. And not only do everyday presenters use them, recognised webinar experts advise people to use them, too!
(By the way, you don’t have to run public webinars to be an online presenter. Even if you present at internal work meetings using something like Live Meeting, GotoMeeting, or Adobe Connect, then this post’s for you too.)
Here are 3 of the commonest ways to waste people’s time (solutions to which you’ll find in this follow-up post):
- Spending too long on introductions
Time spent introducing the presenter – or how to use the technology (like audio controls and chat features) – just isn’t engaging. The equivalent in a face-to-face talk would be starting by spending 5 or more long minutes saying where the bathrooms, fire escapes and local cafés are.
Yes, some of those things might need to be discussed, but not for 5+ minutes, and not necessarily as your opening words. In fact online, sometimes speakers spend a lot more than even 5 minutes on introductions, which seems like an eternity to the audience – if they stay around long enough!
- Staying too long on any slide
As I’ve said before, our brains are wired to tune out to sameness, and to notice differences. That’s why you need to keep up a lively pace, so your changing visuals repeatedly draw people’s attention. (Not so brisk a pace that people get left behind though. So yes, it’s a fine line to tread!)
To give you some metrics, PowerPoint MVP Ellen Finkelstein suggests at most 2 minutes per slide (which she says is very generous), and webinar specialist Ken Molay suggests a ballpark average of 1 minute per slide.
However, if you’re like almost all presenters, the place you linger longest is on the slide you show when answering questions. Nearly always, presenters show just 1 slide during their whole Q&A, even for 10 minutes or more.
In fact recently I saw a well-known author spend 10 minutes with the same slide on-screen during his Q&A, having sped through almost 180 slides in the previous 50 minutes! (Yes, he’d spent only around 15 seconds per slide on average, until he suddenly went comatose for his whole Q&A! For more details about this example, please see this comment below.)
- Fixating on “interaction” instead of value
Most webinar experts are just plain wrong
This is my pet peeve, and I believe it’s where most webinar experts are just plain wrong. Experts and everyday presenters alike tend to focus on interactions – especially polls – as a way to fight audience-isolation. But I believe polls often bore and disengage audiences, because frankly most polls suck!
In a face-to-face presentation to a big crowd, imagine asking your audience for a show of hands on some question. That’s a good way to engage people. But then imagine making people wait while you count how many hands are raised for each response – what a waste of people’s time!
That’s in effect what happens during webinar polls. They’re far too long, too frequent (within any given webinar), and too widespread (among webinars in general), so to me they’ve become obtrusive and a cliché. And there’s a crucial missing element that’s needed for the interaction to have any value – namely you need to engage the listener’s mind.
So in a webinar – or indeed any presentation:
Real, worthwhile interaction happens
by engaging the listener’s mind,
not just by asking a question for the presenter’s benefit!
Often in a webinar, it might take several minutes to present each poll question in context, to gather responses, and then to discuss the results. To many listeners, that’s boring, and not very helpful!
Polls are mostly about other people’s answers!
People are mildly interested in how other attendees answer a poll, but most of all they want the presenter to respond to how they’ve answered it. So polls can be very frustrating because the presenter asks for your input, but then usually just discusses it in general terms. After all, polls are mostly about other people’s answers! Hence, people multi-task – or leave altogether.
I once attended a webinar where the presenter ran 3 or 4 polls back-to-back, which was so disengaging! Polls are far quicker to do face-to-face, with a show of hands, so they’re one place where technology isn’t very helpful.
That’s why I really can’t resist this phrase:
Don’t poll-arise people in your webinars!
So what can you do to avoid those 3 time-wasters? In an upcoming post, I’ll offer solutions for them all.
Over to you
What do you think is the #1 mistake presenters make online?
Please enter your comment below.
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