Engaging Your Online Audience: A Guide for Virtual Speakers

5 min readFeb 13, 2024

A few years ago, virtual presentations were all the rage. Between lockdowns and pandemic regulations, audiences clamored to attend and interact with online presentations.

Today, it is far more challenging for virtual speakers to engage audiences. However, there are steps you can take to keep your viewers engaged and actively interacting.

It begins by establishing a professional atmosphere and an engaging presence. Then, offer viewers opportunities to participate in your presentation and calmly deflect interruptions. Finally, use cutting-edge tools to refine your approach and offer even more options to keep viewers interested.

Creating a Professional Virtual Atmosphere

If you want to become a better virtual speaker, there are several things you can do to improve your effectiveness. First, create a professional atmosphere around you. A dedicated workspace helps you create a professional, distraction-free environment for hosting virtual events.

If you do not have a dedicated room for your office, set up a distraction-free area. For example, you can build a home office in your garage. Start by decluttering the space to make room for office furniture. Take stock of power outlets. You should also be comfortable: heating, air conditioning, and insulation may need to be installed to create a functional workspace.

Make sure that you have a neutral background behind you. If you don’t have an appropriate one in your work area, you can buy a screen or a professional digital background image.

Next, set up appropriate lighting so you can work and be on camera. Ensure that the lighting on your face is even and bright enough, with no dark shadows.

Another important step is to test your audio. Use your audio testing system and have a friend listen. If it’s difficult to hear your voice, you may need more professional equipment.

Properly Presenting Yourself

As a virtual speaker, your presence can attract or distract viewers. Beyond basic presentation skills like avoiding filler words, you must be appealing to your audience. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Wear appropriate clothing. You don’t need business attire, but you should look neat and well put together. Wear an entire outfit, not just a camera-ready top.
  • Demonstrate proper body language. Your audience wants an attentive presenter, so sit up straight and look into the camera. Avoid fidgeting and other nervous gestures.
  • Modulate your voice. You can speak more authoritatively for a formal presentation, slowing down and pausing so the audience understands you. Be personable in informal settings, talking more quickly and naturally.

You can record yourself in practice to improve your presentation and reduce errors. Next, you simply plan for unexpected diversions.

Handling Interruptions Gracefully

Every virtual speaker has had their fair share of disruptions. The key to handling these issues is to remain calm and create a plan.

It’s wise to prepare for and expect technical difficulties. These may feel embarrassing, but it happens to the best of us. Prepare to address every challenge that may arise, including a rescheduling plan if internet service goes down. Be proactive by testing all your equipment beforehand.

Life can be unpredictable, especially when you’re working from home, but we all have had the unexpected happen, like a dog barking in the background or a child jumping on your lap. Handle these situations honestly. Explain what happened in a relatable way. Your audience might even appreciate a little humor about the situation.

Finally, plan for disruptive viewers. People who interrupt your presentation are frustrating, but you can handle it by remaining calm. Reduce these issues by setting audience expectations upfront, such as laying out the agenda and when people can ask questions. If there are rude viewers, you can put them on mute, or warn or remove them from the meeting.

Keeping Your Online Viewers Engaged

The main goal of any presentation is to leave a positive impression on attendees. When you are a virtual speaker, that means motivating viewers to interact with you and one another. The easiest way is to start a conversation. Ask questions that get people talking. This type of recognition makes people more likely to participate, especially when they relate to the presenter.

Make your presentation interactive weaving in activities that inspire viewer participation, like polls or quizzes. People want to have fun, so add games, digital freebies, or small breakout rooms to engage them.

When you’re presenting, talk to your viewers in a relatable way. Remember that you’re a storyteller and people love stories, so this will help them stay focused on you. However, limit yourself to three key messages or they may become overwhelmed and lose attention.

This sounds like a lot of work, but you can help reduce the load by using modern tools to craft an interesting virtual event.

Use Virtual Reality Tools to Ramp Up Your Event

Virtual presenters generally stick to what’s comfortable, like a traditional talk or PowerPoint presentation. But cutting-edge tools like virtual reality (VR) and artificial reality (AR) are changing the future of public speaking. You can take advantage of these tools in your virtual presentations.

  • Use VR tools. You can use applications to help you practice and fine-tune your presentation.
  • Employ virtual learning. You can use VR to host teachers and experts from around the world.
  • Take attendees out. You can also deploy VR to create virtual exhibits or demonstrations, plus other types of entertainment to engage your audience.

VR allows you to create a presentation that excites your audience, especially when you design exclusive events. Look for software that helps you perfect your presentation and deliver a unique experience.

It takes effort to engage your audience during an online presentation. However, it also pays to invest time in planning a creative event that excites viewers. With a bit of ingenuity, you can design captivating presentations that keep your viewers coming back for more.

This was originally posted on SpeakerHub Skillcamp.