The Secret to Virtual Influence in Sales and Leadership: Virtual Executive Presence
Unlocking the secret to virtual influence in sales and leadership starts with understanding the challenge at hand. Imagine trying to get a toddler to go to bed or pick up his toys, or to simply pay attention to you on a Zoom call. It’s easy to see that a lot of the tools you would use to influence their behavior are simply ineffective or unavailable virtually.
Now, I’m not calling virtual audiences toddlers, but your ability to influence teams, customers, stakeholders or individuals does differ in virtual meetings and video calls. Whether you’re a parent, a salesperson, a leader, or a teacher – much of your success is going to ride on your ability to influence, motivate or empower others, without authority. And in sales and leadership, we typically call that ability “Executive Presence.”
You’re likely familiar with executive presence, it’s made up of a collection of qualities that makes others feel like they can trust you, want to listen to what you have to say and be open to your lead or ideas. You may even “have” executive presence in face-to-face encounters. However, many leaders, aspiring leaders and salespeople are finding out the hard way that whatever “in-person” executive presence they have developed does not successfully transfer to the small screen.
That’s because many of the qualities that make up executive presence, like confidence, credibility, transparency and empathy are conveyed to your audience through dozens of verbal and nonverbal signals. And in the virtual world, many of those verbal and nonverbal signals are distorted, minimized or obscured by the camera.
What is Virtual Executive Presence?
Virtual Executive Presence is the ability to successfully convey these qualities we associate with executive presence in a way that your virtual audience can perceive them. And that requires adapting your behavior. Because a new medium require new skills.
Here are just a few of the reasons why we must adapt if we want to improve our virtual influence:
- The camera (and your audience) sees only 20% of your body language. Removing 80% of your nonverbal communication completely changes the dynamics. Virtual Executive Presence requires the ability to use your 20% (head, upper torso, voice) to sufficiently compensate for that loss.
- Gestures can add context, emotion and meaning to your words. But because the camera has a much narrower focus than in-person, these same gestures can make you appear nervous, unclear, or distract your audience from your message. Virtual Executive Presence requires adopting video-friendly gestures and movements.
- The camera flattens everything out. Thus, the sad-but-true saying, “the camera adds 10 pounds.” But few people realize that the camera also takes away a big chunk of their energy. Virtual Executive Presence is knowing how much energy is needed on camera and how to channel that energy through the camera.
- Direct eye contact is the strongest nonverbal signal you can send to project confidence and credibility. Yet jump on any virtual call and few people – including leaders – are leveraging the power of eye contact. Virtual Executive Presence means mastering the art of making natural eye contact with the camera.
- In the virtual world, many people have their cameras “off.” Leaders who appear quite confident speaking to large groups face-to-face, are visibly uncomfortable and awkward when confronted with this silent and invisible virtual audience. Virtual Executive Presence is the ability to confidently engage with audiences – whether you can see them or not.
- Virtual audiences are notoriously passive. This can wrack the confidence of even the most experienced leaders, resulting in the long one-sided monologues we’ve become accustomed to on video. Virtual Executive Presence means developing the confidence and tactics for increasing interaction and engagement remotely.
Leverage the Secret of Virtual Influence in Sales and Leadership with Virtual Executive Presence
If you don’t take into account these and other unique communication challenges we face in a virtual world, you will struggle as a seller or a leader. Learn more about how you can develop your Virtual Executive Presence and elevate your influence below.