Dear Latimer: Building Virtual Engagement

Hello friends! We are continuing our latest blog tradition of fielding your questions about effective communication. You can send us the questions any way you want… via phone, email or the “Dear Latimer” box on the right side of most pages on our site. When we get a question we will always answer directly back to you. And when appropriate, we will publish your questions and our answers on our blog (always with your permission, and anonymously if requested). Our goal here is to give you some quick support and share some of our answers with the entire Latimer Community.

So, fire away with those questions, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Have a great day! ~Dean and Team Latimer

Dear Latimer —

I really struggle with virtual communication. Specifically I can never tell how I am doing, and whether I am engaging my audience. Most of them have their videos off, and I fully assume everyone is multi-tasking on me. So how do I bring people more “into the discussion” with me?

  • Joe A, aerospace engineer

Hey Joe. Great one, and I could have assigned this question to lots of other Latimer clients, because this one comes up a lot. We could talk about this topic for hours (and in some of our workshops, we do!)

But here are some quick ideas and suggestions:

  1. If you want people to engage with you, you have to do at least two things:
    • Engage with them.
    • Express your hoped-for types of engagement.
  2. Start with your own behaviors.
    1. Make sure your camera is on.
    2. Make sure you build lots of TIME for engagement into your meeting.
    3. Make sure you build engagement activities, like questions, discussions, or even a poll for a large group, into your plan.
    4. Refer to people by name. Call on them (but we recommend warning people ahead of time so as not to embarrass the person not listening closely… “in about five minutes, I am going to ask for your input, and I am going to start with you Dean…”
    5. When you ask for questions, don’t be afraid of some silence. Give people time to form their questions and build up the courage to ask.
  3. And make sure everyone knows, ahead of time, what your engagement expectations will be.
    • Let people know ahead of time what will be on the agenda, and what type of engagement you are hoping for… discussion, questions, a decision?
    • Let people know you hope their cameras will be on.
    • Let people know that if we work together and stay focused, we will probably be able to end the meeting early.

You get the idea… be intentional about engagement. It won’t happen on its own. You need to set the tone, AND share your expectations.

Good luck!


Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.