How to Convey Executive Presence in a Virtual World
February 17, 2021 by Jim Moushon

Have you ever sat in an audience, either in person or virtually, and said to yourself, “Wow, that speaker really looks and sounds like they know what they’re talking about and seems very convincing. I wish I could look and sound as confident.”? Even the news anchors we watch nightly appear to have done their homework about the subjects they are reporting on, thus giving us confidence and trust that their reporting is accurate.

Having executive presence and being able to convey it in a virtual world is a valuable commodity. It includes a number of traits both tangible and intangible.  Being recognized as an expert in your field is critical, and being able to convey intangibles such as confidence, stability, and trust helps build a strong foundation for any company. Intangibles, however, are nebulous, hard to put your finger on, and yet it’s the intangibles that mostly convey “presence.” So, how can anyone hope to acquire executive presence? Fortunately, there are tangible, physical skills that practically anyone can master which will help convey that elusive trait of executive presence.

Some of the skills that anyone can learn include:

  1. Eye contact. Look at the camera when speaking or listening to a question, rather than looking at the faces on your screen. This gives the impression you are focused on one individual and everyone in the meeting will feel you are looking at them; just as when news anchors look at the camera, and it appears as though they are talking directly to us while we watch from home. We feel like the speaker is confident, knowledgeable, and trustworthy.
  2. Volume and inflection. Speaking with a strong volume (between 6-8 on a scale of 1-10) and emphasizing key words conveys conviction, sincerity, and confidence.
  3. Gestures. Emphasizing or describing your points with gestures will help your audience “see” as well as hear your content. In addition, gestures tend to help increase your volume and inflection and allow you to “own your space.” Tip: one-handed gestures are usually more emphatic and/or descriptive, whereas two-handed gestures tend to be repetitive and can distract your audience.
  4. Posture/Stance. Stand or sit up straight with your weight distributed evenly. A balanced posture conveys confidence and allows for bigger gestures. Always stand like you want to be there.
  5. Listening skills. Play back or summarize what others have asked or said to ensure understanding and to let the audience know you were listening and value their contributions. People like to know they’ve been “heard.”
  6. Appropriate attire. A speaker should be dressed the same as, or one notch above, their audience. Too flashy or too casual can interfere with the impression you’re trying to make.
  7. Background. Be sure that what is showing behind you isn’t distracting. People are curious and will definitely check out what’s in your space.
  8. Lighting. Have a light behind your computer (facing you) rather than behind you. If you have windows behind you, pull the shades or close the curtains. Light behind you tends to cause shadows or may darken your image.      

Mastering the skills listed above can go a long way to developing “presence” by being perceived as confident, professional, sincere, trustworthy, credible, and competent to list just a few. For more information on acquiring the skills which help convey presence, please visit our program Executive Communication Coaching™, offered in both in-person and virtual environments.