3 Ways to Improve 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. Yet many leaders and sellers who exhibit executive presence in face-to-face meetings are giving off a very different impression in virtual meetings. In this article, we’ll explore 3 ways to improve your executive presence in virtual meetings.
How is executive presence determined?
When asked, most people respond with a vague, “I know it when I see it.” When pressed, they often come up with a list of qualities associated with it. This often includes confidence, credibility, leadership, transparency, responsibility, empathy, etc. And these qualities are expressed through dozens of verbal and nonverbal signals – and your audience picks up on them in the first few seconds of your virtual meeting.
However, many of those signals associated are 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 present themselves as 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 is too low, you must look up at them, conveying subservience. Neither may reflect how you feel about your interaction, but 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 averted 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, that means looking at the camera. Direct eye contact is non-negotiable to be seen as confident and credible. It’s not an easy skill to master, but your audience doesn’t care how difficult it is. And they are certainly not going to make excuses for you! 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 is the deafening silence after posing a question. Most people jump in and answer their own questions.
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. If they are virtually savvy, they know it takes longer for people to respond on video – especially if there are multiple people on the call. In fact, 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!
While I’m not advocating for always waiting 20 seconds, sitting with that pause longer than feels comfortable (at least ten seconds) is critical. Nature abhors a vacuum. Don’t undermine your executive presence by always being the one to fill it.
Improve your Executive Presence in Virtual Meetings
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