Since the beginning of the pandemic we have all noticed a surge in web-based presentations:
Zoom, Webex, Meet, Teams, Webinars… You’ve all been in the web-audience and even given a web-presentation. We, at APT Presentations, as trainers and coachers in the presentations industry, wanted to know what effect this change in paradigm has on viewers and doers of screen-to-screen presentations. So, starting in March, we conducted an in-depth on-line survey to see what is changing. Here are the answers from the first 329 respondents!

APT survey: web vs face-to-face presentations. What did you tell us?

Web-audiences are more demanding and impatient!

You expect the speaker to get to the point quickly. Even faster than with face-to-face presentations! Starting and stopping on time is more strictly enforced by the technology within the web-presentation tools, and if you don’t want to get cut off, or be rushed for time, you need to have shorter presentations, and above all monitor your timing. Going over-time or extending post presentation discussions is no longer an option for many web-audiences!

Messages are harder to communicate screen-to-screen compared to face-to-face.

Screen fatigue is the biggest communication casualty of confinement and teleworking. This exacerbates the job to receive and transmit effective messages. Don’t assume that everyone is paying full attention to you! Be creative in renewing their attention! Presenters need to make an extra effort to help the web-audience capture their messages!

Understanding the
web-presenter is more difficult!

Aside from the technical glitches we have all experienced, watching a screen and listening with your computers sound system is not a fully satisfying experience. Although 41% were satisfied or very satisfied with their experience as a VIEWER; more than 85% find it MORE DIFFICULT to understand the web presenter, especially when listening to non-native English speakers, even if the web-audience member has English as a mother tongue.

Still a strong preference for face-to-face presentations!

A huge 77% majority still prefer face-to-face communication for presentations. This is confirmed by the 73% who disagree that web presentations can replace all large conferences. This was a recurrent observation and reinforces the desire for real human, face-to-face contact instead of just screen-to-screen.

Engaging a web-audience is more difficult!

70% admit that it is harder to engage the web-audience. Distractions are a major competitor for attention, and screen-to-screen audiences have greater temptations to do other work while viewing a web-presentation. And it is very difficult to monitor what your audience is doing while they should be listening to you!
Web-presenters lose the advantage of physical, charismatic energy and the usage of engaging body language and movement when seated in front of a webcam. You may want to consider using a system that tracks your movement, so you are not stuck in a chair. Technical solutions do exist to allow you to break the visual monotony of only being in front of a webcam when you speak.
Your voice now becomes your tool to transmit leadership! By working on speed, tone, volume, rhythm and modulation you can establish a sense of urgency, create conviviality, show empathy, and even demonstrate expert knowledge.

The paradox of the webcam!

83% say it is important to see the presenter, but why do only 50% say they always have their web camera on? 78% state that they turn their camera off because others turn their cameras off. Presenters say that not seeing their web-audience has a negative effect. At the same time, 78% also say that seeing the web presenter provides added value.
How can this paradox be explained? In a large web audience, being seen is less important than seeing the presenter. This is consistent with a large audience webinar, but not so much with teleworking in smaller groups.

Presentation duration and attention spans are shorter!

Presentation length also has an impact: 84% say the maximum duration should be less than 30 minutes, and 37% of those people say the most productive time is 10-15 minutes. Attention rates have dropped as well as 60% of respondents say their attention span has decreased.

Keep your speaking time short, and practice until you can fully master your time slot. Never be ON time, never be OVER time, always be UNDER time. Finishing earlier always allows more time for discussion, and above all it guarantees that everyone connected will still be connected!

Preparing for a web-presentation is different!

71% disagree with the statement that human skills are not as important in web presentations. The web tool alone is not sufficient and web presenters need to focus even more on the human connection to be engaging and charismatic. Here is the real challenge for web presenters!
Don’t underestimate the value of being well prepared!
It may feel as easy as a video chat, but the game has changed, and web-audiences expect more.

Upskilling for screen-to-screen

More than 76% of all respondents stated that new skills are needed to deal with web presentations.

What is needed for the seasoned stage presenter to be upskilled to the new virtual audience in a web-presentation? Technology competencies are surely needed, but the human factors of engagement, messaging and web-audience empathy will need to be reinforced. The rules of structuring a presentation will evolve to be more demonstrative and straight to the point to better cope with screen fatigued audiences. New skills in developing attractive visual slides that do not interfere with webcams and reduced attention spans will emerge.

Web-presenting has given new wings to those who have yet to speak to large audiences face-to-face. What will the new generation of web-presenters do when we return to a more face-to-face presentation? Does this open the door for new generation presenters with no stage experience? How can this new population be upskilled quickly for a future live audience on stage? These fundamental elements are at the heart of what we are developing at APT Presentations.

The training and coaching challenge today is to bridge the human gap that technology has imposed with virtual communication tools. Much in the same way that PowerPoint changed the game over 33 years ago, today’s presentation skills must evolve to meet the ever-demanding web audience’s expectations.

Adapting to the new norm

In conclusion, the rules of the game have changed, and the players must ADAPT for the web. More than ever, presenters need to evolve to develop and deliver shorter, simpler, and more humanly empathic web-presentations. All previously successful face-to-face presenters need to be upskilled to meet the challenges of tomorrow’s screen-to-screen presenting, and above all, the new breed of web-presenters must be skilled to present face-to-face.

What do you think? Have your behaviors evolved? What skills have you developed? What new difficulties are you facing today? How are you adapting to the new norm?
Screen-to-screen presentations are here to stay, and we will continue to promote excellence in all types of presentations and speakers: from meetings, to sales pitches, conferences, and webinars…

Send us your thoughts and stay in contact for our deep-dive analysis of the results!

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