In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, more people are pressed to find ways to move their business and communication online. Any time you change the media you are using, like from face-to-face to online video, there are new things to consider. As famous communication theorist Marshall McLuhan says, “Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.”

No doubt our society’s communication will be influenced in new and unexpected ways in the days to come. So today, we’ll explore two simple tips for making sure your online content is engaging.

1. Don’t Lose the Faces

Not many people like to watch themselves on video. Especially if that video isn’t completely perfect. No one wants a mistake preserved in digital format. So in order to avoid being seen, or to avoid being seen as less than perfect, many people settle with a voice-over video when communicating online. They show still images, screenshot videos, or a PowerPoint while speaking. And this can be okay, especially in a crunch, but it’s not ideal.

When we don’t see human faces, a lot gets lost in communication. Faces are an important part of the human learning process. In their research-driven book, Nurture Shock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman say, “Babies learn to decipher speech partly by lip-reading . . . if the babies hear speech while looking at an abstract shape, instead of a face, they can’t segment the sounds . . . When a child sees someone speak and hears his voice, there are two sensory draws—two simultaneous events both telling the child to pay attention to this single object of interest—this moment of human interaction.”

When it comes to learning as an adult, we still learn and communicate better when we see the faces of those who are speaking to us. We get lots of our information from nonverbals like facial expressions. So as you prepare online content, do your best to make sure you don’t lose the faces. We need them to help us understand, especially when it comes to online communication.

2. Change It Up

Our attention spans simply aren’t what they used to be. In his book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman states that the Lincoln-Douglas debates in the 1800’s were readings that lasted for hours. Let me make sure you get that. People would sit and listen to someone read to them for hours. Can you even imagine that? The way and speed at which we send and receive information has changed drastically. In fact, Psychology Today says that, “According to British psychologist, Dr. Richard Wiseman, the overall pace of life has increased by 10% worldwide since the mid-90’s.”

To keep our audience’s attention online in our fast-paced, multimedia world, we need to make use of a variety of inputs. Depending on what you are presenting, consider moving between different channels. When the screen changes from the presenter, to a video, to still shots of graphics or images or text, it keeps the audience interested. That’s because our eyes are drawn to changes in light. So when the screen changes, you attract the eyes of your audience if they’ve looked away.

If you are finding the need to communicate more online, please don’t forget to show faces and to change up the channels. When you do this, you’ll keep your audience engaged and interested. Need some silver lining these days? When the pandemic threat passes, the skills we’ve hastily had to learn for online communication will continue to benefit us. We’ll not only find ourselves more adept at online communication, but we won’t take for granted the value of face-to-face interaction as the connective human element it is.

Need help moving your communication online? Check out our resources to help you develop, design, and deliver compelling communication and narratives.



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