Executive Presence in Virtual Meetings for Zoom and Other Social Platforms

In today’s digital workplace, where teams work remotely, we need to focus more on improving executive presence in virtual meetings to communicate better and lead effectively. There are several platforms available, like LinkedIn Chat all of which do a great job of enabling the virtual meeting experience. Granted, but why is it so much more difficult than running a face-to-face meeting? 

At the best of times, most of us are anxious speakers. 

Our shyness, nerves and anxiety revolve around what to say and how to say it.  Those feelings do not just go away when we meet with others virtually. Our discomfort grows when we add to that the ‘newness’ of these virtual platforms, the limitations of internet bandwidth and the discomfort of always being on screen. 

We were used to letting our minds wander while watching TV. Now, it’s watching us! A further complication is interpreting facial expressions when participating in a screen-to-screen meeting. 

Micro-facial expressions are essential to our understanding of one another.

On-screen, facial expressions all but disappear, are distorted or are frozen for a moment due to internet connectivity. Making eye contact, which is critical in face-to-face communication is difficult to achieve on screen. It is hard to read body language or identify nonverbal cues. 

As a default, we tend to look at ourselves (yikes).

Some of us are exhausted with virtual meetings. It seems that all our social interaction is onscreen. Our job, family, club, church, and even our doctor all occur at home, on screen. 

What has not changed for leaders is the need to plan, manage and facilitate our team meetings. 

Importantly, we need to engage our meeting attendees. That said, many of us were not always successful in engaging our teams when we met face-to-face.  Virtual meetings just exacerbate the problem.

Here are 5 best practices for virtual team meetings on Zoom and other social platforms:


Dressing appropriately contributes to your executive presence online, whereas dressing inappropriately takes away from it.

The best practices for online meetings is to dress for your audience. If your office dress code is business casual, then dress that way for your virtual meetings.  

Here are some additional guidelines to be mindful about when on camera:

  • Avoid bright-coloured clothing and accessories; they tend to reflect light and are too vivid on camera. Instead, wear a blue, gray, pink, or beige shirt/blouse
  • Avoid black suits/jackets which tend to diminish your appearance because they absorb too much light.  Instead, wear a medium-colored suit, best bets are blue/dark blue, gray, or brown
  • Avoid fabrics with complicated patterns such as checks, tight/close stripes, herringbones, tweeds, and loud plaids. Fabrics of this design tend to strobe and or flutter on camera which can be distracting
  • Wear clothes made of natural fabrics that tend to breathe easily under the warmth of studio lights. This allows you to remain cool and comfortable
  • Avoid shiny jewelry that may sparkle or any jewellery that rattles and may cause a distracting noise
  • Style your hair off your face to avoid shadows. A clearer view of your face allows the audience to see your expressions and connect with you more when you speak


Merriam Webster dictionary defines “in the best light” as – “in a way that makes someone, or something appear in the best way.” This is especially true need to convey executive presence in a virtual meeting. Many people do not consider proper lighting at all, and it shows.  Regrettably, it reflects on their ‘presence’ as well.

The good news is you don’t have to invest hundreds of dollars in Hollywood lighting to show up “in the best light.” Ambient light can do the trick. Face a window if you have one in your workspace. If that does not produce the desired effect, consider augmenting your space with additional lighting. 


Sound quality is important for developing an executive presence in virtual meetings to keep people’s attention focused. Investing in a Bluetooth computer headset with a microphone can significantly improve the clarity of audio and reduce background noise, ensuring everyone can hear and understand each other without distractions. For the host leading the meeting, clear sound improves their ability to present information and engage with participants. It also enables participants to ask questions and contribute to discussions without difficulty.

During the meeting, participants can easily unmute themselves to speak or ask questions, and the host can quickly mute individuals to minimize background noise. This seamless verbal communication creates a productive environment where everyone feels comfortable participating. Whether presenting ideas, sharing updates, or discussing important topics, clear sound quality improves the meeting experience and ensures that valuable contributions are heard and understood by everyone on the call.


When setting up your virtual meeting space, it’s essential to consider how others see you on the call. If you are going to use your natural environment as a background, ensure it is neat and free of distracting objects so that people on the call can focus on you and the discussion. Some web-based meeting platforms like ZOOM provide virtual backgrounds that you can substitute for your natural background. If you choose a virtual backdrop, you should consider using a green screen. It provides stability to the background and eliminates jumpy images.

Camera Angle

You want to look your best when you are on camera. The first step is to locate your web cam and raise your laptop so that your webcam is at eye level or slightly above. A virtual meeting needs human connection, and if your video is not relatable because your camera is too high, then it will be a distraction. Angles that are too low or too high will be distracting. Humanize your meeting by literally leveling with and looking into the eyes of the people you’re talking to. You may have to raise your laptop using boxes or their equivalent. One more thing: if you are using two screens, make sure you move the platform screen below your camera otherwise it will look like you are looking at something else in the room.

Finally, establish how near or far away from the camera you need to be. The safest composition for all devices is upper chest level. Mimic how close you will get in an actual in-person meeting. When you are meeting someone in person, face to face, you don’t get too close or too far away – you just keep enough distance that you can hear each other. Frame your position using the ‘Rule of Thirds’, a mechanism that photographers use to frame their shots. 

Final Thoughts

When engaging in virtual meetings, it’s important to exude confidence through your executive presence. Start by ensuring your posture is upright and your shoulders are relaxed, avoiding slouching or leaning on one shoulder. Sitting up straight not only improves your posture but also conveys confidence and credibility to the person you’re chatting with. Maintain eye contact by looking directly at the camera, as eye contact conveys attentiveness and sincerity. Utilize gestures and nods to demonstrate active listening and engagement in the conversation. Be mindful of your tone and inflection, as they can influence how your messages are perceived. Avoid speaking too softly or with a lack of confidence, and instead, project your voice with clarity and conviction. By implementing these tactics, you can master your presence in virtual meetings and make a positive impression on your professional connections.

Get in touch with Corporate Class today to improve your executive presence in virtual meetings with our Executive Presence and Leadership course.

Barry Kuntz
Senior Associate, Corporate Class Inc.

Leadership in a Crisis: Coronavirus Crisis Management Strategies in Under 3-Minutes

I have had my share of professional crisis to manage in a 30+ year career in industry. 

However, nothing compares to what we are experiencing right now with the coronavirus pandemic.  A year ago, in helping a major university with a scandal that rocked their world, I volunteered to formulate a program, using my experience, which we internally called Crisis Leadership: The New Normal?

As I use the material now with coaching clients (former and current) and any friends who will listen, I find myself apologizing that this is too simplistic.  However, I am told by them to “button it,” and it’s helping.  I guess it’s beneficial to have some frameworks against which to plot their current experiences.  So, I am happy to share a little bit of that with you.

When it comes to leadership in a crisis…

It is much smarter to prepare for and prevent a crisis than repair and repent. 

I am not sure from whom I borrowed that phrase. One of the most important things we all learn when going through a crisis is the cost is always high and unnecessary. However, if handled poorly, the costs and risks will increase exponentially. I imagine this sounds familiar to you if you have experienced a crisis.  We also learned that the impact (its power and force) of any crisis, though it may feel like an event or a relatively discrete moment in time, will persist far longer in terms of impact including loss of reputation, increased cost of regulation and compliance and now, of course, lives. 

It is not too late to do your best as a leader! Can I give you a few pointers?  If I can’t, we will talk about that leadership problem later.

We are taught as leaders to take charge, be at the front of the pack. So, what we often see is leaders who tend to exhibit excessive confidence in how they manage the moment, often with minimal preparation or study.  This can be a lonely place to be and is dangerous to you and others.

You can still prepare to be a better leader in this moment.  While I can’t get it all done, in this 3-minute leadership in a crisis education bite, what I can give you is:

  • a definition of a crisis (thanks to Pearson & Clair),
  • the 3 phases of a crisis, and
  • a competency to quickly explore and eliminate

So, what is an actual crisis?

When developing this program originally, I did not have an operational definition in my back pocket.  I had examples and illustrations but not really a definition.  Let me share one that I found useful. 

A crisis is a situation or event that is likely to be:

  • high in consequence
  • low in probability
  • high in ambiguity relative to solutions

I am going to assume that with the coronavirus pandemic, we can all agree that we have these 3 factors today in abundance. 

  • Consequences: Consequences are dire and have already impacted lives and families around the globe.
  • Probabilities: We can debate probabilities of this disease and contagion factors. However, from my perspective it appears we did not think this was probable at this magnitude and this might be the toughest challenge of all.  How long will this go on and how will we recover?
  • Ambiguity of Solutions: It seems to me we have in great quantity ambiguity of solutions:  how we respond, where supplies can be secured, what will work for containment, steps to mitigate, medications to use, vaccine development and who’s in control of what decisions. The list is endless.

We agree it is a crisis, so now what?

These 3 elements can help you to contain and focus the conversations you are likely having daily.

The Phases of Crisis Management During the Covid-19 Pandemic

No doubt we are in the acute phase of this pandemic, and yes, there are 2 other phases (pre and post).  Many organizations have risk plans, conduct annual environmental scans and even drill practice, as part of their leadership in a crisis strategy.  Use that experience and relish it if you have it in place.  In the heat of the moment you might not remember, ‘oh my god we modeled a similar scenario.’  There might be insights to revisit.  We have heard that the CDC or maybe it was FEMA has a 400+ page resource guide for such an event we are experiencing – I personally hope someone is using it.

Acute Phase

In the acute phase you should have a response team not a response individual!!!  Even if you are the sole leader of your practice/department/business, we are all in this together.  If your “go to” leadership style is to take on too much alone, this will not work.  Don’t shield people from the truth, don’t limit a spokesperson to one individual.  Keep messages simple but frequent, and always let people know when they will hear from you next.  Ask a lot of questions, keep lines of communications open and listen as much as you speak. 

Pre and Post Phases

We will discuss the pre and post crisis management strategies and phases another time, but we are all learning a lot!  My greatest caution is to stay present on the crisis. No one wants to be where we are, so natural inclination is to talk about what’s next: when operations are back to normal or when the economy really turns back on.  Stay present. 

Lastly you have a lot of leadership strengths that will help you.  In our original program, we identified 16 crisis leadership traits to cultivate and 2 traits to avoid at all cost.  In this limited time lets go straight to the one trait that will PUNISH you and those around you:

Don’t be a Blocked Personal Learner: resisting new information, confident only with your current skills, unwilling to try new approaches, certain that you have it all figured out.  So how do you know if you have this deathly trait?  Quite honestly, others can tell you but if this is a problem for you but they are likely to fear you as you have more power or status or degrees or accreditations. 

Have you ever been called a perfectionist?  Does the “stubborn” label work?  Have you been accused by your spouse or children (who are braver than most) of being stuck in the past or your own solutions?  A friend’s young adult son frequently tells him his views are no longer relevant and he better wake up.  This harsh feedback can have a positive impact if you take action. I can offer a few quick suggestions on how to compensate: collaborate more, listen more, ask questions, delegate or defer to others

If you are brave, give permission to someone who works for or with you to speak truth to power and tell you if this could be you.

I wish you were sitting across from me (yes 6 feet away and wearing a mask) I would ask you about how you are doing in effectively managing leadership in a crisis.  I would close our conversation focused only on you and your personal resilience. 

We all know this is going to be a long haul in the acute phase.  How you weather this storm, how you rebound from adversity is key.  Managing your stress, accepting tough feedback, forgiving your mistakes, managing your emotions and building your empathy skills takes a lifetime of work but you have never needed these traits more. 

I will say that if you can advance your resilience capabilities during this crisis you will likely be well set for the rest of your life. 

Chris Oster
Associate Partner, Corporate Class Inc.

Learning to Rise During COVID-19 with Dare to Lead by Dr. Brené Brown

We’re all experiencing a new normal – both in grieving our past lives, prior to February 29, 2020, and in finding a new way forward. The psychological effects of COVID-19 have been devastating for our society.

Since March 1, 2020, our global environment has changed due to COVID-19. CBS anchor Gayle King says, “I feel emotionally drained. I feel spiritually drained. I think a lot of people are feeling this during this time.”

The second order of effects of COVID-19 include disruption of family routine, social distancing, isolation, loneliness, layoffs, job loss, exposure to extreme stress, and moment by moment digestion of knowing that more than 2 million people across the globe have COVID-19 exposures and that there are more than 180,000 deaths globally. These are all anxiety provoking.

Learning resiliency skills during and after a major event such as COVID-19 is not easy. Modern neuroscience tells us that we experience physical, social, and mental threats, all with the same intensity.

However, in this light, our rising skills are ever so imperative. Author Dr. Brené Brown says that gaining skills in rising up enable people to take risks and jump into the vast unknown. Learning to rise is a three-part process: “the reckoning, the rumble and the revolution.” People are emotional beings. When you react emotionally to something, you can move forward by becoming curious about what you feel and why. Tune into your mind and body’s reactions, such as an increased heartbeat, a dry mouth or ruminating thoughts.

Let’s take a closer look at the three steps to Learning to Rise:

  1. The Reckoning: Our reckoning during COVID-19 is being in a situation where our emotions run high. We find that our physiology is taking over our thinking, and logic and behavior are not present. The key to the reckoning is being aware, present, and conscious that something has gotten a hold of you. Next, it’s time to get curious about it. For instance: I’m in a lot of pain, feeling really vulnerable, my stomach is in knots, feeling like I am paralyzed, want to punch something, or I need to get away and run from this situation (freeze, fight, or flight). This step can be hard because most tend to blame others or outside circumstances.
  2. The Rumble: Brown describes how people “offload” emotions onto others instead of reckoning with their feelings. They tamp down their emotional reactions until one small comment or action sparks an out-of-proportion outburst. Or, they get angry, place blame and make excuses. Rumbling is stepping into the story, owning it and taking it to the mat! Rumbling typically includes the story we make up absent of data. Consequently, it’s usually based in fears and insecurities. These evolve into conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories can often contain confabulations. Brown defines this as a lie told honestly. We replace missing information with something false that we believe to be true. This shows up at work when we share what we believe is factual information, but it’s really just our own opinion. Brown encourages us to write our SFD (shxxx first draft) to start an interruption. It’s a simple way to notice your story while being in your story. To put rising skills into practice, start with:
      • “The story I’m telling myself…” or “The story I make up…”
      • Write it down!
      • There are a whole host of follow-up questions that Brown outlines as the Story Rumble process. The most challenging question is: “What more do I need to learn and understand about myself?”
  3. The Revolution: According to Brown, the revolution is all about claiming authorship of our own stories and lives. It’s about taking off the armor and rumbling with vulnerability, living in our values, braving trust with open hearts and learning to rise!

As we move to gain control of our lives through building, deepening, and strengthening our resiliency skills, we practice mental endurance and model resilient behaviors for our communities and families. By doing that we embrace Daring Leadership. I Dare You to Lead.

5 Tips on How to Deal with Uncertainty and Stay Present

By Corporate Class Inc.

Have you ever heard the saying “don’t let the future steal your present?”

Learning how to deal with uncertainty can be challenging, particularly when facing various concerns like health, finances, and career stability. Our minds can easily get distracted by worrying or feeling anxious about things that we “think may happen” in the future. This impacts our overall mental and emotional well-being and our ability to make effective decisions in all aspects of our lives, which will help our future. It’s understandable to feel uncomfortable during uncertain times, yet practicing gratitude can help us feel comfortable as we navigate through challenges with resilience, compassion, and a steadfast routine. Here are some tips for how to deal with uncertainty at work or at home by fostering present-moment awareness and enjoyment.

Try these five tips to help you stay in the present moment:

1. Conduct a “What if?” Cleanse for Mental Clarity

The phrase “What if?” holds significant power, often leading to self-created narratives about future events that fuel worries and anxieties. Left unchecked, these thoughts can undermine confidence and hinder present-moment awareness. Replacing “what if” with “I can” or “I will” helps regain control and bolster mental health. For instance, instead of “What if I lose my job?” try “I will take proactive steps to improve my skills and find new opportunities.” This shift in mindset allows for acknowledgment of concerns while empowering action and focusing on what can be controlled in the face of uncertainty.

2. Practice Mindfulness for Improved Wellbeing

Practicing mindfulness means being more in tune with your thoughts and emotions and recognizing what your body needs. Focusing on your breath will draw you back to the present moment. This enables you to express your thoughts and emotions effectively, helping you manage these feelings and reduce uncertainty. Listen to what your body is telling you and give it what it needs. If it is feeling run down, rest. Maybe you need fresh air or a glass of water.

3. Embark on a Digital Detox for a Refreshed Mindset

In today’s digital age, where constant connectivity and information overload prevail, taking a break from screens can alleviate the uncertainty caused by the overwhelming influx of data and constant stimulation. Embarking on a digital detox means giving yourself time away from phones, tablets, and computers and limiting exposure to news to refresh your mindset. Instead of scrolling through social media or binge-watching shows, try activities like meditation, spending time outdoors, or enjoying hobbies. This break can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve focus, and improve your mental well-being. Use this time for self-care and building resilience, focusing on activities that recharge you and bring you joy.⠀⠀

4. Recognize and Feed the Senses

In uncertain situations, finding ways to cope is crucial. Utilizing your five senses can be a powerful tool to ground yourself in the present moment. When your mind wanders, take charge by asking: What do I hear? Taste? Feel? See? Smell? This practice helps you acknowledge reality, steer your focus away from rumination, and remind you of the importance of what’s happening right now.

5. Create a “Remain in the Moment” Reminder

Creating a reminder for yourself can give you the nudge you need to get back to the present moment.  Whether it’s a sticky note on your desk or a gentle alarm on your phone, this prompt serves as a gentle nudge to stay mindful amidst life’s distractions. Pausing to take a deep breath and re-centring yourself whenever you encounter a reminder can help anchor you and bring you comfort. This practice allows for greater clarity of thought, improved emotional regulation, and improved overall well-being. By consistently reinforcing the importance of being present, this simple yet powerful reminder becomes a guiding beacon in navigating the complex part of life.

Ways to Deal with Uncertainty: Psychologist Insight

When faced with uncertainties, psychologists advise people to avoid dwelling on the past or fixating on the future, as it can undermine resilience. Prioritizing the present moment is crucial. Ways to manage uncertainty include relaxation techniques, mindfulness practices, positive activities, and connecting with nature. Embracing the now empowers people to manage uncertainty with clarity and inner strength. Remember, seeking support from someone you trust or professional help can be beneficial in overcoming difficult situations and learning how to deal with uncertainty.

Get Present. Pause. Connect.

Wherever you are be all there. ~ Jim Elliot