One of my most memorable podcasts felt more like a Masterclass. I had the honor of interviewing Rosemary Ravinal, a true master of executive communication and executive presence.
This episode stands out to me for the practical insights Rosemary shared, as I listened to her perspectives on some of the trends she’s observed in the “new” virtual and hybrid world that we find ourselves living in today.
Meet the Master of Executive Presence…
First, a little background on Rosemary: she is a former international media executive and broadcaster who’s transitioned to her first love, public speaking. For more than three decades, Rosemary was a senior corporate communications leader and spokesperson for Fortune 100 companies, nonprofit organizations and agencies in New York and South Florida.
In 2019, Rosemary left Univision Network, the leading Spanish-language media company in the United States, to establish her own practice as a media readiness, presentation skills and public speaking coach for C-suite executives in bilingual and bicultural settings. In 2020, she adapted her coaching model for the virtual stage and created the Zoom Score, which is based on 10 essential elements of professional video meetings.
Leaders, How Are You Showing Up in Our Hybrid World?
To kick off the podcast, Rosemary shared her insights on simply showing up with executive presence in our hybrid world:
“I do workshops, public workshops and small team trainings and I am still surprised when someone shows up without video on or shows up looking terrible and expects to be taken seriously.”
It goes without saying: “Whether you’re leading a meeting, you’re a panelist, you are an opinion-shaper, or you’re simply a passive participant, you need to show up, you need to show up at your best.”
We all know that technology is ever-present, but there seems to be a disconnect in that “we haven’t really learned to love it.”
Like it or not, “it’s not really optional anymore,” Rosemary adds. “Because we’re no longer just in the physical world…in a standard conference room setting with a dry erase board and a screen and rows of chairs and tables. We also have other people who are connected virtually. They’re just as important participants as the ones who are physically in the room.”
In Leadership & Life, it’s All About the ASSETs
Enter a memorable acronym Rosemary created:
A = Appearance. Show up looking professional! “It’s simply a matter of self-respect and it’s respect for the people at the other end, because you’re dealing with someone who needs to look and play the role that you are accustomed to playing,” Rosemary explained. In other words, don’t show up in a bathrobe if you’re an attorney😉
S = Staging and Styling, which can both be easily overlooked. You owe it to the people who are listening to or watching you to be at your best. Be deliberate: consider professional lighting. At minimum, if you go with a more standard virtual background, curate it carefully.
Every pixel on your background is valuable real estate. It says something about your values, your lifestyle, your aesthetics, she says.
E = Energy and Emotion: “When we’re talking emotion on virtual, there are so many tools – and people don’t recognize those either,” Rosemary said.
- The way you use your hands
- Your tone of voice & rate of speech
- Your body language (smile, eye contact)
- Your overall posture
- Even how close you are to the camera
Pay attention to your voluntary expressions, which “speak” without you ever saying a word: “the nod, the smile…”
T= Technologies: We must have fundamental knowledge as to how to actually use the technology that supports us. Rosemary reminds us of the explosion of equipment options that happened back in 2020. The benefit? It’s never been easier to invest in equipment you need to better enable you to do videoconferencing.
90% of What We Process is Visual. Why That Matters With Executive Presence…
If, like Rosemary explains, 90% of what we process is visual – what is seen, from your virtual background, to your appearance and even the overall lighting – has a significant impact.
Are you presenting distracting information that isn’t aligned with your message and your brand?
Or do you show up with visual info that compliments and brings awareness?
3 smart questions for leaders to ask:
- What’s the identity or the brand that I want for myself?
- How do I want people to see and perceive me?
- How do I create that visually, so that people experience the intentions that I have as a leader?
What we often find in our executive coaching is that there’s a gap between how people are perceived – and what their original intentions are. That’s why I personally love the intentionality behind aligning your visual self with the brand that you want to portray.
Tips to Deal With the Challenge of Hybrid Meetings
It’s easy when everyone’s in person, or when everyone is virtual, right? But when you have some people who are virtual and some people who are in a conference room sitting around a table, that can present a very real challenge.
Rosemary’s best advice?
“Consider the camera as the other person in the room. It requires some training if you’re presenting to not look at the screen…you’re not on the screen; you’re in the camera, and that’s where you need to direct your gaze.”
Set up the room to make it easy to address the other people who are connected virtually, without having to turn your back to the audience. The goal is to include them just as naturally as anyone else.
Other tips to make hybrid meetings a success:
- Frequently give deference (or preference, at times) to the people who are not physically present.
- Engage those not present so they don’t feel like they’re last or forgotten.
- Make it shorter, succinct – get to the point. Think how annoying it is as a virtual participant to sit through a half hour of chit chat as people are setting up.
- Be respectful & sensitive to the fact that we’re often so eager to be with people in a physical space that we overlook the needs of those who aren’t able to join us in that capacity.
- Watch for distractions, often ever-present when we’re working virtually, and be mindful of the fact that attention spans are shorter.
Leaders, Be Intentional About the Image You’re Presenting
Today, we know it takes keen communication skills for leaders to be able to galvanize people, to create cohesion, to cultivate loyalty, to build safe environments where people can be heard, respected, and valued.
And it’s not optional anymore, either: This is the world that we live in – it’s time for people to really step up with their executive presence, whether it’s a virtual environment or a hybrid environment.
Remember these key fundamentals:
- What does your appearance look like?
- Consider the staging and the styling
- Be aware of your energy and emotion
- Know and use technology properly
Be intentional about the image you want to present – because you know just how important first impressions are. (Just think about how tough it is to change a bad first impression…)
Tough-Love Advice From the Expert on Executive Presence
Does the thought of public speaking send shivers down your spine? Or maybe you can’t even stand the thought of peering into the little lens staring you down from your webcam…
Rosemary has some tough-love advice for you:
Get over it and step up. Why? Because it’s not optional anymore, she asserts.
“Unless you have no interest in succeeding in business, unless you have a profession that doesn’t require you to interact with other people, all fine and good. But if you’re in a business where the growth and success and prosperity and not only your own, but of the people you’re responsible for, depends on your ability to convey ideas that are consistent with your brand, then you’ve got to step up.”
What about you? How ready are you to step up your executive presence & improve your leadership in our “new” world?
If you loved Rosemary’s advice & want to hear more, listen to the full podcast here.
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