News: Report

Keep your audience engaged in online meetings

06 May 2020  
Posted by: Jenny Booth
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Wednesday 6 May 2020

Do you get bored in online meetings? You're not alone.

It comes as a shock to learn how much shorter people’s attention spans are in online meetings than face to face. Six to nine minutes is as long as most people can manage to concentrate on a screen before their mind begins to wander. This compares to 20-30 minutes in person.

If I'm honest, it probably explains the number of times I've found myself starting to rise from my screen to put the kettle on, and had to force myself to sit down again.

There is a serious lesson in this for anyone who has switched to presenting content online since Covid-19 struck: beware of over-talking. You run the risk of boring, irritating and alienating your audience. What’s worse, online, it is fatally easy to fail to notice and plough on regardless.

This salutory realisation was my big takeaway from NicciTake’s webinar on the best use of technology in sales. The event was hosted by the Association of Professional Sales as part of our Covid-19 series, to keep sellers safe and selling.

Nicci’s sales consultancy Vincis specialises in online sales pitching. One South African client saw its win rate increase from 11% to 85% in six months using her methods.

Nicci hammered home the rules of engagement for online selling:

  • Pitches must be much shorter, and certainly no more than 40 minutes.
  • Tightly plan your agenda.
  • Vary your delivery every six to nine minutes to hold a customer’s attention.


Video-call software offers helpful options for maintaining interest, e.g. showing video clips, and introducing interactivity through instant polls and breakout group discussions.

If you ask your customers to leave their video on, you can watch for signs of boredom. It helps to work with a colleague, who can monitor reactions and tell you when to speed up, switch to a new activity, or bring someone back into the meeting by asking them a question.

Technology glitches are one of the biggest turn-offs in online meetings, and can eat up your precious time. Nicci had three tips to avoid malfunctions:

  • Call the day before to check that the technology works.
  • Get delegates to listen on their phones, to save WiFi bandwidth for the video;
  • Schedule meetings at ten minutes past the hour to avoid dips in bandwidth, as many meetings start on the hour.


Our free, Covid-19 sales webinars, to keep sellers safe and selling, are open to everyone, not just members.

Click here to see our full programme of events, and book your place.