One of the most dreaded realities of your webinar is that your attendees will tune out in the first 10 minutes.
The truth is most attendees stay on a webinar for a full hour – but their actual attentiveness in another story as the lure of email, unread text messages, and social media updates become too strong to ignore.
But there’s a way you can stop this.
Remember, your webinar attendees came to hear you. They want to learn something, and they are willing to give you an hour of their time to do so. All you have to do is make your presentation worth their full attention.
By using the following science-backed hacks based on solid research, you can dramatically raise the quality of your presentation to ensure your attendees give you their attention.
Use the expectancy violations theory.
Ever heard of the expectancy violations theory? It says that violations of what people expect in certain situations are sometimes preferable to the expected, especially when the unexpected is positive.
Naturally, you wouldn’t want to try this with anything remotely negative. So skip the provocative language and not-safe-for-work memes that suddenly flash across the screen.
However, positive violations of the expected—like a joke, funny video, or a pop-culture reference that everyone immediately understands—are pleasant surprises that will keep your audience riveted.
Think of other ways you can deviate from the norm and surprise your audience. Maybe you shake up the typical webinar format and invite audience members to come on live to ask their question or make a comment. Or maybe you forgo the slides and stick to live demonstrations or a whiteboarding session. The point is, be bold and get creative.
Promise a reward.
We’re all familiar with the principle of rewarding people to boost their motivation. So why not try it on a webinar?
According to a study published in Biological Psychology, rewards boost sustained attention through higher effort. The higher the study participants’ reward, the more effort they put into paying attention to a particular task.
This means doing something as simple as telling your audience that those who can answer a question correctly at the end will get a reward, like a gift certificate, free ebook or other great resource. Now, they’re more motivated to pay attention throughout your presentation.
People’s attention increases when something hasn’t been completed. It’s natural to want to get to the bottom of that mystery. There’s a psychological term for this phenomenon that, for example, practically forces us to binge-watch an entire TV series just to keep seeing what happens next.
It’s called the Zeigarnik Effect. It says that people remember incomplete tasks better than completed tasks. Its namesake, psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, conducted an experiment which found that participants who were interrupted while trying to complete a task recalled its details better than those allowed to complete a task uninterrupted. This indicates that the desire for completion increases recollection.
Create mystery throughout your presentation by posing several questions that you will answer throughout the webinar. Keep using cliffhangers and then present the answers or solutions. You may even want to start with a mystery that you won’t reveal until the end of a webinar, like a surprise guest speaker, the results of an experiment, or the secret solution to a challenge.
Make them believe you’re the expert.
Studies have shown that when listening to an expert, our brains either slow or shut down. We tend to listen to the expert instead of relying on our own critical thinking and decision-making skills.
Using the potential of this scientific finding, present yourself as the expert in your field from the very start of your presentation. Ensure that your credentials and experience are prominently displayed. At the beginning of the presentation name some of your most notable achievements that relate to the presentation topic, and continue to give proof-points and evidence to back-up your claims.
Acknowledge your audience.
Humans like acknowledgment.
One study found that participants asked to complete a repetitive task persevered for a longer period of time when given acknowledgment – in the form of eye contact – each time they completed a step in that task.
Tell your audience at various points that you appreciate them showing up and listening to you. If you poll your audience, make sure to thank them for their responses. If you ask for questions during your presentation, call out the person when you give the answer – “we have a great question from Joe…” for example.
This reinforced acknowledgment tells them that you’re validating them sticking through 15, 30 or 60 minutes of your presentation. It increases their attention and the chances that they’ll stay to the end.
Rely on science.
Your webinar is your chance to build rapport with your audience and form valuable connections. Don’t rely on best guesses when deciding on the strategies to use to command attention. Instead, stick to these science-backed hacks, and watch your audience become the most attentive ever.