Tips for engaging others during your online business communication

Business Insights

By Simon Day, Toastmasters International

In the current situation vast numbers of have moved meetings, presentations mentoring sessions or training modules online. I am one, and have learned some valuable lessons while conducted meetings and coaching online.

Let me share things I have learned to help you make your online communications effective and help maximise your impact.

Making Videos

Some simple strategies ensure that your video is of the best possible quality and an effective vehicle for your business message.

I refer to Haydn Rushworth - Senior Research and Communications Officer at the National Assembly for Wales. He recently posted on superb video on LinkedIn. In it, he shares, then demonstrates, simple tips for producing better video from any device:

    1. Don’t stand or sit with a window behind you – you quickly turn into a silhouette. Facing a source of natural light gives much better lighting for your videos.

    2. Find a quiet place. Background noise can be incredibly distracting.

    3. Use a tripod, wall or lean your device against a steady object to ensure the video is smooth. Keeping a steady shot allows you to more readily replicate a face-to-face conversation and ensure people maintain focus on you.

    4. Look at the lens, not the screen – more on this later.

    5. Ensure you are in focus. This can be done on most smartphones by tapping the screen and ensuring the lighting is adequate.

    6. Choose a flattering camera angle. Ensure the device is at least at eye level – nobody wants to see up your nostrils.

    7. Film in landscape mode where applicable – the video is then easier to post and view across multiple platforms.

Communication Strategies

Several strategies that have served me well as a professional speaker are equally vital when communicating via technology:

Eye contact – this should be maintained 30% of the time for a conversation to be fit for purpose. To establish and maintain relationships of trust and respect, this rises to between 60% and 70%.

In online communication, it is incredibly tempting to look at the face on screen for much of the time, thinking you are making eye contact. You are not. Eye contact is made by looking at the camera lens. Put a sticker near the lens as a reminder that when you speak, this is where you should look. It takes practice, but will pay dividends as viewers will feel more involved in the experience.

Vocal variety – When you give a stand-up presentation, people can see your entire person and can therefore read facial expression, body language and gesture. Speaking on camera limits this, which places more emphasis on the voice. Varying pitch, pace and volume can help you communicate with greater authenticity and emphasise key points with greater authority. It will require an investment of energy and commitment, but your voice will need to compensate for these other aspects of communication that are hindered by the limitations of online platforms. If you are concerned, sound concerned. If you are happy, sound happy. This will make it much easier for participants to correctly interpret your intended message.

Speaking from the heart – I am reading a book: ‘Storytelling Made Easy’ by Michael Hauge. I highly recommend it. All meaningful communication elicits emotion and our stories are one of the most effective ways to achieve this. In these difficult times, an authentic personal story can bond individuals and unite communities.

Improving the Experience

Communication is highly nuanced. When we speak in person, it is much easier to read facial expressions, observe gestures, detect body language and discern variations in vocal tone.

Online communication can present barriers to detecting some of these nuances. Poor video quality may obscure facial expression, intermittent audio reception may betray the subtle variations of the voice and restrictive camera angles may hide the true meaning of body language or gestures.

Though it may require a small investment, a HD webcam, USB microphone and good pair of over-ear headphones are pieces of equipment that have notably improved my online communication experience: I can see more clearly, hear more clearly and speak more clearly. My hands are also free, not being encumbered with wires or handheld equipment.

I hope you find this article useful and that it will help to communicate with impact in your new online setting.


Simon Day is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. To find your nearest club, visit