Executive Presence in a Virtual Environment

Our world has changed dramatically this year, calling for different ways of thinking and operating. Leaders everywhere are trying to find new ways to inspire and engage team members in a virtual environment. A skill many are looking to develop is demonstrating executive presence virtually.

First, what is Executive Presence?

Executive presence is one of those terms that gets thrown around, often without a definition or description. It’s been said by many, “You just know it when you see it.”

I think there are 3 main parts to executive presence:

  1. Show up confidently. You’re clear on what you want to accomplish with the meeting or interaction. You’ve thought about how to accomplish the intended outcomes, and you’ve done your preparation.
  2. Be present. You are there “in the moment” with your team, your customer and/or your partners. You’re not distracted, you’re not thinking of anything else, those in the session with you have your full attention.
  3. Know your role. When are you the presenter, inspiring and sharing information? When are you the facilitator, eliciting input from others? and When do you need to be the participant, contributing ideas?

Executive presence is important because it inspires and engages your team. Engagement leads to improved performance and ultimately getting the results you want and need.

How do you build the skill of demonstrating Executive Presence?

It takes intentionality and practice.

Clarify and write down the purpose of each section of the meeting. Determine what’s needed to achieve the purpose of each section.

You’ve got to practice and practice in the platform. Open up a Zoom or Google Hangout session by yourself, understand how to share a document and setup your screen the way you want. Know how to use the features that attendees can use to contribute ideas and input.

How can you stand out and not add to what we now call “Zoom fatigue”?

Plan for frequent and varied interaction. Zoom and other platforms are robust.

…Ask everyone to type a response in the Chat panel.

…Pose a Yes/No question and have folks go to the Participant Panel and give you a green check or red X.

…Ask folks to raise their hand in the participant panel if they’ve had this experience.

…Put a continuum on the screen and ask each team member to put an arrow where they are on that continuum.

…Have people type their thoughts on the screen. (This can be anonymous.)

…Share a google doc or Miro board and everyone types in it real time.

…Set up poll questions.

Tailor your content.

In order to ultimately be powerful and engaging, you’ve got to give your team what THEY want and need, not what you want to cover or even think they should know. If you don’t know what that is, ask them.

The mechanics of Executive Presence are different in a virtual environment. Be intentional and practice in your platform so you can show up and be present and confident.


  • Diane Janovsky

    One of the biggest challenges of leading virtual meetings is not only “being present” yourself, but also finding ways to draw in your participants to help THEM be present. Amy’s list of suggestions to increase variety and interaction were super useful for that!

  • Amy Riley is right on the money with her recent contributing article to HPISolutions Power Ideas. These practical solutions will maximize the value of your online meetings. Stay tuned to Power Ideas for our series on Re-Boarding and employee engagement as the workforce begins to transition in part or in whole to more traditional workplaces and watch for future articles from Amy Riley, a published author and well known public speaker.

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