Think back to the last few meetings you had: Were they online or in-person?

These days, meeting and interacting in-person with coworkers has become a nice-to-have, and virtual has become our norm.

Because of this, our professional presence — and in particular, our presence in a virtual setting — has become a critical piece of what can make or break a career (and will remain the case as companies and individuals embrace virtual-first and hybrid models).

What is a professional presence, exactly? 

My definition is two-fold: how and where others see you. While the former is what people might instinctively think of when they think of “presence” — encompassing concepts like professionalism, confidence, and trustworthiness — the where is just as critical. You can’t truly excel with only one piece. Both need to be taken into account if you want to stand out in your field to become more recognized, influential, successful, and empowered.

Here are the key areas to perfect when it comes to your virtual presence so you make a lasting impression:

Bring the energy to calls (Then Bring Some More)

Ever heard of RBF (not that RBF!)? I’m talking about “resting business face,” the neutral or negative facial expression we often see on video calls. 

When we’re on video, energy gets muted on camera because there’s an additional barrier (the screen). Add that on top of the fact that we don’t as easily get those signals and energy we receive in-person that allow us to play off one another, and it’s no wonder so many of us are donning our RBFs.

Adding a boost of energy to your calls can go a long way in making you more likable and personable. You’ll often need more energy than you think to make sure it’s really showing through the screen.

Do these 3 things to add more energy to your next video call:

  • Smile — Smiles are contagious! When we’re working from home, it’s easy to get caught in back-to-back meetings and to fall into a more relaxed or passive state. Smiling to the other person signals that you’re friendly and approachable and shows that it will be a positive conversation.
  • Make Yourself Laugh — Before signing onto your next video call, think of a memory or a scene from a show that makes you laugh; once you click “Join,” that positive energy will be more palpable to the other person, setting the conversation off on the right foot.
  • Use Your Hands — We don’t want to get so amped up that we’re emanating “jazz hands” energy, but we do want to make sure our hands are visible on screen. Showing your hands can make you appear more trustworthy, warmer, and likable. Don’t passively keep them in your lap or on your keyboard.

Want more tips like these? Download the TEA Method Worksheet (Tech-Energy-Aesthetics) for more.

Curate your virtual environment

One of the biggest compliments I get is when people ask me if my video background is virtual. Little do they know, on either side of my background is a walking treadmill, extraneous tech equipment, and huge softbox lights. It’s messy! And that’s ok. What’s most important is that the six feet or so of space behind me looks professional.

That’s what you should be aiming for, too.

If you were on a call with someone and they had a bed or messy room behind them, subconsciously or not, you’re likely making certain negative assumptions about them. Compare that to a person whose background is organized with pops of their personality (whether it be plants, photos, or even a unique wallpaper), and you’re likely to think about them more positively.

While curating your environment is an important way to quickly showcase your professionalism, it’s not just about your background. 

This section is called “curating your virtual environment” for a reason. Adding visuals on top of your video using tools like Warmly or even Zoom overlays is a way to help you stand out while making sure that you’re taking full advantage of the small window of space (literally) that a video call affords us.

Lead meetings effectively

Meetings are one of the best channels where you get to take advantage of both the “how” and “where” of presence. It’s important that you’re viewed in a positive light in meetings (the two sections above will help with that), and it’s important you show up in the right meetings as meetings can often be the only few moments of “face time” you get with senior leadership or clients.

Want a surefire way to supercharge your presence? Lead a productive and effective meeting with the right people in the (virtual) room.

An easy way to get started facilitating meetings like a boss is by following the Passive to Active Meeting Framework.

The passive to active meeting framework steps:

  1. Warmup
  2. Invite
  3. Pause
  4. Observe/Listen
  5. Interact

It sounds simple enough, yet we continue to experience countless meetings where it is one person talking at the group the whole time, the meeting goes off-topic, or you aren’t really sure why you’re there. Pair this with all the statistics showing how damaging ineffective meetings are, and you have the opportunity to make meetings one of your biggest differentiators.

Follow these key steps to follow to ensure that everyone can contribute, your team feels seen and heard, and you achieve your intended goal for the call.

Build your expertise on LinkedIn

The biggest area of opportunity I see in the “where” category of presence is on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is no longer just a jobs site – it’s a platform for conversations and community.

Think of LinkedIn as your online landing page. 

Even if you’re not looking for a job, people will visit your profile. You need to make sure it’s up-to-date and optimized (you never know what opportunities might come your way!).

Once you’ve got that down, it’s time to start publishing content. And no, this doesn’t mean you need to identify as a content creator or influencer. But it does mean you need to be consistently publishing content to create a more complete online presence. That can be in the form of comments, contributing to collaborative articles, or creating your own posts (and it doesn’t need to be just written posts, too — choose the medium that works well for you, whether it be videos, documents/carousels, or otherwise).

Still not convinced? 82% of buyers will look up a seller on LinkedIn before replying to prospecting efforts, according to the RAIN Group.

Building your expertise on LinkedIn will play an important role in establishing your credibility, helping you stay top-of-mind, and in making your online landing page more complete.

Want to create an optimized LinkedIn profile? Grab The Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn (Part 1) for free.


If this is new to you, building your virtual presence may feel like a never-ending to-do list. 

The good news is that these are all learnable skills (and yes, these are skills we need to practice and get feedback on). With practice and the right guidance, anyone can achieve a strong virtual professional presence to help them become more successful.