Recently I conducted a Virtual Presence Webinar for 200+ remote workers in a financial services organization. “Virtual” in this case refers to employees who work outside of a traditional home office or who are geographically separated from the bulk of their co-workers. At Heads Up, we typically define “presence” as the state of being present, as well as the demonstration of professional attributes like confidence, poise, or self-assurance.
Most of us tend to think of our professional presence as something that shows up when we interact with people face-to-face, or when we’re making a presentation. As we move to more virtual interactions, we have to reexamine what we mean by “presence.”
Especially if we work remotely. One poll in our webinar showed that 70% of the participants had only interacted with their co-workers by phone! One participant said, “I feel like I spend my whole day on conference calls, one after the other. Sometimes I forget I’m wearing my headset when I am off the phone!”
Therefore, for the majority of people in the webinar, phone calls and conference calls are their primary means to demonstrate their professional presence. The bad news is most people aren’t doing a good job with this. The good news is the bar is so low right now that there’s nothing but upside! Here’s what I mean: We polled the participants regarding what percentage of conference calls are truly excellent?
A. Most of them: 25%
B. About half: 37%
C. Not many: 31%
D. Very few: 7%
That’s disappointing, isn’t it? Boring conference calls have become BAU. But it also means opportunity. We asked people what, aside from content, prevents conference calls from being excellent? They could choose one of the following:
A. Can’t hear clearly
B. Speaker talks too long
C. Unfocused discussion
D. No opportunity to participate
E. Speaker uses too much filler (um, uh, you know, like…)
F: All of the above.
Guess what? 40% of the participants chose “All of the above.” The remaining 60% were spread fairly evenly between all options. C’mon, you’ve been on lots of conference calls, right? Are you at all surprised by this data?
What to do?
To dramatically enhance the effectiveness of your conference calls, and to build your professional presence across the miles, there are 4 areas of focus. You must:
- Manage Expectation
- Manage the Content
- Manage Your Voice
- Manage Your Visuals
In our next few issues, we’ll share tips on how to build a strong presence by managing these four areas for virtual meetings. In the meantime, accept the fact that this situation is not going to get better by itself. Working remotely benefits both employees and employers, and therefore it’s more popular than ever. According to Abdullahi Muhammed (Forbes.com) regarding Trends for 2019, “all signs indicate that we are nowhere close to hitting the plateau.” However, sustaining and showcasing remote employees takes a different approach. Leaders: People need to feel engaged, inspired, connected and productive, especially when working remotely. Presence is about connecting. Enhancing your virtual presence can make a big difference in engaging your colleagues and enhancing productivity.
Questions in the meantime? Click here to let me know.