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Rachel Isip, Outreach Events Mgr, SLAC Nat. Accelerator Lab

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Virtual Presentation Tips Pt 2 - Executive Presence in a Virtual World

(posted: January 4th, 2021)

The It factor.


Executive presence.

Commanding the room.

It is important to come across as confident and engaging with the people you are speaking to, and with. But tactics that work well among colleagues in a conference room may not translate to Brady-Bunch-style squares on a computer screen.

This is the second part of our series on touching up your virtual presenting skills.

Virtual Presentation Tips, Part 2

To help keep your impact actual when your presence is virtual, consider these five tips.

Lighting and Angle

These impact your presence as well as the overall quality of your presentation.

Light: Add extra light to banish shadows and make your face clearly visible - shadows can be "artistic" but can also make you seem untrustworthy. Light yourself from the front and slightly to the side, ideally from both sides. You can use table lamps, or portable work lights, or find some LED video lights online.

Angle: Make sure that your camera is directly in line with your eyes. You don't want your audience to be looking up your nose!

Nod, Smile, and Gesture

Effective eye contact, gestures, and facial expressions can make you appear confident and relaxed, which leads to a more compelling presence, especially on camera.

Smile: A warm smile without teeth when others are speaking is a simple way to convey connection and, thus, charisma.

Eye contact: Look into the camera; as awkward as this feels, this is where your audience is, not on the screen. Practice a steady, relaxed gaze on the camera lens and people will feel like you are making eye contact with them. When delivering prepared remarks, have quick notes or outlines with key words you can glance at rather than reading your full talk.

Gestures: If you tend to talk with your hands, go ahead and gesture, but keep movements small and controlled. Don't get too close to the camera with your hands. Instead of filling the frame with your head and shoulders, back away from the camera a bit so that your gestures can be seen.

Voice Matters, Now More than Ever

Even those with a practiced speaking voice can run into trouble in virtual presentations because of poor internet connections, low bandwidth, and other electronic distortion.

Consider a high-quality external microphone, which helps to retain the rhythms and nuances of your voice and does wonders for the overall clarity of your audio.

Speak more slowly than you would in person, and pay attention to your enunciation. Come to a full stop after you've finished a thought. Vary your pitch to emphasize points - it's more like regular conversation and is more engaging.

Finally, pause. Pauses allow your points to sink in. They are also useful to indicate that it's another person's turn to speak.

Body Language

Our body language has a lot to say about who we are and how confident and professional we appear. Even in virtual settings you can use your body language to enhance your executive presence.

Posture: If it works for you, consider a standing desk for your presentations and meetings. Standing is more dynamic and expansive than sitting. If you do sit, avoid:

  • Leaning on the desk. It can make you look bored and uninterested.
  • Leaning back in your chair. This tends to look unprofessional, uninterested, and even a bit dismissive.
  • Crossing your arms. You already know this - crossed arms are "closed" and can convey negative impressions from defensiveness to aggression.


  • Sit towards the front of your chair, a bit on the edge. This helps you look more dynamic and engaged.
  • Relax and consciously expand your shoulders. This is a version of taking up more space, and helps you to feel and seem more confident.

Before You Go on Camera

Having your tech sorted out before you join or start a video presentation is a given. So, since you are so prepared, take a few minutes before you step in front of the camera to center yourself and get your blood moving.

Movement (a few jumping jacks, a brisk walk) will help dissipate any excess energy related to nerves while also making you look a bit flushed. This can make you appear more lively and dynamic.

Follow that up by breathing and doing your power pose. Some simple deep breathing exercises will slow down your heart rate and calm and center you. Standing in your power pose (like Superman or Wonder Woman) increases your confidence and power. All together these tricks will make you appear confident, calm, and in control when you turn on the camera.

Which of these best practices are you going to try? What else have you found that enhances your virtual executive presence and "e-charisma"?

Next time: Set the Stage - Tips to Look Your Professional Best on Camera.

The Virtual Presentation Skills Series:

Stay grounded, healthy, and hopeful,
- Kristi


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