How to Create & Maintain Presence when Running Virtual Meetings

As our working worlds have now become virtual, a few clients have approached me looking for tips on how to create & maintain presence when running virtual meetings. So here are a few pointers when running a virtual meeting to ensure you:

  • look good
  • sound good
  • maximise engagement

You are on camera so a lot of the regular world ‘Presentation Skills’ tips still come into play.

1.  Test the tech.  Yes, do make sure that your sound and camera are working o.k. prior to getting on to your call. Also, once you are ready to start, check with your meeting participants to ensure they can hear and see you and vice versa

2.  Turn off notifications.  Make sure you turn off notifications to email, WhatsApp, phone, Instant Messaging …  There is nothing worse when you are trying to look and sound your best and you keep being interrupted by notifications

3.  Dress for the part.  Yes, even if you decide to wear track-suit bottoms or leggings ‘out of shot’ – do wear business appropriate clothes on top or at least ‘in shot’

4.  Ensure your Webcam is at eye level. Bump up the height of your laptop so the Webcam is at eye level.  A boxed board game, a stack of steady books or any rectangular box that is stable and has height.  Position your laptop or phone on this and test it to see that your head is positioned ‘square in the square’ and the webcam is at your eye level.  This will help you create rapport and engagement

5.  Ensure you have good lighting.  Lighting should be positioned behind the webcam or slightly angled so it doesn’t cast shadows on your face.  Also, be careful of the colour lampshade you use as darker colours cause more shadows and dull tones.  A soft yellow is good to work with.  You can buy ring lights online but I find a good yellow hued lamp works just as well

6.  Use natural lighting.  As an add-on from the previous point, position yourself facing a window so the natural light highlights your face.  Avoid placing yourself with your back to a window as you’ll show up as a silhouette at worst or with loads of unforgiving shadows on your face at best.  Also, avoid sitting side-on to a window as again, shadows will appear on the opposite side of your face

7.  Frame yourself.  Make sure you are framed in the screen.  Think of how a TV presenter looks up close in a head and shoulder shot – how do they look?  Well you certainly don’t just see the top of their head or the side of their shoulder.  Again, you are on camera so present yourself as so – you are always ‘on’

8.  Have a ‘constant’ tidy backdrop (background).  It doesn’t matter if everything around you is in a heap but do make sure you have one tidy area that you can go to for an impromptu meeting or call.  An interesting picture / photo with some books and a plant creates a nice backdrop.  Avoid strange artwork or a window with people passing by outside as both will distract your meeting participants.  You’d be amazed with the amount of backdrops I’ve recently seen with clothes horses, bins, untidy bookshelves and drawers with clothes not quite tucked into the drawers – think of your Personal Brand, your working space is an extension of your Personal Brand so make sure it looks tidy

9.  Use a quiet area or room.  By that I mean that both you and your participants are not distracted by noise and activity.  This may take some scheduling if you have young children or you live with other people who need to use the same space.  However, it will be less distracting to you and to your meeting participants if the area is quiet

10.  Use a headset or ear buds.  This way, you’ll be able to concentrate more on what is being said.  Also, no one else outside of the call (meeting) will hear what is being said which is extremely important for confidentiality.  If you have a problem with background noise, a good noise reduction headset works a treat.

11.  Remember you are on camera!  So again, think of a TV presenter.  You wouldn’t see someone on camera constantly looking around, playing with their hair, jiggling a pen in their mouths, looking out the window, walking out of shot.  The great thing about the technology we have now on Zoom, MS Teams, Skype for Business etc is we can easily both mute ourselves and turn off our camera.  One last note on turning off your camera, do make sure you have put up a good profile photo of yourself so your Personal Brand is always on if you are not.

I guarantee these tips will help you enormously in any virtual meeting situation.

Till next time.