Verbal body language: 5 strategies for guiding online attendees to better experiences

When you’re presenting or training online in a webinar, webcast, or virtual classroom setting, some participants may be entirely comfortable in “getting around in the new room.” Others will not find the experience to be second nature.

When you learn to better guide participants’ experiences, you’ll better get and keep attention. Another big benefit: You will distinguish yourself from those “45 minutes of talking at you” webinars.

Don’t give instructions, make it part of the flow

With rare exception, I’m not a fan of consuming valuable time doing a lot of up front “housekeeping.” Instead, guide attendees as the need arises.


Give me a virtual show of hands in this poll, “What is your experience with online meetings?” Notice that little round button next to each answer? That’s what you want to click to share your response.

Tell attendees where their focus should be

A key part of most online meetings, presentations, and classes is PowerPoint (or equivalent), and to be fair, it’s not always simple and self-explanatory. Too, if you show something other than PowerPoint (like a web browser), you may not be able to use a pointer or drawing tool to direct attention.


In the lower, right hand corner of this slide you will see…

Verbally “walk” people to the tool you want them to use

The whole “room” in your online presentation is more than the content viewer, it’s all of the other tools, too. Like a retail salesperson who walks you over to the thing you asked about (or should!), guide your online audience to where you want them to go.


Look over on the right hand side of your webinar viewer, and you see that the third tab down says Questions? That’s where I want the answer to this question (pause!), “Where did you go on your last vacation?”

Remind participants of how to navigate technological idiosyncrasies

Many “technological idiosyncrasies” may seem like no-brainers to you, but it’s best not to assume your audience gets it. Is there a toggle that opens or closes a panel? Do you need to scroll to see all the chat? Is there an arrow to go “full screen” and back again?


I just used the public chat to give you the link to the report that I’m referencing here. If you don’t see the link, remember that you can grab the scroll bar on the right side of the chat box to scroll back up.

Don’t assume everyone heard you the first time

It may be because they came in late and missed your instructions, or it may be because the person in the next cube over walked into their space right when you asked. It’ll sound repetitive if you say it the exact same way every time, but with a little practice you can make it “make sense” conversationally to repeat yourself.


John and several others asked about the survey I mentioned earlier, so just in case you missed it, you’ll get the link to the extras when you fill out the exit survey that pops up when you exit out of today’s session.

The bottom line

What’s a professional speaker or trainer do when they get to an unfamiliar location?

They “walk the room.”

Most of the suggestions above require that you have some familiarity with what the audience is experiencing. You don’t have to be a technology expert, but it does help to be part behavioral analyst.

Invest a moment to learn what the experience is like for your audience.



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