Cow, dogs, birds, nappy changing, and singing; just some of the background noises I have contended with since moving training sessions online.

Concentration is not just a problem for the person delivering the presentation, keeping your audience ‘onboard’ can be extremely difficult.

Whilst delivering an online training course last week, we were discussing the difficulties of maintaining audience focus. One delegate said that he had found it extremely hard to differentiate between the multitude of online presentations he had ‘attended’ in recent weeks.

I sympathise completely. The online environment provides far fewer reference points for the brain to latch on to and remember, such as other delegates, the venue, the time of year, the mood in the room etc.

Keeping your online audience from becoming distracted is certainly more of an art than a science, so here are my top 10 tips:

  1. Time. If possible, limit the timing of your presentation to under an hour (pity us online trainers who deliver for more than 6 hours in one go!).
  2. Webcams. Where possible, get your audience to switch on their webcams when they are speaking.
  3. Interaction. Organise your materials in the same way as you would for a face to face audience i.e. with plenty of interactions, energisers, polls, exercises, and questions.
  4. Body language. You only have the upper part of your body, so use it to good effect.
  5. Tone. In an online environment, tone has assumed much greater importance so make sure you pay attention to this and aim to sound upbeat.
  6. Energy. In face to face presentations it is worth remembering that you are the presentation – and the same applies online. Your audience wants you to be energetic without being distracting, and engaging without being over the top.
  7. Be natural. As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken” (and remember, after all, it is just a conversation).
  8. Storytelling. Nothing will hook an audience more than a great story that’s well told.
  9. Take breaks. If your call or presentation is scheduled for over an hour, a break mid-way is essential.
  10. Be stoic. Accept the fact that in these tough times, it may be harder for people to concentrate. You cannot win every battle and accepting this helps to iron out expectations.

I cannot guarantee that these 10 points will stop the background cow, dog, bird, nappy changing and singing noises, but they should help to keep your main audience more focussed.

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