Developing Executive Presence for Women: How to Boost Your Presence in a Virtual Meeting

By Nan Nan Liu-Maffetone | Strong Female Leaders | Reading Time: Approx. 3 minutes

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Master this increasingly popular skill, and you will thrive in not just executive presence, but also in personal power.
The Coronavirus outbreak turned a huge percentage of the world’s workforce into remote professionals who depend on video conferencing for business needs. The demand for virtual meeting tools such as Zoom and Skype suddenly catapulted its usefulness from convenient additions to must-have necessities.

In the context of communication tactics, however, the need for developing executive presence in virtual meetings holds the same amount of importance as in in-person meetings, if not more.

Elevating your presence through the computer screen requires a different set of communication practices. The recommendations below aim to help you deliver talking points during virtual meetings, in clear and enthusiastic manner, and with just the right dose of gravitas.

1. Continue to dress to impress.
Looking good is a sign of self respect. It is also a sign of respecting your audience. Furthermore, it sends a subtle message to your brain to “bring it” with every word that comes out of your mouth.

When you dress the part, you are the part. So bring quality to everything that you do, even to the outfits that you wear. Your level of excellence has nothing to do with location, and everything to do with the amount of effort you put forth to truly "show up."
2. Keep your posture erect.
Whether you sit or stand, keeping posture upright and strong elevates your executive presence. While it’s easy to slouch, slump, sway and fidget in the comfort of your home, your body language and what it implies penetrate through the camera. If you hold yourself like a confident leader, you will be perceived as none less.
3. Look people in the eye.
Direct eye contact reinforces your point. In a virtual meeting, direct eye contact means looking into the video camera, not at the the screen. To ease yourself into talking into a cold circle, tape a picture of someone you enjoy speaking to, like your family, friends or someone you respect, behind the camera. The simple practice reinforces visual focus. It also helps to practice speaking into the camera during spare time. The more you do it, the more natural you become at it.

4. Speak with a strong voice.
In virtual meetings, using a louder-than-usual voice helps to overcome challenges such as a weak internal microphone or an echo-y room. A strong voice not only conveys authority, credibility and confidence, it also keeps you from mumbling, speaking too fast, and annunciating incorrectly.

Firm up your voice; speak from your diaphragm; and don’t be afraid to strategically take pauses. Your words are important, so make sure that you speak up, and speak with authority.
5. Stay within proximity.
Proximity is important; because the farther you stand from your audience, the more obscured you look and the less convincing you sound.

In video, you want to put forth extra effort to engage with your audience. So dominate the screen by framing yourself from the top of your shoulder to just above your head. Do this correctly and you will assume command.

Please also pay attention to your background. A cluttered room takes attention away from you and conveys disorganization. Please find an environment where the background is simple, quiet, and professional.

One last tip on the topic is to prepare adequately. For important meetings such as presentations to the Board or contract negotiations with clients, practice is key. For casual meetings like checkins with immediate teammates, simply show up early to allow yourself enough time to set up the scene.
6. Be present. Be mindful. Don’t be distracted.
In a video conference where you are often muted, it’s easy to get distracted. Do your best to stay focused to avoid being caught unprepared when someone makes sudden requests. Protect your professional reputation by simple moves such as closing the door, logging out of personal email, and avoiding browsing the internet.

During working hours, be “at work.” Because: you are.
7. Chat proactively.
Chatting online is a business skill in the digital age. Doing it correctly gives you presentational appendage.

During virtual meetings, you can use the chat window to provide additional information, such as a link to an article or additional research that you have done. Doing so boosts your expertise and authority. You can also use the chat window to offer quiet support (that smiley face emoji works wonders) and ask relevant questions.

Business "Chatting" provides a unique opportunity to increase your presence, add dimensions to your opinions and ideas, and exhibit that you are fully engaged.
Parting Thoughts.
Whatever experience you have at attending virtual meetings before the Coronavirus outbreak, you should take video conferencing more seriously now. It’s a fresh experience that grows in power, and requires both attention, training and practice. To fully benefit from it and gain a competitive edge, start adapting your perspective, habits, and tactics to the new trend.

Master this increasingly popular skill, and you will thrive in not just executive presence, but also in personal power.

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