At least once a week, I hear from leaders who ask, “How do I project more executive presence?”
And now, in light of the ongoing global pandemic, these same top performers wonder how to capture ever-elusive executive presence in virtual meetings as well.
Appearing confident via video is essential regardless of whether you want to:
- Advance to senior management
- Be assigned to higher-profile assignments
- Earn a promotion or raise
- Build influence and visibility
But projecting authority online is easier said than done, especially for Sensitive Strivers
Charismatic displays of showmanship aren’t a Sensitive Striver’s style. And it can be hard for them to get their voice heard over more outgoing colleagues.
Add to this the fact that Sensitive Strivers’ biology means that they are processing more information during video conferences than their colleagues.
Having a more attuned nervous system means they’re monitoring every minor movement and reaction, which can lead to overwhelm, distraction, and freezing up when it’s finally time to share an opinion. The increased pressure to perform is enough to send them spiraling into self-doubt and imposter syndrome.
Fear not, because there are many ways to elevate your executive presence in a virtual meeting, and build your confidence along with it.
While many of these suggestions may seem simple, taken together, they add up to create a perception of competence, trust, and credibility.
9 Ways to Project Confidence on Zoom
POSITION YOURSELF PROPERLY
Projecting executive presence starts by taking up space, literally and figuratively. If you sit too far away from the camera, it makes you appear small, which can subconsciously send a signal that you’re less powerful, nervous, or otherwise disengaged.
Fix this by positioning your seat so the area from your upper chest to your head is visible. Make sure the top of your head isn’t chopped off and that there are a few inches of visual space above your crown.
You garner the most trust by establishing strong eye contact with your audience.
But many people make the mistake of positioning their camera too low (as if people were looking up your nose), which can make it seem like you’re talking down to people. If the camera is too high (as if you were taking a selfie), it can diminish your presence.
Instead, keep your camera at eye level. Do this by propping your laptop or webcam on a stack of books.
LIGHT IT UP
Shadows are not a good look, nor do they add to your credibility. Avoid sitting with your back to a window or being backlit by a lamp. When possible, take video calls with a window in front of you. The natural light makes a world of difference.
SMILE AT THE CAMERA, NOT YOUR COLLEAGUES
Practice looking straight into the camera rather than glancing at your own image on the screen. To train yourself into this behavior try:
- Placing a sticky note with a smiley face right about your webcam
- Turning off the “self-view” option on Zoom
- Using the “active speaker” mode
Each of the above will help direct your attention to where it matters most – authentically connecting with your audience.
SAY NO TO VIRTUAL BACKGROUNDS
You’ve probably seen or used Zoom’s virtual backgrounds feature, which allows you to display an image or video as your backdrop during a call.
However, you’ve probably also noticed that it’s not fool-proof. Many times the software will display the image over your head or glitch and pixelate.
For this reason, I advise my clients to stay away from it unless absolutely necessary. It simply introduces too much distraction and detracts from a strong presence.
Be mindful of choosing a relatively neutral and professional backdrop, such as an office space with shelves in view. Don’t shy away from personal elements like photos of the family. These are great conversation starters that humanize you and build connections.
USE A STRONG VOICE
On video conferencing, you need to speak slightly faster than you would while in person to hold people’s attention.
And be mindful of your inflection, just as you would in person. Avoid uptalk – ending sentences as if you were asking a question – and trailing off at the end of your sentences.
It may seem obvious but use a good quality headset. In this digital age, your audio quality is part of the overall picture of your presence.
One mistake I see Sensitive Strivers make is letting their lack of confidence leak out through their physical posture. They slouch or hunch over during video calls, for example, or they may sway in their chair to get out nervous energy, which in turn makes your audience feel less secure.
Instead, imagine as if there were an invisible string running from the top of your head to the ceiling pulling you up. Send signals of competency and warmth by relaxing your shoulders and pulling them down your back. Looking at ease creates a positive perception in the eyes of people you’re trying to influence.
KNOW ABOUT NOTIFICATIONS
Mute your desktop notifications before hopping on a call. You may think that all the dings and pings may make you appear important, but it’s more so disrespectful to the people on the call. Make others feel important by demonstrating they have your full attention.
Be aware that anything you say in the chat will be visible in the final transcript. So make sure your private messages are something you’d be comfortable with your boss seeing.
GET YOUR MINDSET RIGHT
Executive presence is about more than your visual look and body language. Fundamentally, it’s about your mentality. And nothing detracts from projecting an air of confidence like undermining yourself.
Nix apologetic language like “I’m sorry, I may be completely off base here.” Tentative language may be appropriate during a brainstorming session, for example, but not when you’re trying to be perceived as decisive and an expert.