Show Up with Greater Impact…Virtually

2020 was the year of the virtual background; 2021 is the year to show up at work with presence and impact.

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Here we are at a milestone that would have been nearly unfathomable in that… before time. It’s been roughly a year since many of us were forced into remote work. It’s been a year of constant change, adaptation and adjustment and that has included getting used to the fact that our entire working lives are being conducted over video calls. Just because it’s been a year, doesn’t mean that acing the remote work life has gotten any easier. But it has been a year and it’s time to show up with intention instead of simply making it work while at home.  Here are a few quick and easy tips that you can implement today to show up with greater virtual impact.

Level up: In the virtual world, that small square your camera captures is your entire image, so it’s up to you to manage it well. Your camera should be at eye level and, as much as possible, look directly into the camera when speaking. Use a computer stand (or a stack of books!) if you are looking down into your camera. This is the virtual equivalent of eye contact and is an important component of executive presence. Others are more likely to pay attention to you if they feel like you are looking at them. 

Don’t relegate your background to… well, the background: Virtual backgrounds were a lifesaver in 2020 when we sought to hide what was going on in the background. Now that we’ve been working from home for a year, I encourage my clients to step up their WFH game and ditch the virtual background. Instead, curate the six square feet behind the camera. It’s okay if you’re working from a folding table in your bedroom, just make sure you’re oriented so what people see in the background is a wall with a piece of art or a plant (not a white wall) and not your unmade bed. This works because others need to see that you’re taking work seriously and that you’re put together. Like it or not, people are more likely to make positive attributions (like that your work is also put together) based on appearance. So, it’s not just enough to brush your hair and wear a decent shirt. No matter how small the space is that you work within, do something to make it look professional.

Get in the game: While looking the part is good, one can only make a mark by actuallycontributing, which can be tricky in a virtual meeting, especially for people who require time to process. One often-overlooked way to make a mark is by using the virtual chat. This allows your voice to enter the room without the awkwardness of interruption. It’s a good way to show support, weigh in or even flag that you have something to say. Another way to make a mark is to shift your mindset away from having the answer to asking the best question. Most people are focused on showing what they know in meetings; fewer are focused on asking incisive questions that encourage new ways of thinking. Asking a powerful question changes the momentum; good questions slow us down and invite others to reduce bias toward action in favor of thinking. What better way to make a mark?

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