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From Boardrooms to Zoom Rooms: Mastering Executive Presence in Virtual Settings

  • 29th Apr'24

Effective communication is vital in crucial discussions, particularly in online meetings where keeping the audience engaged can be challenging. Some people naturally command attention and influence, while others struggle to maintain their presence on camera.

To excel in remote meetings, it's essential to project confidence and articulate your ideas clearly. Despite the limitations of virtual communication, you can still establish yourself as a leader by effectively conveying your work's significance and future potential. In this article, you will explore strategies for demonstrating competence and leadership in remote meetings on platforms like Zoom.

The best ways to master executive presence in virtual settings

  1. Brighten your presence

Trust and connections are built through understanding body language cues like smiles, eye contact, and posture. However, seeing these cues depends on good lighting. Proper lighting means facing the light directly and avoiding shadows from above, behind, or to the side. Bad lighting can ruin appearances. Whether it's your colleagues or clients, people need to see you in a positive light—both literally and figuratively. So, ensure good lighting to strengthen your connections.

  1. Virtual background woes

Virtual backgrounds might fail for you sometimes. Your real face tends to look disfigured through the imperfect methods of green-screen effects. Choose a neutral wall or any other clutter-free background so as not to draw attention away from you as a speaker. Keep things as simple as possible to establish a consistent online representation.

  1. The power of positive posture

Your posture says so much, particularly when you are in a virtual one-to-one meeting. Slouching conveys, no doubt, that you are uninterested, and isa message you don't want to communicate to the people around you. 

You don't want to seem cool in an arrogant or judgemental way. In contrast, keep your back upright, shoulders relaxed, and lean slightly forward at a 15-30 degree angle. This indicates your active participation. In other words, show that you are attentive and interested by sitting up straight—it's a very subtle yet powerful communication tool. 


  1. Mastering Virtual Gestures

The best presenters are the ones who have mastered the art of gestures as a tool of message delivery. Yet, in the virtual era, it's important to make these gestures not too dominant. Make it a point that your hands are within the frame and visibly clear to the camera. 

Don't point  your hands directly to the camera because these movements might be considered aggressive or frantic. Try to be strategic and not overdo it with hand movements to keep the audience engaged. Demonstration of virtual gestures makes your presentation look more lively, and you will be able to keep the audience hooked on your presentation while remaining professional.

  1. Dressing for Digital Success

Even in online settings where you can dress more casually, it's still important to maintain a polished appearance. Avoid looking too sloppy or disheveled, even when dressing casually. Remember, you're always "on," even when not actively engaged in something. People may notice small gestures like hair-twisting or clothing adjustments, which can detract from your message. Dressing well not only creates a good first impression but also ensures a positive outlook, whether in a virtual meeting or a formal presentation. So, start cultivating confidence for executive presence.

Evolving from conventional communication to valuing respect and authenticity:

Back in 2012, the emphasis in leadership communication was squarely on traditional skills: oratorical aptitude, eloquent expression, and persuasive power. Leaders were recognized for their capacity to communicate with authoritativeness and clarity, as they intended to motivate and drive the team towards success.

The present-day notion of being assertive requires not only being willing to share one's point of view but also appreciating and valuing different perspectives and life experiences. 

The skill of genuine, face-to-face conversations and the ability to display the real, unguarded self have become trendy leadership traits. This shift shows a general trend towards more empathetic, understanding, and inclusive communication methods, highlighting the evolution of leadership within the diversified and rapidly changing environment. Also, you must learn how to foster executive presence through diversity and equity.

Shifting from classic leadership traits to embracing digital fluency and virtual presence:

Earlier leadership development focused on upgrading traditional leadership traits like decisiveness, confidence, and strategic insights. The training primarily focused on improving leaders' interpersonal skills face-to-face, either in the office or in the conventional corporate setting.

But by 2022, digital skills will be more important than ever. Communication and technology platforms are now highly favored. 

Given today’s reality and the fact that the comfort level with online tools has become one of the attributes of Executive Presence (EP), familiarity and skill with Zoom, Teams, and Slack are of paramount importance. 

Now, leaders are expected to change their communication strategies to the new digital spaces and also their presentation styles be efficient. This process involves not only having a proper grasp of the technical aspects of these platforms but also using visual clarity and proactive meeting management, to build sincere relationships via a computer screen. This proves the significance of digital competence and of leadership ability to manage presence no matter the platform.

To conclude, in this transition of boardrooms to virtual Zoom rooms, developing and practicing Executive Presence (EP) is the key element that requires adapting to new norms while maintaining the core leadership qualities. Gravitas, conventional communication, and formal appearance used to be the leadership style back then, but nowadays, the leadership style has been transformed into inclusiveness, authenticity, and digital fluency. 

Social media leaders of today need to be adept at using online platforms almost effortlessly and make sure that they are authentic and are creating real connections no matter what the medium is. Implementing such changes not only makes EP better but also shows that one is well-prepared for the constantly evolving digital world. The transition here accentuates the necessity of adapting to times to get successful leadership across all environments.

Shellye is committed to helping people from diverse backgrounds to achieve their aspirations in careers and life. The content published above was made in collaboration with our members.

Shellye Archambeau is determined to help you with all possible strategies to climb the ladder of success. She values your feedback. Do mention them in the comment section below.

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