If you are like most people you are spending an increasingly large amount of time on video calls with your internal and external stakeholders. Video calling tools – Zoom, Google Meets, Chime, and so on – have exploded in popularity during Covid.

Some people like doing video calls, and others do. But what is an insormoutable truth is that some people are good on camera and others struggle. Projecting charisma and leadership on a video can help you better engage with your colleagues and clients, lead to the acceleration of your career, and can enhance the receptiveness of your communication.

When I first started working from home I noticed a number of traits that my peers did well, and not so well, that helped them communicate with me. This led me to study broader trends in behavioral and auditory communication.

I want to pass these lessons on to you. You can start working on these topics today – right now – to see improvements for your perceived leadership, charisma, and communication aptitude on your next video call.

Come with an agenda.

There are three types of meetings:

  1. Meetings that you plan and send the invite out to.
  2. Meetings you are asked to attend and that others will invite you to.
  3. Larger group meetings.

For the next invite you send out, include a detailed agenda outlining the following:

  1. Why is the meeting happening?
  2. What are the goals of the meeting?
  3. Who will attend the meeting?

Many people don’t take the time to articulate why meetings are happening and therefore don’t respect other’s time. Avoid this mistake. Plan ahead and share an agenda. 

Turn your camera on.

According to various studies, upwards of 90% of your communication is in your body language, posture, and facial expressions. If people can’t see you, they can’t understand exactly how you are communicating your words.

You don’t need to be an expert in behavioral psychology. You can outsource that to others. Turn on your camera if you want people to see you, remember you, and better hear your words and their intent.

Be professionally presentable. Ensure that your work environment is well lit and quiet.

  1. Don’t eat. Everyone can tell.
  2. Don’t multi-task and look at different screens. Everyone can tell. 
  3. Don’t type out emails or notes unrelated to the agenda of the meeting. Everyone can tell, especially if you have a game keyboard or a backlit keyboard as these create extra typing sounds or lights. Everyone can tell.
  4. Put on a top that is professionally respectful. Get out of your pajamas.
  5. Don’t assume your camera or microphone is off. Act like you would in an in person meeting.
  6. Make sure that the angle of your face and body are from the middle up as opposed to top down. This makes you look centered and in control and enables you to take up more of the screen. Create this effect by tilting your laptop away from you or by laptop stand to match your body’s position.
  7. Buy the best webcam you can. This ensures favorable lighting to make you look good.
  8. Take your hat off. Unless you are going to a sporting event, which you likely are not.
  9. Don’t cover your face with your hand or block your eyes. Look straight ahead. If you have a flat or curved monitor without a camera, look at your laptop as that is where the video feed will be capturing video from.

I have colleagues join Zoom meetings dressed in a strange mix of athletic-leisure-pajamas. Are you a professional athlete? If not, don’t dress like one.

It’s amazing how many meetings violate this basic etiquette.  Sit up right, pay attention, put your best foot forward.

Emulate the leader you admire.

Take a look at three images of different people (US Presidents Barack Obama and George Bush, and the CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos) projecting leadership as they sit.

What do you notice?

  1. There is minimal clutter behind each speaker. For President Obama and President Bush, simple and symbolic icons are placed behind them.
  2. You don’t see a cracked ceiling or messy desk shelf or yesterday’s lunch in the background.
  3. For Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, there is minimalist design and a number of books present. Why books? Because Amazon started as a small company selling books! The images behind him symbolize the humble origins of the company he started. Books also project intellect and humility.
  4. All three seem like they are being displayed on a mini projector as if in a movie. But that is not the case: they are simply “owning their space”.
  5. There is strong lighting for all three speakers. There are no heavy shadows behind or adjacent to each speaker.
  6. The background noise is minimal. You can hear what they are saying without distractions.
  7. Body language is critical: all three leaders are sitting upright with strong postures. Their hands are not in front of their mouths or faces. 
  8. They are facing forward – towards their audience, to deliver their message. They are leaning slightly forward in their desk chairs.

Summary: Look Good, Be Present, Reveal Your Leadership Skills

There is a difference between being a leader and looking like one. This article is not intended to help you instantly become a leader. Rather, it is to help you project leadership and charisma on video calls, something you are likely in need of help with.

As you spend more time communicating with internal and external audiences on video calls, you can make improvements to your performance immediately. Enact these best practices and you will see tangible results. You will be better – and so will those who are on the other size of the camera.