Listen to the audio version of this post here.



You’ve heard me say how important it is now that we all discover how to shine on the virtual platforms we’re all using.

Some of the old rules for commanding a room and connecting with the people in the room apply even when it’s a ZOOM-room.

And, as no less than the Wall Street Journal points out, some things are different when it comes to what they call “E-Charisma.”

When we gather in person, people use all kinds of cues to evaluate us: how we look, how we sound, what we say, how we enter the room, where we sit, and more. Many of those signals are missing when we meet on Teams. That makes it important to use what we have available to us.

Set up the shot

Sadly, we don’t have Hollywood directors to craft what our colleagues or clients see on their screens. You’re on your own, and you need to think like a star.

That means you’re in the middle of the screen, with a little bit of room over the top of your head. And your face should fill about a third of the screen. As a Wharton managerial communication expert says, you’re “Taking up your space in the frame just like you would take up space at the table if you were live.”

And … Action!

Even when your particular square on the screen is not lit up, you’ll want to show signs of life. When someone else is speaking, it helps to nod now and then. Sit up straight so you look engaged. And of course, smile.

Doesn’t have to be a goofy grin—a warm, lips-together smile is enough to communicate charisma.

You may want to move back from the camera so people can see your hands when you gesture. Feel free to use your hands, in any case. Even when people can’t see them, gestures animate you and add energy to your voice.

About that voice …

Your voice always matters in meetings, of course. And it becomes even more important when we’re going virtual. Missing some of the normal visual and spatial cues, people make meaning out of what they hear.

To come across as confident and charismatic, make sure your pace is a tad slower than usual and articulate clearly. On Google Meet, people rely on auditory cues to make meaning above and beyond the actual words you say.

A voice scientist who’s studied the sound of charisma told the Journal it’s important to vary your pitch and speech patterns to emphasize your points and to make the conversation more engaging.

What about reading from notes? “Try to vary your voice” is the expert’s suggestion.

My suggestion is, “Just don’t.” Norah O’Donnell and David Muir can read a script and sound like they’re talking right to you. The rest of us are better off to skip the script and speak in a more natural way.

I agree with their advice to come to full stops though, rather than launch the next sentence before you’ve concluded the last one.

Put a period on it and pause long enough to let your words sink in. Listeners take a little longer to process when our words are coming out of their device. A steady stream of blahblah sends them off to check their email.

Here’s looking at … who?

When we’re in a room with people, eye contact is one way we show our interest in them and our confidence in ourselves. It’s a big element of charisma. It’s also tricky in a Zoom meeting!

Consider eye contact from the other person’s point of view. Your tendency might be to look at a face on the screen, so you feel the connection with that person. What they see is you … looking off to the side and down at the floor.

The answer is to look through the camera, imagining that person right on the other side. It takes some practice to get used to it. And it’s worth the effort.

You’ll want your camera at about eye level; that might mean setting your laptop on a book or a box. Remember that charisma comes from your eyes, not your chin. (And certainly not up your nose!)

When you look straight through the camera, the people in the meeting with you will feel the connection.

And then there’s listening.

On a virtual meeting, just as in real life, few things appeal to people more than the sense that you’re genuinely interested in them and what they have to say.

Acknowledge comments others have made and pave the way for someone else to speak after you. They’re valuable practices in real-life meetings. They work well on Teams too.

And an expert on leadership and charisma told WSJ it helps to make your points in threes; it makes them memorable and gives a sense of completeness. You’ll find more on the magic of three in my article.

Remember that truly charismatic people share the spotlight whether it’s on a stage or on Zoom.

You’ve been in enough bad virtual meetings to have your own thoughts about what works and what doesn’t.

Please share them in a comment here.