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5 tips on how to be persuasive using digital tools

By Shandel McAuliffe | |7 minute read
5 tips on how to be persuasive using digital tools

How persuasive are you online? COVID-19 lockdowns and the subsequent need to practise more flexible work practices has resulted in a changed workplace.

Most people in business are moving to a hybrid model of working: working a few days in the office and some days from home. And most of us now have occasion to run meetings where we are influencing, persuading, and negotiating online.

Unfortunately, even when we have the best of intentions, we’ve all been in online presentations and meetings where the technology just seems to get in the way. Cameras are positioned up noses or on looming foreheads, mute buttons are on or off at the wrong times, or the presenter simply shares their screen, and everyone stares at their slides absentmindedly (or they do their other work while the presenter is talking!).


My most recent survey conducted in 2022 asked businesspeople about their common practice in online meetings. This survey found:

  • 97 per cent of respondents admitted to sharing their screen in online meetings and never selecting ‘stop share’ to bring the view back to all the faces on the screen. It was like watching a TV show for the audience, one slide after the next.
  • 93 per cent of respondents felt disconnected in their online meetings (whether they were the presenter or the audience member).
  • 86 per cent of respondents felt increased tiredness or ‘zoom fatigue’ after a day of online meetings as compared with their memory of attending meeting after meeting of ‘live’ interactions prior to COVID-19.

All this means that even though most of us know better, we are still going to too many boring and ineffective meetings. In many cases, these interactions are causing people to feel fatigue and experience burnout. Making a conscious decision to take your communication seriously is, therefore, critical.

The good news is that we can all learn to be more effective virtually – yes, you can ‘wow’ your stakeholder, you can engage them and compel them to action. It’s just a matter of knowing what to do and actually doing it. Here are my five tips for persuading in a digital world:

1. Set-up. Make sure you attend to these five things:

  • Background – make sure your virtual background reinforces your professionalism and brand.
  • Personal appearance – make sure you are dressed appropriately. No Oodies, wet hair or pyjamas in work meetings!
  • Lighting – it’s not helpful if people think you are logging in from the disco. Be sure to light your space well.
  • Sound – people will tolerate bad lighting, but they will log off if the sound isn’t good. Trust me, it’s worth investing in an external microphone.
  • Technology – practice using the technology so that everything is smooth on the day. Expect the best but plan for the worst!

2. Establish boundaries. Remember that most dysfunctional behaviour in meetings happens because of a lack of boundary setting. If you are persuading someone, make sure you set some rules, so it is easy for your stakeholder to listen.

3. Eye contact. As crazy as it sounds, when persuading virtually it’s essential to always look straight into the camera. If you look at the face of your stakeholder, they will only see the top of your head. It looks like you are not looking at them which breaks rapport. Depending on your stakeholder’s persuasive preferences, it’s a real turn-off!

4. Visual aids. If you are using slides in your virtual meeting or conversation, be sure to only share the slides when they support what you are saying. Otherwise, select ‘stop share’ and go back to the faces on the screen. This is the best way to keep your stakeholders engaged.

5. Interaction. Do what you can to keep your stakeholder/s talking. Ask questions, use breakout rooms, polls, reaction icons, be funny, smile more, and use props like digital handouts.

The good news is that I have proven time and time again that you can make your virtual persuasion just as effective as any live persuasive moment. You just need to pay attention to these five areas.

Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation and persuasion in business.


Hybrid working

In a hybrid work environment, individuals are allowed to work from a different location occasionally but are still required to come into the office at least once a week. With the phrase "hybrid workplace," which denotes an office that may accommodate interactions between in-person and remote workers, "hybrid work" can also refer to a physical location.

Remote working

Professionals can use remote work as a working method to do business away from a regular office setting. It is predicated on the idea that work need not be carried out in a certain location to be successful.

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel has recently returned to Australia after working in the UK for eight years. Shandel's experience in the UK included over three years at the CIPD in their marketing, marcomms and events teams, followed by two plus years with The Adecco Group UK&I in marketing, PR, internal comms and project management. Cementing Shandel's experience in the HR industry, she was the head of content for Cezanne HR, a full-lifecycle HR software solution, for the two years prior to her return to Australia.

Shandel has previous experience as a copy writer, proofreader and copy editor, and a keen interest in HR, leadership and psychology. She's excited to be at the helm of HR Leader as its editor, bringing new and innovative ideas to the publication's audience, drawing on her time overseas and learning from experts closer to home in Australia.

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