Owning the Virtual Room: Showing Up Confidently in Virtual Meetings

career advice Nov 03, 2020
Black professional woman on virtual meeting

By now you're probably used to conducting much of your life through Zoom or Microsoft Teams.  However, people are still struggling with how to project confidence and a powerful presence online in virtual meetings.

I've been coaching a lot of speakers, executives, and other leaders on how to command the online space, project, and hold the attention of the audience for several months now.  Why? Because our usual communication tactics and style that worked in person don't quite translate to Brady-Bunch-style quadrants on our computer screens. 

Whether you're attending a formal meeting or just going over a few points with your manager, it's essential that your confidence and "know how" shine through. If you're looking to promote, stand out, build your influence and credibility, or make an impact, here's how to make sure you own the virtual room.

  1. Show up - First and foremost, you need to know that you deserve to be in the room. Executive presence is as much your mindset as your visual look and body language. Nothing detracts more from projecting an air of confidence like self-doubt and undermining yourself. Now is the time to manage any self-doubts before you show up on camera. If necessary practice in the mirror the night before the meeting. This is the perfect way to gauge how you'll come across on camera and make any necessary adjustments. Don't forget that even if you're muted you’re still being watched, so continue to pay attention and manage your professional reputation. 
  1. Glam up - Your clothes and image speaks volumes. Even though you may be wearing sweats or pajama pants, you want to make sure that everything above the waist projects a confident image. Don't make the mistake of just showing up for the meeting. Plan ahead. Figure out what you're going to wear, add a few choice accessories, don't forget makeup and style your hair. You don't have to do anything fancy at all. The point is to make an effort, manage perceptions and project the image you want others to have of you. By making that extra effort you'll feel more confident and in control.
  1. Sit up - Be sure you are eye level with the camera.There is one, and only one, acceptable camera angle: head-on and at eye level. Direct eye contact garners trust with your audience and is a vital way to reinforce your point. So many people make the mistake of positioning their camera too low so it looks as if they're looking down on you. Instead, keep your camera at eye level. You can do this by propping your laptop or webcam up on a box or a stack of books. Be sure to sit up straight as slouching makes you look unprofessional and sloppy.  Position yourself in the center of the screen. Is your head cut off, then you’re too close. If your entire body is in view, then you’re too far away. If only half of your head is in sight and only your eyes are in view, adjust your camera. Also choose a neutral background and be very careful with those virtual backgrounds. It's not uncommon for all or part of your body to disappear within a virtual background which is a distraction and takes away from the professionalism you want to project. 
  1. Light up - Be sure you're well lit. Opening up your shades and sitting in front of a window provides a lot of natural light, which is the best lighting you can have. Be sure you're facing the window instead of behind you. I recommend having your largest light source either right in front of you or no more than 45 degrees away from directly in front of you.There are also several great lighting options you can purchase that can help you be seen clearly. Sitting in the shadows or a dark room doesn't do much for your confidence or other's impression of you while you're on a call. 
  1. Speak up - Contribute and share your thoughts. Get on the agenda, comment in the chat section, raise your hand and contribute intentionally and thoughtfully. Speak up using a dynamic speaking voice to keep your listener’s attention. Make sure you're using a good mic so your voice comes across clear and confident. Vary your intonation to highlight key points and make your speech more engaging. Also use your body language. Nod, smile, use your hands and facial expressions to support your messaging online.

It should go without saying but be sure you turn your camera on. All of the above won't matter if the only thing your fellow participants see is your name or a black screen. It's often assumed, unless you have connectivity issues, that you're not present when your camera is off. So don't go through all of this amazing work and preparation, to throw it all out of the window. 



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