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Updated: Aug 22, 2022

Is there anyone left in the corporate sphere who hasn’t now heard of Zoom? Good Lord, if only I’d invested when I first saw it instead of dismissing it as just “Skype for hipsters”! It’s a great solution no doubt, particular for client calls, team catch ups and collaboration. But, it has its limitations. 

I run a lot of training and workshops, some independently, some through clients and conference organisers. In the last 36 hours nearly all of them have asked me if I can do it remotely - yes - via webcam - not quite.

Here’s the thing. It is much MUCH harder to retain someone’s attention online rather that in the room. The room has coffee and donuts, networking and a fancy delegate lunch. Online has….sorry I got distracted by a meme, what was I talking about?

To keep an audience glued to a screen for more than a few minutes in a format where they are mostly watching, rather than contributing, we must offer more than grainy pictures and echoey sound. We must look to TV and films, which have mastered the art of holding attention over the last 100 or so years. So, what do they know that we don’t? Here are five things that matter if you are trying to retain a live audience for an online training or event.

  1. Production values matter; attractive sets, decent lighting, clear sound and multiple camera angles keep us engaged. They also reflect your brand. If you’re not the type of company that would hold an event in your boardroom with a tin of bee hoon over a candle, then you’re not the type of company that can hold a webcast of comparable crapness either. Just as you would invest in a venue, backdrop, emcee and F&B #IRL, so you can do the same online.

  2. Emcee’s matter; presenters, hosts, comperes, whatever you call them these talented individuals bring energy, positivity and professionalism to your online event. They are the human connection to the technology and relieve your other guests/presenters from having to shoulder the burden of keeping the whole audience online - a rare skill indeed.

  3. Interaction matters; without interaction why do I need to be there at all? Why can’t I watch on-demand in my own time? What’s the compelling reason for me to drop everything, tear my eyes away from the 24-hour rolling horror show that is the news and pay attention to you right now? Interaction is the answer; the chance to ask questions, receive feedback, network and collaborate in real time, which requires technical solutions, an agenda slot and a host to facilitate.

  4. Duration matters; don’t assume you can simply replicate your event or training format online as an 8-hour stream of talking heads. You need to think in a more modular way. Most of us split our day up into hour and half-hour slots so schedule your online training or event accordingly. Allow people to pop in and out for the sections that interest them most, let them join live when they want and on-demand when they don’t. And make it mobile friendly so there is no barrier to entry.

  5. Data matters; after each event look at your data to find out what worked and what didn’t. When did people join? Where did they drop off? What did they interact with most? Build upon these learnings and pretty soon you’ll be hosting blockbuster online conferences, training and events.

Some exceptionally skilled people that can help you with this right now include:

Oh, and if you need a host you know where to find me ;-)

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