ACM Logo  An ACM Publication  |  CONTRIBUTE  |  FOLLOW    

Tips for delivering a successful online experience

By Richard Watson / April 2008

Print Email
Comments Instapaper

Over the years I've attended or hosted many online seminars. Some were very useful while others were lacking in content and presentation skills. If you're new to presenting online or you're simply considering introducing it into your training repertoire, here are a few things to consider before your next presentation:

  1. Use the Mute Feature
    Most Web conferencing packages provide the option to mute attendees when they enter and exit an online session. There is nothing more annoying then having to listen to that dreadful "beep" each time a person joins or leaves the online session.

  2. Speak Clearly
    I'm always amazed at how frequently people use filler words when they talk. Words such as "uh,, "er," "OK," and "um" can be very distracting to the people attending your online session. (Did you know that other languages have their own filler words? Some common filler words include: e in Italian, eum in Korean, and euh in French.) Regardless of its origin, don't let these words take over your presentation. You don't have to cram every second with information. Using filler words can make you come across as unprofessional and make you appear to be less confident in the information you're delivering. It can also distract your participants because they'll be busy counting the number of times you use them!

  3. Pick Your Location Carefully
    Never conduct a meeting from your cubicle! As a host, it's your responsibility to pick a location that is quiet and free of distractions. Distractions can include people talking, telephones ringing, intercom announcements, doors opening/closing, and a wide variety of other sounds. Consider using a small conference room and putting a sign on the door indicating you are currently "online." It sounds crazy, but you will always have someone who either knocks on the door or opens it to see who is inside. This will always occur just as you're about to make an important point. Human curiosity is an amazing thing! In most cases, a posted sign will prevent people from walking in on you. Turn off your cell phone, and by all means, do not answer it during the session. Yes, someone I know did this once! As funny and thought-provoking as your personal conversation may be, those who attend your online session will not find it amusing.

  4. Speakerphones are Not Your Friends
    Don't use a speakerphone. It makes you (the host) sound like you are talking from inside a trash can. No matter how good the speakerphone is or how pleasant your voice sounds, you will still sound terrible to your participants. Speakerphones will pick up every sound in the room, including the sound of tapping fingers, shuffling papers, and the squeaking of your chair. Instead of using a speakerphone, consider purchasing a high-quality wireless headset.

  5. Provide Interaction that is Relevant
    If you're presenting your product, don't introduce a poll question that asks: "What ice cream flavor do you like?" Interaction is important but it has to be relevant. If I'm training on a product, I'll introduce a poll question such as: "Which of the following features do you use the least in our product?" The resulting answers provide very important information that I can use later in the presentation. Knowing their choice of ice cream flavors does nothing but make you want ice cream too.

  6. Know Your Target Audience
    Understanding the demographics of those attending your online presentation can go a long way in helping you tailor your content. If you're conducting a training session, it will help you understand which areas of the subject matter to focus on. If you're delivering a sales seminar, research the company's website, use Google, read blogs where they've posted information, and talk with your internal sales staff. Knowing something about your audience serves as an excellent ice breaker and creates a more comfortable environment for all concerned.

  7. Know Your Materials
    Know the material you are presenting well. It sounds simple enough, but so many presenters don't heed this important tip. It's acceptable to have an outline to work from, but don't assume you can read from it verbatim. Knowing the material gives you the ability to add value to your customers. Reading from a prepared script does not.

  8. Pick a Stable Conferencing Package
    I evaluated several conferencing packages before selecting the one I use today. In my initial sessions, I used a product that would disconnect two to three times per session. Not only was it frustrating but it presented our company in a very negative light. Other products I tried introduced too much delay. Delay or latency (the technical term) is something you need to be aware of when presenting online. If you're talking about something your participants can't see, or don't see at the same time you do, it can really disrupt the online session. The best advice is to do a thorough test under the same conditions you will use the conference package. If you're using full-motion videos in your presentation, don't just test it using PowerPoint slides.

  9. Using PowerPoint Slides as a Crutch
    Don't use the text on your slides as a crutch. Not a day goes by that I don't notice someone deliver their presentation by reading verbatim, each word of the slide. For most of us, this is about as exciting as watching paint dry. Make sure any image or text you include in your presentation is there for a reason.

  10. Keep Your Sessions to an Hour or Less
    If you need to go longer, provide a short break at the one-hour point. There is a big difference between an hour session and an hour-and-a-half session from both the host's and the participant's viewpoint.


  • There are no comments at this time.