The last two years have brought about many changes in our lives, not least in the realm of leadership and corporate communication.
The pandemic accelerated the shift towards remote and hybrid working, and distributed workforces are now the norm in most organisations. From digital presentations and webinars to video calls and conferences, much of our daily communication is now conducted virtually.
This doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon, with the global video conferencing market expected to reach $6.61 billion in 2022.
The Challenges of Virtual Communication
Virtual communication presents several challenges for managers and team leaders, from building a strong sense of company culture to nurturing relationships across the virtual divide, but it is important to also acknowledge the opportunities and benefits it offers.
For example, we have more control over what our audience sees and hears during a virtual presentation or meeting. However, even with the best software and equipment available, your presentations will fall flat if your virtual presence is somewhat lacking.
Having a strong virtual presence is a key factor in connecting and communicating effectively with remote audiences. It is fundamental to inspiring and influencing employees, clients and prospects alike, regardless of everyone’s physical location, but it’s not a skill that comes easy to most.
In this article, we explore the importance of having a strong virtual presence and how you can improve your virtual presence, as well as looking at the rising area of virtual presence training post-pandemic.
Benefits of developing your virtual presence
There is no doubt that virtual communication has played a monumental role in the shift to remote and hybrid working. Our ability to connect and collaborate effectively with each other would not be possible without advances in video conferencing tools, but this is only one piece of the puzzle.
Much like executive presence, virtual presence can seem like an intangible concept. It is the thing that allows you to create a connection with others in a digital environment. The aim is to make your audience feel included, engaged, and empowered to apply what they’ve learned in the real world.
When it comes to leadership, virtual presence can influence everything from your perceived credibility to your ability to build trust and engage your audience. Developing it involves paying close attention to the subtle nuances of communication, such as being (virtually) present and ensuring that your emotions, energy and tone of voice are in alignment with each other.
When communicating virtually, it is equally (if not more) important to craft and deliver a clear message that resonates with your target audience. There is nothing worse than staring at a screen while the speaker rambles on incoherently, so if you want to engage people, remember the three Cs: Clear, Concise, and Compelling.
Tips for boosting your virtual presence
Having a strong virtual presence means being aware of the needs of your audience, actively listening and responding with empathy, as well as continuously building a sense of trust.
Here are some of our favourite techniques for connecting and establishing a rapport with a virtual audience:
Emotional engagement is the key to communicating effectively in a virtual environment, so act as if you’re in the same room as your audience. Replicate the experience of making eye contact by looking directly into your camera when you’re speaking, rather than at the participants’ faces.
Sit up and position yourself centrally within the frame. Body language is important, even virtually, and no one will be able to take you seriously if you are just a talking head sitting at the bottom of the screen.
Focus on your breathing, pace and tone of voice. Project a loud, clear voice to ensure everyone can hear you (but don’t shout!). This will help to boost your authority and credibility.
Eliminate distractions by putting your phone on silent, and resist the temptation to multitask. You might not think it, but it is glaringly obvious to your audience if you’re doing something else off to the side. If a task or notification requires your attention and it really can’t wait, simply acknowledge it and excuse yourself for a moment.
Avoid jargon, buzzwords, and filler words. Your audience will feel more connected to you if you speak naturally and use language they can relate to.
Make it interactive
Acknowledge people when they participate, for example by nodding their head in agreement or raising their hand to ask a question. This will help to foster a sense of inclusion and connection between you and your audience.
Check your background
Are you going to use a virtual background or a DIY backdrop? Whatever you choose, it shouldn’t be a distraction for people. Make sure you aren’t filming with bright light behind you, as your audience won’t be able to see you clearly.
You will most likely have allocated some time at the end of any virtual presentation for questions, but how will you handle a spontaneous question in the middle of your presentation?
Make sure you are prepared for this eventuality and have a plan in place for dealing with interruptions. Being able to weave the answer into your presentation will make you seem even more professional and credible.
Pause for reflection
We all dread awkward silences, but don’t be tempted to keep talking the entire time. Intentional pauses and periods of silence allow time for your audience to process and reflect on what you’ve said.
It also gives you a chance to check in with your posture and breathing, ensuring that you are still projecting an air of confidence and authority.
Virtual Presence Training
Honing your virtual presence can greatly enhance the impact of your words in a virtual presentation or meeting. This is crucial for effectively communicating and building relationships with your staff, colleagues, clients and business partners, whether they are in the next town or 2000 miles away.
At NxtGEN Executive Presence, we offer a range of programmes that are designed to help you communicate virtually with more impact:
- Our Virtual Presentations programme will teach you how to keep your audience engaged from the first slide to the last.
- With our Corporate Storytelling programme, you’ll learn how to identify the key elements for crafting and delivering powerful stories with data.
- And, our Visual Storytelling programme can help you define a memorable storyline and then transform it into engaging visual aids for your audience.
Every one of our programmes can be tailored to suit your unique needs, so get in touch today and let us help you master the art of virtual communication.