Speakers have been on virtual stages for a little more than a year due to the COVID pandemic which stopped live in-person events. As speakers, we have learned to navigate through the nuances of the virtual platform as well as connect to a virtual audience. Both are vastly different then speaking on live platforms. One of the secrets I have learned that to be a good speaker you need to be a great audience member. You get what you give. Recently I discovered that online audience members are showing up to events late. All too often they come in the virtual room distracted, busy, and not paying attention. This does not help the host, speaker, or other attendees. It is important for you as an audience member to be on time and fully present.
Bottomline: If you want an audience to pay attention to you when you are the speaker, be a better audience member.
10 Ways to Become a Better Audience Member:
- Be on time or be early. Take advantage of being early and talk to the speaker and host. Start building rapport with the speaker. Keep in mind, I am not talking to those of you who are rarely late. Rather, I am talking about a pattern of those who consistently show up late. It is noticeable. People popping in a virtual meeting after we have already started is not a good practice or good etiquette. Furthermore, it is disrespectful to the host, attendees, and the speaker. Be on time or early to your next online meeting and it will be greatly appreciated by all.
- Speak to the speaker before the meeting. Let the speaker know you are looking forward to hearing them speak. Speakers love that. They will love you for sharing that you came just to see them.
- Participate as a volunteer or co-pilot. Ask the host if you can help. Are they going to have breakout sessions? Do they need help letting people in the room? They will appreciate that and you will be remembered for your service.
- Use body language. Smile. There is nothing better than looking at an audience of smiling faces when you are the speaker. Make eye contact. Remember, to make eye contact virtually, all you need to do is to look into the camera. Also, nod occasionally in agreement to what is being said. Let the speaker know you are listening. In the virtual world, everything is magnified – so a little effort can be seen by everyone. The worst thing you can do is to multi-task during someone’s presentation. It is rude and is a distraction for others.
- Be present. Really listen to the speaker and take copious notes. Taking notes will keep you engaged. There is something special about pen to paper that keeps us connected and engaged.
- Be silent when the speaker is speaking. It is NOT a conversation. Where it is a live event or virtual, it is NOT a conversation, it is a presentation. Hold your comments and chit chat until the speaker is complete and asks for questions or comments.
- Participate in the chat when asked. Do not write chats during the speaker’s presentation. In live rooms commenting in the chat box is like turning to a neighbor and talking to them. It is distracting and disruptive to the speaker and everyone in the room. That is why I recommend the host turn off the chat during the speaker’s presentation. No one needs to chit chat during the speaker’s talk instead they need to show the speaker respect and listen.
- Be curious in the breakout rooms. When the meeting host puts everyone into breakout rooms, be curious about what the other people you are with do. Ask how they know the speaker and how long they have known him/her? Be the great audience member that others want to invite to their presentations and meetings.
- During the Q&A session, ask great questions that are positive and supportive. The host, during a virtual meeting, should have prepared questions. Typically, the audience is not ready to ask. In the live stage, Q&A is not done much anymore. But we are still seeing Q&A ,in the virtual world. Always have a question for the speaker. Here is the question I suggest you ask, “When it comes to X (their topic: writing a book, health, etc.), what do you find are your client’s biggest challenges?” You will be a saint because you will kick off what could have been an awkward part of the session. With that question, you will get the ball rolling. The speaker, host, and audience will all love you. That gives the audience the chance to formulate their own questions.
- Always clap and give the equivalent of a standing ovation. Clap, wave, do the sign-language applause. Do not just sit there! Make a big deal of it. This will encourage other audience members to join in and clap too. Show support to the speaker.
- BONUS: If you must leave early from any presentation or networking meeting, let people know ahead of time. Do not just disappear. That is rude and unsettling to the speaker, to the host, and the other audience members. The smaller the event, the more important it is to write in the chat. Be courteous. If you come early, let the host and speaker know “I’m really sorry. I need to leave early. I don’t want you to think I’m being rude.” Then write in the chat when the time comes.
That is how you become a better audience member in the virtual world. By being an audience member, you will get more out of the presentation, new connections, and you will stand out as someone to be invited back and perhaps as a speaker (if you are one).
For more details on how you can be a better audience member watch this video masterclass: