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  • Writer's pictureKathy Svetina

How to Build Your Executive Presence in the Zoom Era

From: "Help! My Business is Growing" Podcast

How to Build Your Executive Presence in the Zoom Era

Video calls and meetings are now part of our daily working lives, be it we work from home or in-office.

Now more than ever, we depend on our smartphones, tablet, and computer webcams to connect us with our work colleagues as well as suppliers, clients, and even sales prospects.

However, as convenient as video calls may be, there is still that physical disconnect to overcome, especially if you are a founder trying to command attention or trying to close a deal with a potential client.

Now audiences have even more distractions like work, social media, the dog, kids, and of course, the choice to turn their camera off.

So how do you keep your audience engaged, be fully present, and take you seriously as a leader on the other side of the screen?

By showing your executive presence.

It’s how you show up as a leader and is a major factor in engaging, influencing, and inspiring your team and gaining respect from fellow leaders.

Thankfully, you don't have to be born with it to become a good leader.

You can work and build on it every day and today's episode of Help! My Business Is Growing will show you how to do just that.

Our guest, International Communication Consultant & Presentations Coach Pamela Wigglesworth, reveals the specific steps to nurture, build and develop executive presence.

Tune in as we share helpful tips on ensuring that you project your executive presence when the camera starts rolling in this "Age of Zoom" we are currently living through.

In this week's episode, we discuss:

  • 3:07 What is executive presence? And why is it so crucial for business owners or founders to spend time cultivating it?

  • 9:58 Tips on how to get gravitas and executive presence to shine through the camera.

  • 18:24 How to structure a presentation so that it's engaging and valuable to your audience

  • 30:45 How important is good appearance when working in a virtual environment?

  • 44:47 What is the one tangible next step to take to cultivate executive presence?


Listen to the podcast here:

"Executive presence is about how you show up, your demeanor, and your actions that demonstrate to others that you are a leader." - Pam Wigglesworth

What is executive presence? And why is it so important for business owners or founders to spend time to really cultivate it?

Executive presence is about leadership and people's perception of you as a leader within your family, business, and community.

You can break it down into three pieces:

1. Your gravitas

Gravitas is how you carry yourself, your demeanor and behavior, and if you possess grace under fire or how you act when stressed.

2. Your communication

How you speak and what you say.

3. Your appearance

It is all about your attire, grooming, posture, and how you command the room.

It's really important for us to step up our game when we're dealing with the virtual world because it requires a different skillset to really make an impact with the person on the other side of the camera.

Some tips on how to get gravitas and executive presence in a virtual setting:

  • Simulate eye to eye contact.

Look straight into your webcam to give who you are speaking with on the other side a sense of direct eye contact - like you would be doing if you were meeting in person.

  • Change your state of readiness to get in the zone.

Prepare for your online meetings just like you would for a face-to-face meeting. Take a 15-minute break between your meetings to decompress from the previous one.


  • Be inclusive.

Use inclusive language such as "we”, “us”, “our partnership”, “our working relationship." Use first names and bring everyone into the conversation by asking if they have any thoughts or anything to add.

  • Mind your posture.

Be decisive, forthright, and clear by using your voice and your posture. Sit up straight and try standing as well since it immediately increases your energy and confidence.

"Your secret sauce (for online meetings) is to use your voice and your message. That's your superpower when it comes to engaging with other people. So start with high energy. If you start with high energy, you will continue your meeting with that same high energy. If you start with low energy, it will be low throughout the entire presentation."- Pamela Wigglesworth

How to structure a presentation so that it's engaging and valuable to your audience.

  • Use clear, strong, and concise language.

The days of fumbling around and winging it during presentations are over. It does not work or advance the needle on any meeting.

  • Have an authoritative yet melodic tone to your voice.

Use your voice and your message to engage with other people.

  • Think and speak strategically.

Think about your overall objective for your presentation or meeting.

Ask yourself:

  • Is the purpose of your call to inform, educate, or motivate?

  • What should happen at the end of the call?

  • Then think of saying it in a way that will impact your audience.

  • Use alliteration, personification, and figurative language to make it catchy and memorable.

  • Examples:

  • Alliteration: “I work with clients to deliver impactful presentations that are clear, concise, and compelling.”

  • V1 Personification: To put human features into an inanimate object.

  • V2 Personification: “My alarm screamed at me this morning.”

  • Figurative language: “The trees were swaying in the wind.”

  • Get straight to the point.

People are overworked and busy so we need to shorten meeting times - keep it short and sweet.

Start with the end in mind and reverse engineer it. Figure out what is it that you want to achieve with this meeting, then determine what's your objective - To inspire? To motivate? To educate? Figure out how you want to say that.

How important is good appearance when working in a virtual environment?

The final piece of executive presence is your appearance: your attire and grooming.

During virtual meetings, you still need to show up as a professional, so your audience will perceive and accept you as a leader.

  • Dress appropriately in the attire that’s appropriate for your position and industry.

  • Turn your camera on 10 to 15 minutes before your meeting to check on your appearance and your background

  • If using a virtual background, check the resolution so it's not pixelated.

  • Have the proper lighting so your face is bright and visible. Use sunlight, a ring light, or even a small lamp in front of you.

  • Always maintain eye contact.

"It's a new dynamic for bosses: now they have to be on top of the health and mental wellness for their staff, as well as trying to be concerned about the financial bottom line." - Pam Wigglesworth

What is the one tangible next step to take when cultivating executive presence?

  • Think about the next presentation and reverse engineer it. Ask yourself:

  • What do I want to achieve?

  • What do I want to say?

  • How will I say it?

  • Split up the presentation into four parts:

  1. Introduction

  2. Your talking points (limit to 3)

  3. Recap

  4. Call to action (It makes a huge difference. Don't forget this.)

  • Be strategic with your choice of words. Use persuasive language to prepare the listener to take action when you close.

We go in-depth with this topic and more over at the podcast. Listen here:


To Recap:

1. Executive presence is how people perceive you by your gravitas, communication skills, and appearance.

2. To virtually convey your gravitas and executive presence to your audience on the other side of the webcam.

  1. Maintain eye contact.

  2. Prepare and get in the zone.

  3. Be inclusive.

  4. Have a good posture.

3. Optimize your communication skills when making a presentation by being clear, authoritative by thinking and speaking strategically. Keep your audience fully engaged by keeping it short and straight to the point.

4. Get dressed correctly and check your background and lighting to ensure you look (and act) professional.

5. Plan your next presentation so you are well prepared.


About Pamela Wigglesworth

Pamela Wigglesworth is an American, Singapore-based, International Communication Consultant & Presentations Coach, Speaker, Author, and the CEO of Experiential Hands-on Learning. She works one-on-one with senior leaders, C-suite executives, leaders, sales teams across multiple industries to help establish their executive presence; structure a clear, concise presentation message; and deliver their thoughts and ideas with style, confidence, and authority.

Pam is also the author of:

The 50-60 Something Start-up Entrepreneur: How to Quickly Start and Run a Small Business

Public Relations: An Easy, Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Small Business Public Relations and Media Plan

Small Business Acceleration: Get Noticed Using Facebook, LinkedIn, Email Marketing, Public Relations, and Video Marketing



Pamela's Executive Presence resources


by Kathy Svetina

Kathy is a Fractional CFO and the founder and director of NewCastle Finance LLC. She is a financial puzzle solver, focusing on women-owned businesses, providing financial insights needed for a healthy and sustainable business.

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