online communication

February 12, 2021 •

5 min reading

How to expertly connect to your online audience with Dr Laura Penn

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Public speaking expert and communication enthusiast, Dr Laura Penn, was invited to give an online masterclass at EHL with the aim of sharing with teaching faculty the best practices in developing a formidable and engaging online presence. Her audience hung upon her every dynamic word and gesture, knowing full well that the virtual teaching reality is here to stay, and so upskilling in all areas of authentic presence and audience engagement is now - more than ever - the name of the game.

« We are living in a time of great change and now is the right time to radically improve how we communicate with each other. I specialize in transforming leaders from all levels of management and change-makers from a wide variety of fields, into speakers who are authentic, accessible, and memorable”. - Dr Laura Penn, Founder of the Leadership Speaking School.

Practical takeaways to elevate your virtual conversations

How to communicate online

Dr Laura Penn

Breathe life into your message!

Get creative and discover innovative methods to make your message come alive. Here are some powerful ways to breathe life into what you have to say:

  • Use props.
  • Build in moments of reflection for the audience. 
  • Incorporate relevant stories & anecdotes.
  • Use photographs, art and other visuals to delight the eyes.
  • Use mixed media - audio/visual - in your presentations.
  • Involve the audience as much as possible.
  • Use quotes from people you admire to make a point. 
  • Get creative re. what your desk & set-up look like (create a stage set).
  • Go old-school and use a flip chart with colorful pens. 
  • Include graphs, charts & other tantalizing numerical supports.
  • Factor in regular breaks for when energy wanes.
  • Incorporate movement for both you & audience (sitting vs. standing).


Tips from the Leadership Speaking toolbox

These essential tools have been handpicked out of the Leadership Speaking toolbox especially for online use. 


As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, therefore it is essential that you do everything in your power the make the best first impression from the minute you switch on your camera. 


As a speaker, you want to make a positive vocal impression on your audience. You want your voice to sound natural, confident and to project energy and strength. In order for you to access your vocal power, play around with your voice using volume, speed, tone and pausing. 


Developing an awareness of your body language and that of your audience is important if you want to be an effective speaker online.

Open is better than closed! Your arms are a physical extension of your emotions and thoughts; they communicate your attitude. E.g. if you're feeling neutral and open-minded, your arms usually reflect this by being 'open'. However, if you're feeling defensive and closed-minded, your arms will usually cross fully or partially. 

When speaking online, avoid sending the message that you are negative, defensive or insecure by consciously refraining from crossing your arms. Aim to appear as neutral and open as possible. 

MGH_Sept 2020_Laura Penn (002)

EHL's MSc in Global Hospitality Business students having a "loving moment" with Laura Penn, online

In conversation with Dr Laura Penn

What has changed in the way we communicate these days?

So much! There’s been a massive boom in video teaching and in online meetings and presentations. Professionals from many different fields are expected to suddenly become expert TV presenters and communicators extraordinaire. These are highly advanced skills, which require time and effort to learn, and which, by the way, we don’t learn in school. In today’s world of online communication, people have to rapidly upskill in these areas in order to stay on top of their game.

What does the average speaker need to understand?

Human beings are sensual creatures. We rely on our five senses of taste, touch, smell, sight and sound to get around and to survive in this world. As far as today’s virtual working reality, only the last two (sight and sound) are activated. Think about that. Three out of our five senses are, literally, off-line.  This limits the sensory input we receive. Add on top of that, add the fact that most people sit in a “head-shot” view on their screens, so we sense even less. We can’t pick up the micro-gestures or the body language of the people speaking and they can’t pick up ours. All of this distances us from our humanity and limits our ability to connect.

What immediate steps can be taken to improve?

You can do something about this by making a few brave choices:

1. Angle your camera so that we can see your body from head to hips.

2. Have good lighting so that we can see you clearly.

3. Have good sound so that we can hear you well.

4. Use your hands when you talk and engage your face. As your audience, we are “reading” everything that you do and we are searching for an understanding of your emotional connection to your content.

These brave choices are powerful ways for you to switch-on your humanity.  Remember that your listeners won’t necessarily remember what you SAID to them, i.e. the facts, figures and information that you shared, but they will remember how you made them FEEL.

How to communicate online


After an hour in the energetic and compelling company of Dr Laura Penn, we had all woken up to a few simple facts. Online conversations, whether professional or social, are here to stay and we need to improve and professionalize how we show up for them. Upskilling your online speaking presence will ensure that you are the very best version of yourself every time you take center stage on the virtual platform. Teachers, managers, professionals and people from all fields, have everything to gain from empowering their way of handling online exchanges in order to make them both meaningful and memorable.

Personal transformation = Global impact!


Dr. Laura Penn trains global leaders from the world’s most recognized companies, academic institutions, and not-for-profit organizations how to speak in public. As the Founder of The Leadership Speaking School, world-class speaker coach and three-time TEDx speaker, featured on, she supports leaders who are hungry for the skills that they need to vastly improve themselves as speakers. Based in Switzerland, she is disrupting the status quo for how we speak in front of audiences both in-person and online.

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EHL Insights content editor