Attending a virtual meeting on your couch, dressed in your sweatpants and uggs may feel like a dream-come-true for some laid-back executives. However, the way you present yourself in virtual meetings can have a more significant effect on your career prospects than you think.
It is no surprise that virtual meetings will become more frequent in the future as companies have fast-tracked their remote working goals throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now estimated that “twenty-five to thirty percent of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021" [i] According to Kate Lister president of Global Workplace Analytics.
Demonstrating self-confidence, clarity, empathy, and credibility is hard enough in a board room, let alone in a virtual environment. So, what are the top 6 mistakes you could be making that will devalue your leadership presence in a virtual meeting?
1.The rambling introduction
Your introduction is your first impression and immediately establishes your virtual presence in a room. Like any face to face meeting, it is essential to be punctual, appropriately dressed, make eye contact through your eye height camera, keep your posture attentive, and deliver your introduction with confidence.
How and what you share when introducing yourself is of equal importance. You want your message to be concise, professional, and genuine. Take some time beforehand to think about your introduction, how it is relevant to your audience and the topic at hand so that when your turn comes, you can shine.
Be mindful of 'over-introducing.' Giving too much information is unnecessary, takes up valuable time and reduce your leadership presence. Similarly, it is possible to 'under-introduce' yourself. Just stating "Hi, I’m Sam!" can be unrelatable and make it harder for colleagues and peers to remember you.
2.High pitched tone
According to Carol Kinsey Goman, 'In a virtual meeting, the quality of your voice can be a deciding factor in how you are perceived. Speakers with higher-pitched voices are perceived to be less empathic, less powerful and more nervous than speakers with lower-pitched voices.'
Often when we are nervous, we shallow breathe and speak faster, which naturally comes across as higher pitched. Right before a meeting begins, take a few deep breaths. This silent breathing technique is a secret weapon of all on-camera hosts and presenters to help them get centred and focused. It enables you to breathe from your diaphragm, slows your speech and keeps your pitch balanced.
3.Poor body language
Non-verbal communication is less about your intentions and more about how the audience perceives your messages. To elevate your leadership presence, you want your body language to send a signal that you are professional, knowledgeable and approachable.
Crossing arms is a signal of closed communication and can make you appear stand-offish and resistant. Likewise, you may naturally slump when sitting on your comfy couch with the screen on your lap – this can make you seem less confident or competent than you really are. Find a way to sit attentively with arms comfortably beside or in front.
It is natural when nervous to start to fidget, which can take the form playing with jewellery, twirling hair, smoothing a beard, rocking, swaying, pulling up socks or clicking a pen. In a virtual environment, these habits are amplified and can distract from the credible messages you are trying to communicate.
Multi-taskers beware. Using dual screens, checking email or playing with your phone is a sure way to seem disinterested and make you unlikely to be called upon for comment by the facilitator or meeting owner.
The first thing people look to from their leaders is pro-social signals that show warmth, empathy and inclusiveness. Anti-social signals can destroy trust and send a message that you are not a caring, inspiring or motivating leader.
Pro-social signals can be as simple as starting with a smile. Non-verbal behaviours bring out the best in us and directly influence how someone responds to you. Facial expressions trigger corresponding feelings, so your smile makes you and your audience feel positive from the outset – this is no different in a virtual environment, so be sure to start with a smile.
You appear at your most empathetic and inclusive when you stay relaxed. Keep movements and gestures contained within the computer screen will ensure you appear self-assured and collected. Similarly, it is a leadership imperative to show genuine interest which can be more challenging virtually. Make eye contact by looking at the camera, leaning forward, nodding and gesturing, just as you would in person.
Zoom fatigue is a real phenomenon, and long detailed presentations online can quickly lose an audience and detract from your leadership presence. If you are presenting in a meeting, try and keep the presentation to ten minutes or less. If more detail is required, then consider sending a pre-read prior so that your audience can review information prior allowing time for them to absorb the detail.
Before starting your presentation, it is recommended to announce that you will be providing an overview of the topic and that you will open for questions at the end. Being derailed mid-presentation is far more challenging to control the audience online. Requesting your attendees pop themselves on mute for the duration also helps avoid distracting behaviours during a presentation.
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because the meeting is virtual that you don't need to be as prepared as you would when entering an intimidating boardroom environment. In actual fact, it is the opposite. Because conversation doesn't flow as naturally in a virtual environment, it can be more challenging to get your opinion or point across if you are unprepared.
Understand your role in the meeting and request clarity from the organiser if needed. Know the desired outcome for the meeting and be prepared to express your view while remaining open-minded to other's ideas and solutions. If you are likely to need to reference any statistics or data, make sure they are at your fingertips as it is far more difficult to start searching on your laptop while it is being used for your meeting.
Being punctual, prepared and knowledgeable will immediately make you feel more confident and self-assured which will shine through. Conversely finding out in the meeting that you're required to be leading it, making up your ideas as you go along and searching for information could see your attendees lose faith in your abilities.
Your leadership presence matters. Teams want to feel confident in their leader’s ability to engage, inspire and motivate them to greatness. Increasingly, leaders are required to interact virtually so be sure to practise these tips and tricks to ensure you elevate your leadership presence in a virtual meeting.
•Set up your camera so that it is facing you directly at eye height. Be punctual and well-groomed.
•Nail your introduction – it is a direct reflection of your personal brand.
•Take a few deep breaths before speaking to ensure your tone of voice and speed of delivery is considered and in line with your leadership presence.
•Be mindful of your body language and the habits that can distract from your message.
•Show pro-social, inclusive signals through your gestures and eye contact.
•Be succinct in your communication and respect that online meetings carry different levels of fatigue.
•Set up your communication for success, use mute and question time appropriately.
•Be punctual, prepared and know your subject before the meeting.
By following these proven techniques to project your leadership presence in virtual meetings, you will help ensure you are held in high esteem as a leader and given the opportunities you deserve.
If you would like assistance in building your dream team, whether it be a virtual or on-site team, contact a recruitment agency like Trojan Recruitment Group and receive advice from the experts in labour-hire, permanent and contract staff.