Executive Presence in Virtual Meetings
Want to have conversations with customers that go beyond feature, function, and pricing? Executive Presence is essential for breaking into the C-Suite. Leaders and sellers who are easily considered as having executive presence in face-to-face meetings are finding it near impossible to gain that same equal footing in virtual meetings. In this article, we’ll explore how and why executive presence shows up differently on video and then 3 ways to improve your executive presence in virtual meetings.
How do we determine someone has executive presence?
When asked, Most people respond with a vague, “I know it when I see it.” When pressed, they will often come up with a list of qualities associated with it, such as confidence, credibility, leadership, transparency, responsibility, empathy, etc. These qualities are expressed through dozens of verbal and nonverbal signals – and your audience picks up on them in in the first few seconds of your meeting.
Many of those signals associated with executive presence can be distorted, minimized or obscured by the camera. If you want the ears, eyes and the mutual respect of the C-suite, you can’t be in the dark about how they perceive you on their screen. It’s critical that you know whether you are sending off signals that say “trust me” or “proceed with caution.”
3 Ways to Improve Your Executive Presence in Virtual Meetings:
1. Show Equal Status
Status is an unspoken factor in any relationship. We are constantly sizing up how we stand in relation to others. People with executive presence communicate that they are equals with their audience, despite a difference in titles.
This equilibrium can be quickly shattered in a virtual meeting by poor framing or bad camera angles. If your camera is too high you end up looking down on your audience, conveying superiority. If your camera too low, you must look up at them, conveying subservience. Neither may reflect how you feel about your interaction, perception is reality. An important first step toward improving your executive presence is to ensure you are creating an eye-to-eye exchange with your audience.
2. Direct Eye Contact
Direct eye contact conveys trustworthiness, confidence, friendliness, and approachability. Studies show that most people associate averting your eyes with guilt, lying, or a lack of confidence. Yet jump on any virtual meeting and what do you see? A sea of downward cast eyes staring at their screens!
To convey executive presence to your audience you must be able to look them in the eye. And on video, the camera is the eyes of your audience. Your audience doesn’t care how difficult it is and they’re not going to make excuses for you. Direct eye contact is non-negotiable to be seen as confident and credible. Fortunately, it can become second nature with practice. (There are three chapters in my book, Look Me In the Eye, on making eye contact on camera and the associated skill of reading body language.)
3. The Power Pause
One of the most common challenges about virtual meetings I heard from sellers was that deafening silence after posing a question to their audience. Most sellers jumped in and answered the question themselves.
This creates two new problems:
1) They set a precedent by teaching their audience they didn’t have to participate
2) Any confidence conveyed previously is undermined.
Using a power pause is a sign of confidence. Confident people are patient. They trust in the validity of their question and they expect to receive an answer. First, if they are virtually savvy, they also know it takes longer for people to respond on video – especially if there are multiple people on the call. Know it’s not unusual for this entire process to take up to 20 seconds. After all, you have to tack on a few seconds for them to find the mute button!
Secondly, I’m not advocating for always waiting 20 seconds, but sitting with that pause longer than feels comfortable (at least ten seconds) is critical. Remember, nature abhors a vacuum. Don’t undermine your executive presence by always being the one to fill it.
Third, for another surprisingly simple tactic to get your questions answered in a virtual meeting, click here.
Start Improving your Executive Presence in Virtual Meetings
To communicate with greater confidence, presence and influence in high-stakes virtual meetings, Start by gaining a full understanding of how the camera (and thus, your audience) reads and interprets your behavior on their screen, and the associated techniques and adaptations necessary. You can find all of this plus exercises and recommended practices in my book, Look Me in the Eye, or contact me about workshops and coaching.
This is just one of the tips that I include in my new book that won the 2021 Gold Medal Top Sales Book, Look Me In The Eye Using Video to Build Relationships with Customers, Partners and Teams. Feel free to check it out if you’re looking for more tips on how to engage customers and drive more sales on video.Get your copy today on Amazon!