We are all in unprecedented times. The COVID-19 situation translates to tremendous change as the situation and markets rapidly evolve. To successfully lead and manage teams in uncertain times, every leader must effectively communicate and be fully engaged with employees, colleagues, clients, family, and friends.
As people across the globe adjust to working remotely, video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and more are being leveraged for business meetings and virtual team collaboration. However, virtual meetings also need the speaker or host to adjust their style and online presence to be effective, as well as ensure the audience is engaged throughout the entire conversation and meeting agenda. It is very easy for leaders to assume that in-person presence of a conference room is the same as their virtual presence in facilitating a remote/virtual meeting. It is important to remember that attendees often multi-task in virtual meetings and a few dominate the discussion or remain disengaged.
What is a Virtual Presence?
A presence is the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing. In the context of an online meeting, virtual presence is the skill required to have engaging and impactful conversations as well as effectively deliver a positive and impactful digital experience to your audience. Elevating both your persona and presence in a Zoom, Teams, or other virtual meeting, requires not only engaging the audience in video conference-style modality but also ensuring your message is delivered as intended.
Here are 6 powerful tips for every leader to help exude their virtual presence as well as engage their audience:
Prepare, Engage, and Conclude
- Technology Readiness:
Test the online meeting technology in advance. Always recommend the participants to test the virtual meeting technology prior to the meeting. Ensure the meeting link, dial-in instructions, and discussion topics are sent well ahead of the meeting. People need the ability to participate via audio but make it clear if video conference is the preferred norm. Pre-arrange how participants will check in on changing meeting arrangements or instructions. This will help the speaker or host to avoid delays and technical distractions in order to ensure a smooth start.
- Agenda and Timeliness:
As a host or the main facilitator, start the meeting a few minutes early. Set clear objectives and send out a detailed agenda including any background documents or presentation(s) to review. A structured agenda always helps to keep things on track and makes sure everyone knows the meeting schedule and topics. Many of the online meeting platforms have capabilities to send out reminders prior to the scheduled meeting.
- Lights, camera, action!
The first step is to establish trust within the virtual participants. When using video capabilities, look and focus into your camera, be present and mindful. Ensure you have good lightning. Use a good virtual background to ensure it is palatable and not distracting.
To make everyone feel connected, use eye contact with the audience by focusing on your camera or webcam. Video conferences are best effective when people can see each other’s facial expressions and body language. Practice looking into your camera during the meeting when you speak to keep the audience engaged.
- Pauses and Inflection:
Good virtual presence goes beyond enabling webcams and screen sharing. A strong voice, especially in virtual meetings, convey confidence, credibility and makes a strong connection with your audience.
Pausing at intervals or during transitions gives participants a few moments to reflect or note down key discussion points. Vocal variety, or inflection, is a way to communicate by changing the sound of your voice using different speeds and tones. Good vocal variety helps keep the audience engaged and clues them in on your meaning, feelings or emphasis.
- Audience Involvement and Feedback:
Audience participation is critical for the success of any meeting, whether physical or digital. As facilitators, we need to monitor the flow of the conversation and keep things moving. Check on the participation: who has shown up and for how long?
The speaker or host can periodically call on participants to comment, speak, or answer a question. The facilitator can also use the meeting platform poll feature or “raise-a-hand” feature to capture the voice of the audience and solicit their feedback. The chat window is also an effective tool to share audience feedback across the group or to the speaker.
- Summarize and Close:
Always reserve some time at the end of the meeting for Q&A. Thank the participants for their time and feedback and encourage them to use the chat and poll in future meetings. It’s a good practice for the speaker to close the meeting with a brief summary and participants to-dos or action items.
Virtual meetings have now become are an integral part of our daily lives. These powerful tips and best practices will help any speaker or meeting host to elevate and amplify your virtual presence. In addition, these skills are very relevant to online meetings, virtual trainings, or webinars – for both hosts and participants. it will help in your personal and professional life to be well prepared when the time comes to take on the opportunities that arise in your social and professional networking efforts and/or leadership position.
About the Author:Somesh has over 25+ years of experience in Senior Management roles within the Financial and Technology Industry. Somesh has been associated with Toastmasters from the past 7 years and currently serves as Area Director for District 83, Area 41. He also is part of District 83, Speakers Bureau and has conducted several Youth Leadership workshops across US, Europe and India.
Somesh Chablani, DTM Cell: 347-276-2026 Email: email@example.com