“Put the square thingy next to the other whatchamacallit, then turn a bit and lift it up to the right height. Repeat seven times.”


These instructions are far from clear and require too much deciphering and interpretation. It’s highly unlikely that these directions will lead to the right outcome – in fact, they’ll probably lead to a lot of confusion and frustration.

The same is true when designing interactions. Many of my clients are looking for ways to engage participants in their #onlinemeetings and #presentations. This has become crucial, as we’re spending a lot more time in virtual events these days. We become easily distracted and are no longer content with under-prepared, run-of-the-mill, death-by-PowerPoint presentations.

The simplest way to keep your #audience engaged is to involve them, by asking a relevant question or getting them to do something which actively contributes to the subject being discussed.

For example, you could ask your audience to note down some ideas, make a choice between various options or prioritize a list of concepts. However, your instructions need to be ultra-specific or you will have a confused, less-engaged audience.

Tell the audience exactly how, when and where.

Some examples

“Write down your ideas” could become:

“You have 60 seconds to write down as many presentation subjects as you can. Use a piece of paper and a pen or open your word processing software.”

“Which option do you prefer” could become:

“I am about to open an online poll which will ask you for your preferred time option. You will see the poll link in the chat panel. Please click on it and choose the option that suits you best. Please answer now.”

“Get to know each other” could become:

“You will be placed in a breakout room for five minutes with one other participant selected at random. Please accept the pop-up request to move to the room. When you are in the breakout room, the person whose name comes first in the alphabet will interview the other person to find out three unusual things about that person. Take notes, as you will need to report back to the group on your findings following the breakout session. When the five minutes is up, you will automatically be brought back to the plenary room.”

If you are using a slide deck, it is also helpful to provide a summary of the instructions in a written format. This will allow the participants to refer to or confirm the directions (especially useful when audience members are distracted and may have been checking their Facebook feed instead of being fully focused on what you were saying). If the interaction is timebound (recommended), then you can provide a countdown to keep the participants on task.

By integrating genuine engagement opportunities with clear instructions for your audience, you will walk away from the interaction having achieved what you set out to and the participants will feel more involved, seen, heard and fulfilled.

Do you need some advice, suggestions or new ideas on how to make your meeting or presentation more engaging? Book a session with a presentation coach – a one hour session can ensure your event is focused and interesting and you will feel more confident.

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