Executive presence: what is it, why do you need it, and how do you build it?

During these last 467 days, we’ve had to make significant adjustments to the way we convey our presence and confidence. As we moved into a virtual world, executive presence was created, focusing on how we look and sound on camera.  So, the question is, how do we build a relationship with somebody that you’re only meeting from the waist up? How do you establish that executive presence in a way that can build trust and rapport?  In this medium, accepting its limitations and advantages, one aspect of projecting executive presence is the ability to inspire confidence. This means inspiring confidence in our peers as capable and reliable colleagues. In our junior folks, it’s inspiring confidence as a leader that they want to follow. And, importantly among senior leaders, inspiring confidence instills that you have the potential for great achievements. 

Why do we need it? We need executive presence because this is the key that unlocks the door to get us into the room where the big decisions are made. I loved that part in a recent song from Hamilton being “in the room where it happens.” 

In this virtual world, how do you build it? Here are my top four ideas:  

  1. Become an excellent listener. Focus on the way you show someone your listening: active listening posture, nodding your head, using paralanguage, creating a voice sound that isn’t necessarily a word but acknowledges your listening: “mhmm,” “uh-huh,” “interesting.”
  1. Articulate your purpose clearly. Write down your intention when beginning a conversation and say it out loud three times to yourself ‘out loud. Before you go live. This takes about 3 minutes to write and do… time well spent. By the time you share that live, it will be your fourth time saying it, and it will sound confident and natural as you fall into a natural rhythm of which words to emphasize.
  1. Understand how others experience you. This means seeking out peer feedback. What’s it like for someone to listen to you speak in an online meeting? This could be tough love yet very insightful in getting yourself to your next level of communication effectiveness. Think about it this way: imagine if you didn’t know?
  1. Maintain camera contact. This means giving the illusion of eye contact.  In this new hybrid world, this means looking directly into the camera while speaking. Do not look up or down at the person on your screen but rather help them feel you’re looking right at them by looking into the little green light at the top of the screen. In an actual, in-person face-to-face meeting, this means actually looking at their eyes. A great tip is looking anywhere between the bridge of the nose and the forehead. This will feel like you’re making direct eye contact.


These four tips give you the foundation for establishing an executive presence online. Allow these to become your regular practices when speaking to others online. It absolutely ensures you speak with confidence. 

Your marching orders: Turn on your camera or audio and record 2 minutes of yourself.  It can be the opening of an update or meeting or an answer to an upcoming question.  Then watch and listen to it back specifically for the areas above.  We can give ourselves the best feedback when we can watch it back and make notes for going forward. 

When you’re comfortable, confidence follows.   

Spread the love


Similar posts

Tips for Leading Effective Meetings

Our coaching team appreciates the challenge of masterminding the right mix of talent, personalities, and action items. Fortunately, easy tweaks often go a long way to enhance comfort, participation, and awareness of nuances in a team member’s behavior. Recently, I worked with a senior leader in financial services who felt it was his responsibility to control the agenda and results of all meetings; in fact, he considered it part of his job. He was baffled that his

Spread the love

Listen to Your Gut

Microexpressions are brief, involuntary facial movements that reveal a person’s true emotions. They may last for only a fraction of a second and are often difficult to detect with the naked eye, but they can provide valuable insight into a person’s inner thoughts and feelings. In order to use microexpressions effectively in communication, it is important first to understand their significance. Microexpressions are believed to be universal and biologically based, meaning that they are hardwired

Spread the love

Management Communication: Digital, Telephone, or Face-to-Face?

I was recently told, “You’re not going to believe this, but one of my friends was just let go for laying off her employees by email.” Imagine how her colleagues must have felt when their termination notice was communicated electronically; unappreciated, disposable, and confused. An email disaster like this may sound unusual, but I regularly hear variations of similar stories in the business world. Over the past decade, email and text messages have become increasingly

Spread the love


Tell us what’s on your mind: