Managing a Large Virtual Audience is Like Piloting a Commercial Aircraft

A quick glance into the flight deck of any commercial airplane and one can be overwhelmed by the number of different dials, lights, instruments and equipment. The more sophisticated the aircraft, the more training necessary for successful outcomes for each flight. The same is true for managing a large virtual audience. The presenter (the pilot) must be interesting, organized, and informative while addressing technology issues; trying to stay on time; and maintaining good presentation skills to keep the audience engaged; all while heading for a successful outcome.

A pilot and co-pilot go through a pre-flight checklist before every flight. A presenter should also have a routine he/she follows before, during, and after each presentation. A few items which should be on any checklist:

  1. Send out the meeting agenda ahead of time with the purpose and outcome clearly stated so attendees can prepare their contributions and questions.
  2. Go online several minutes before the stated start time and greet people as they enter the meeting. Engaging in small talk ahead of time can put people at ease and make them more likely to contribute during the meeting.
  3. Call attendees by their name; give them context; then ask them for their input. For example: “Jayne, you’ve had experience with international vendors. What do you see as the top 3 areas we should focus on when acquiring new vendors?” This will give Jayne a “heads up” in case she was multi-tasking, and won’t put her on the spot or embarrass her.
  4. Be engaging with your body language, volume and inflection. Smile when appropriate. People tend to mirror your behavior.
  5. Have a co-pilot. The co-pilot can take some of the burden off of the presenter by monitoring the chat box; watching for raised hands; and assisting attendees with technical issues.
  6. Utilize the annotation tools available on your platform. White boards, chat box, raised hand, breakout rooms are some of the tools available on many platforms.
  7. Stay on time. You can always end early, but you cannot go over your stated end time. The closer it gets to the stated end time, the more the attendees start to mentally check out. They’re already thinking about the next thing on their calendar.
  8. Debrief with your co-pilot and anyone’s judgement you trust. What went well? What can we do better?

These are just a few ways to manage a large virtual audience. For more information about handling virtual audiences, please visit for information on Virtual Presentation Skills™.


About the Author

Jim Moushon is a Senior Master Trainer at Communispond. Jim’s areas of expertise are in executive coaching, presentation skills, media interviews, persuasive dialogue, interpersonal communication, business writing and sales effectiveness. In addition, he does train-the-trainer for Communispond as well as for many of Communispond’s clients.

You can connect with Jim on LinkedIn:


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