I just got a marketing email sent from a web conferencing vendor. It touted their high quality webcast video feed. I clicked on the link to see the demonstration video, and indeed it looked very nice. But the presenter started off with “Hello, everybody.” Man, that turns me off! I’m not an “everybody”… I’m me. An individual. And I want you to recognize my special place in this world.
When you say “Hello, everybody” or “Does anyone out there know the answer?” or similar phrases in your remote presentations, you are thinking in terms of your perception of the event rather than your audience’s perception.
An audience member sitting in front of his or her computer screen is all alone. As far as they are concerned, you are presenting information directly to them. They don’t know how many other people are in the remote audience. They don’t care. They want to feel that you are speaking only to them, addressing their needs.
It’s easy in theory to change your sentence structure. Instead of “How many of you think this is correct?” you say “Click the button if you think this is correct.” Instead of “I wanted you all to see this demonstration” you say “I wanted you to see this demonstration.” Instead of “Hello, everybody. I’m glad you all could come” you say “Hello. I’m glad you could come.”
When you try it, you’ll see how tricky this seemingly trivial change is to put into practice! As a web conference presenter, you are saddled by the fact that you can see the attendee list and you know you are reaching a mass audience. Try to change your point of view. Pick one attendee in your audience. Now convince yourself that you are delivering your entire presentation just to that one person, but you are never allowed to mention his or her name. It’s taboo. You have to keep referring to him or her as “you”. Magically you will change your sentences from a plural to a singular orientation. And just as magically, your attendees will each feel a closer connection to you and your material.
By the way, if you get really good at this, you’ll find that it creates a moderately annoying side effect. Your audience members really will feel that you are speaking only to them and that they are involved in a one-to-one conversation with you. If they type in a question and you don’t answer it, they may ask why you are ignoring them! I have had this happen in a webinar with hundreds of attendees.
It’s okay to cheerfully mention the fact that there are a lot of people watching and that you may not be able to address every question during your session. Acknowledging the fact of a large audience is not taboo. But it doesn’t change your phrasing style… Even when you are talking about your audience, you are presenting it as information you are conveying just to that one listener. It’s for his or her personal edification and understanding. “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I may not be able to answer your question right away if other people put things into the queue ahead of you.” See how you are acknowledging and speaking to the individual and addressing his or her needs?
Practice this. It gets easier the more you do it.