A friend told me about a client meeting he attended recently on Zoom where one of the team members was so passive that people practically forgot she was on the call. And she was one of the company’s principals!
Okay, maybe she was having a bad day or dealing with a serious case of Zoom drain, but how you show up—especially when you’re showing up online—is critical to inspiring confidence and trust in others. I call it online executive presence.
Not everything about executive presence (also called board-room presence or leadership style) has changed, of course. You still need to prepare for important meetings, have critical information close at hand, and give the agenda (please let there be one) an advance read-through. But the way we’re communicating has changed, so you need to change, too.
Consider these strategies…
Do a tech check. I know you think you’ve done it, but make sure you know what online platform you’ll be using and ask how the chat, question box, meeting rooms, and other functionality work. Take a video tutorial or ask for a walk-through. And make sure your camera and mic are working properly.
Prep your background. Make sure you have a simple, uncluttered background. Neutral walls always work. But if you prefer to be in your office or in front of a bookshelf (like me), remove distracting items so the participants see you instead of your vast collection of beer mugs. If your space allows, have some distance between you and your background. Depth is your friend.
Consider a green screen. Since I spend my days online, I not only use my office as a backdrop but I have a green screen where I can utilize virtual backgrounds as well. I love putting up a beach scene on Fridays, or a shot I took in the Himalayas, or just an office that is way cooler than mine. A simple piece of green muslin tacked up to the wall will do it. Here’s the one I use.
Amp up your vocal energy. You don’t need to have the pipes of an opera star, but you do need to warm up your voice in advance of important calls. There’s nothing like the morning mumbles to say unprepared. Use a site like Jacob’s Vocal Academy for some simple vocalizations (no, you don’t need to be a singer). Vary the tone, pitch, and color in your voice so you don’t drone like the adults in the Peanuts cartoons. If you don’t know how you sound, tape yourself on your phone and then really listen.
Light up your face. When people are looking at your face in a tiny box, you need to stay animated and energetic. Put your camera at eye level (I raise mine up on a stack of books, easy peasy) and look directly into the lens from time to time, especially when your face is full screen. Consider buying an inexpensive ring light for some added color. I use this one which has more light levels than I will ever need. (I love the amber glow setting.)
Finish with a smile. When you complete a video call, the camera typically freezes on your face as you sign off. So leave each meeting with a big smile and let people remember your fabulous energy and charisma!
If you’d like to connect, here are a couple of ways I can help:
Book a Discovery Session.
In this complimentary 30-minute session, we’ll dive into the challenges you’re facing and brainstorm some practical solutions that you can apply immediately.
Bring me in for a Virtual Presentation.
Let’s get your team back into action with my interactive presentation including stories, strategies, and science on The Journey of Change Through the Lens of Hope.