Updated: Aug 23, 2020
Shorten Your Presentation
But Create Audience Experiences
It's hard enough sitting through an in-person lecture that goes an hour. Why would it be any better for an audience in a virtual setting? The way you structure and deliver virtual content is much different than how you would do it live in person.
The guiding principle you have to remember is that as a speaker you are to be an engaging transmitter of information. Essentially a teacher. And you are required to connect with your audience, whether you can see them or not. So, it is imperative that you understand how to keep their attention on you. But how, in this reality? We'll get to that. But, first, let's understand what kind of attention span issues you have to contend with, and dis-spell some myths.
There's a ton of claims out there that the human attention span is shorter than a one of goldfish. Sounds interesting and even possibly true. And did you know that there was even a study commissioned by Microsoft that put out these findings?! This claim must have...fins (legs, fins...get it?), right?
It doesn't. The BBC, among many other sources, helps us understand and put to rest this rubbish: critical flaws in data collection and testing methodologies are the culprits.
Yes, we live in a digital age, and are click-bated left and right, and can't put our phones done for a second, but this doesn't mean human beings are unreachable, mindless lumps of clay.
In 2016 Dr. Neil A. Bradbury, PhD, professor of physiology and biophysics at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, put out a study to further debunk non-evidence based research supporting claims of minuscule human attentions spans. And, pertinent to the role of speaker, Bradbury focuses on attention spans in academic lecture environments. He concludes: "The most consistent finding from a literature review is that the greatest variability in student attention arises from differences between teachers and not from the teaching format itself...even the most interesting material can be presented in a dull and dry fashion, and it is the job of the instructor to enhance their teaching skills to provide not only rich content but also a satisfying lecture experience for the students."
And we're back to the crux of your role as presenter: it is your job to be a creative radiating deliverer of information. And, yes, if you follow these guidelines, your audience can handle it...even in a virtual setting.
Here is what you can do, let's say if you have an hour to work with. Give your audience an experience to look forward to (of course this all depends on what sort of virtual platform you're using, what kind of event support you have, who you are speaking to, etc; so...grain of salt people).
Break up the time in three 20 minute segments: 1. main presentation; 2. moderated discussion with an interviewer; 3. on the spot audience question and answer session.
Trim down your main presentation into 20 mins. Spend this time telling your best and most applicable stories. Let go of the secondary theses. Remove the deep dive references and statistics. This time should be spent introducing yourself and your passions to your audience. Imagine you're on the other end of the camera. Wouldn't you want to be sucked in from the get-go by a dynamic storyteller?
A 20-minute moderated discussion with an interviewer is a great way to help your audience shift from your story to a more academic learning experience. The open-ended questions can allow you to explore your professional experiences further, expand on key concepts you most likely glazed over in your first 20 mins, and impact facts and knowledge on your virtual listeners.
Now with 40 minutes under their belt of great stories and pertinent lessons, your virtual audience will be bubbling over with questions of their own. Virtual event platforms give audiences the opportunity to ask questions, often via chat columns and un-muting themselves when called upon (virtual hand raising functions, etc). These next 20 mins will be very exciting for your audience; now they'll have a chance to be engaged directly and acknowledged directly by you the speaker!
With this format you have given your quite-capable virtual audience an experience rather than a 60 minute talked at lecture.
Cellphones and Doorbells and Children...Oh My! Tip #4 on removing distractions ...coming soon!
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