Making Your Point With a Remote Audience

by Guest Contributor on July 29, 2011

Webinars continue to be a popular tool for training, marketing and product support, replacing on-site meetings and presentations.

This medium is cost-effective, but it poses some unique challenges in creating a seminar that meets the needs of an audience and keeps the audience engaged for the duration.

The most common mistake is taking a live presentation and trying to deliver the same content in the same manner remotely. 

It just doesn’t work.

The audience is not as engaged, not as likely to follow you through the details, and the presenter gets very little feedback on how they’re doing.

In fact, most presenters feel less pressure in this format because they don’t see the audience and they don’t get much feedback about their delivery.

There are several things you can do to prepare, develop and deliver a more effective webinar.


  • Send out a short questionnaire as people sign-up for the webinar asking for input on the topic. Then, tailor your examples in the webinar to address their concerns and include their ideas.
  • Limit attendance to 40-50 participants for a 30-60 minute webinar. Large webinar audiences are overrated. If you have large audiences, consider a 20-minute presentation and then connect with the participants through follow-up steps.


The message is even more critical for remote listeners because it is the only tool you have to engage them quickly. Stories and examples will be the best way to keep them engaged.

However, you should plan for more interaction throughout the presentation and call for input or questions within the first 10 minutes of the webinar.

  • Polling questions are a good way to keep participants involved. Be sure you choose these questions carefully.  The value of polling is that participants know more about each other.
  • Provide a one-sentence summary and message for each main idea presented. Remember that people check in and out, so you should be deliberately redundant about your points.
  • The amount of content for a 30-minute webinar should be about 2/3 of the content for your 30-minute live presentation. This will require you to summarize more and include additional examples and interesting anecdotes to keep the audience engaged.  Think in terms of less information and more entertainment.


Webinars just don’t allow you to establish connection in the same way that you would in a live presentation. We often say that presentations with visuals really include two presenters: you and the visuals.

However, the roles are just the opposite in a webinar. The visuals take the lead, and the presenter becomes the voice-over.

Your ability to pause, tell stories and vary your voice is essential.

  • Involve at least two people in the delivery of the presentation; one as the moderator and another as an expert to insert examples or testimony.
  • Practice your voice projection before the webinar. You want to be sure you are sending your voice to the back of the room. In fact, you should always think about projecting your voice to a remote audience twice the size of the actual group. In other words, if there are 40 webinar participants, assume there are 80 to manage the voice energy.

Webinars can be effective, but it takes a lot of support and follow up to get the same results as a more engaging presentation.

If you view the webinar as a different format altogether, you’ll be much more successful in developing them and delivering them for results.

Image: Luluk via Flickr, Creative Commons

Sally WilliamsonAs President and founder of Sally Williamson & Associates, Sally Williamson specializes in executive coaching and developing custom workshops. She is a 30-year veteran of developing key messages and coaching for professionals to improve their executive presence and overall impressions. Her book, The Hidden Factor: Executive Presence, has received rave reviews. Get more great advice by following her on Twitter or on her blog Executive Presence. 

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