With more of us hosting and attending meetings online, keep in mind you can still appear executive, organized, and centered even on camera vs. in person. This blog series provides helpful tips on enhancing that executive presence and making your next digital meeting a success.
Set up an attractive background
Few meeting hosts think of their background view when setting up their web cam. But overlooking this step feels like a mistake. When hosting live sessions using the 2U platform, I always feel more comfortable (and more executive) when the web cam view behind me reflects me and my work well. Specifically, I ensure my background looks:
- Simple vs. cluttered. Strive for a plain wall vs. a busy bookcase or disorganized room, for instance. If you lack the space for a devoted room for your meetings, use a screen to segregate your meeting from the remainder of your room.
- Minimally decorated. I have one photo print of a New Zealand fern and my favorite hand-painted Indian metal pot behind me, for instance. You can see a partial view of my UC Berkeley diploma, but that’s it.
- Nicely lit. (See my next point for details.)
- Different over time. When I enter a new season, I often create an entirely different backdrop to my meetings. Decorate. Have fun. Your regular attendees will appreciate (and notice) the changes.
Ensure your lighting flatters and enhances your meeting
Having the right lighting for your meeting also remains key. You want to avoid a setting that looks too dark (to avoid putting your face in shadow) and yet too light (lest you create a glare preventing your audience from seeing your eyes). To create the correct lighting:
- Play around with different approaches to ensure you remain 100% visible to your audience.
- Consider side lighting.
- Dim your overhead lighting.
- Have a desk light handy for reading hard-copy documents if you’re visually challenged.
- Watch for window glare (depending on the time of day of your meetings) and if the meeting progresses into the evening, have back-up lighting ready after the sun sets.
Set up your web cam at a flattering, helpful angle
If you’re hosting a digital meeting (and even for attendees), the angle of a web cam can influence how executive we appear on camera. To ensure you come across as engaged and confident, ensure your web cam angle:
- Sits close enough to help you establish regular eye contact with the audience. If you’re too far away, your audience can’t make that vital contact with your eyes.
- Sits far away enough so your web cam doesn’t zoom into you in an odd way. Avoid cutting off the top of your head if possible. Strive for a news anchor crop.
- Allows you to read from any vital notes at eye level. If you’re looking down (or to the side) as you read, you’ll miss connecting with your audience. I position Post-it notes at eye level just behind my web cam. That way, I can avoid sounding flat as I consult these points. (Even so, keep sparse notes and try winging any presentation instead. When we read, we sound flat.)
Have everything you need nearby
Once your meeting starts, like any meeting, you must stay focused and on track to keep the meeting running efficiently and smoothly. To avoid disrupting the flow, have a beverage, pens, note paper, throat soothers and any other tool you need right nearby. Remove any remaining, non-vital items from your desk. (This last step really helps you feel calm and organized.)
Keep your environment quiet
As best you can, control and avoid any background noise so your audience can focus on you and your wisdom. For my live meetings I host regularly via 2u, I find the following tactics help:
- Post a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign to your front door when hosting from your home office or to an office door when on-site. (A ding-dong at the door can off set you more than you’d think.)
- Sit on a separate floor (or in a separate area) from where family members/colleagues might accidentally disturb.
- Remind frequent callers to not call when you’re live hosting a digital meeting. An incoming call, even when you’ve muted the ring tone, can distract you.
- Shut down Messenger or any other social media/chat systems with noisy pop-up messages.
- Mute your phone when you’re not addressing your audience, but place a Post-it note on your screen to remind yourself you’re muted. That way, when the host (or your attendees) ask for your wisdom, you smoothly un-mute and respond.