When I present seminars on leadership presence, I ask my audiences: “What is the first thing you think of when you hear the term self-promotion?”
Men often respond with answers like: “Self-promotion is smart,” and “Staying visible is crucial to success.”
Women, however, are less comfortable with the concept: “I don’t want to be one of those pushy people who’s always bragging,” or “My high-quality work should speak for itself.”
Well, maybe it should, but don’t count on it.
Research with senior leaders in Silicon Valley found that the top criterion for promotion is visibility. As a Human Resources professional told me, the saddest comment he hears when executives are evaluating a female candidate for a high-level position is, “I have no idea who she is.”
Dana Simberkoff, Chief Risk, Privacy and Information Security Officer, AvePoint Inc. agrees and states it like this: “It’s not enough to be a legend in your own mind. You need to make others aware of your talents and accomplishments.”
A female’s reluctance to self-promote is apparent on Zoom. I’ve heard from several women who say they fear disappearing in the virtual world as their male colleagues are much louder and more present in these meetings.
But that’s not you! You are one of those savvy professional women who understands the need to stand out. You are just looking for strategies to do so in ways that are aligned with your best authentic self.
Here are 12 simple and powerful tips:
1. Be seen. To stand out in a virtual meeting, you need to be on camera. Don’t hide off-screen behind a name plate or a still photo. You can’t display presence if you aren’t present.
2. Get framed. Pull back slightly so you aren’t just a talking head. Let people see your gestures (keeping them closer to your body and within the frame of your camera). This will enhance your credibility by helping the audience more easily understand what you are saying.
3. Dress for virtual success. To stand out visually, wear a bright, solid color blouse or sweater.
4. Speak up. Early in the meeting, make a comment to get your voice heard. Add to what someone else has said, agree with a statement, compliment or thank someone. It will make it easier to be heard later on when you present your ideas.
5. Make eye contact. In person, you know that eye contact sends a nonverbal message of confidence and credibility. But the most artificial part of a virtual meeting may be looking at the camera so that it appears that you are looking directly at your audience. Put a post-it note with a smiley face, or a photo of someone you love next to the camera dot on your computer to remind you to keep your eyes here.
6. Start with the headline. When I am asked to coach a female leader being groomed for an executive position, the request I hear most often is: “Please help her get to the point!” You increase your leadership presence by stating your conclusion first, and then filling in a few details. If people want more information, they will ask for it.
7. Take the stage during Q & A. Kimberly Faith, the award-winning author of Your Lion Inside, has been told multiple times that asking a thought-provoking question during an all-employee meeting, or at a meeting with management, became the spark that took a woman’s career to the next level. Something as simple as a question can highlight your ability to think differently and may even encourage mentors to seek you out.
8. Personalize your follow-up. After the meeting, keep in touch. Thank the host, ask an executive a question or make a comment based on something that captured your interest in the meeting. Add a photo to your email signature, and watch how that small addition makes a big difference.
9. Mater the art of the introduction. I’m lucky. When I give a speech or a webinar, I don’t have to introduce myself because the host of the event does this for me. But when you are in a Zoom meeting with people you haven’t met or who don’t know you well, it’s all up to you. Think of it as crafting your virtual elevator speech, and create a short, memorable introduction. (For example, when asked to introduce myself in a virtual meeting, I might say: “I am an international keynote speaker and leadership presence coach who helps women be perceived as the talented, confident, creative leaders they truly are.”
Kimberly Faith advises women to energize their self-introduction by using impact numbers. Keep track of important numbers throughout your career — numbers that express the sum of your experience, not just the job you have today. Numbers like how many deals you’ve closed; how many employee’s lives you’ve impacted; how many divisions, countries, or locations you’ve been involved with. In today’s busy world, others only see what we do today. It is up to us to show them the totality of our experience.
10. Use your body. Joni Wickham, who most recently served as Chief of Staff to the Mayor of Kansas City, and is the author of The Thin Line Between Cupcake and Bitch, says we know a leader when we see her: If you’ve ever seen someone enter a room and felt instantly drawn to what they were saying and how they were saying it, then chances are, they had a strong physical, communication and emotional presence. When combined strategically, these three components of executive presence convey authority, trust and confidence.
In a virtual meeting people can’t watch you enter the room, greet, people, shake hands, and take your place at the conference table. (And the way you perform all of these seemingly insignificant actions make a big impact, as I show you in my new book, STAND OUT: How to Build Your Leadership Presence.) You can, however, instantly increase your virtual presence with these two body language tips: First, watch your posture. The way you sit sends a nonverbal message about your physical state and communication savvy. Slumping makes you look uninterested or insecure. Sitting tall (back straight, shoulders back, head high) says you are energized and confident. Second, remember to smile. This should be the first facial expression people see. It gives you instant emotional presence by signaling warmth, openness, and empathy.