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5 Keys to Boosting Your Virtual Presence: Being Virtually There

5 Keys to Boosting Your Virtual Presence: Being Virtually There

Here are 5 keys to immersing your learners with your virtual presence.

Did you know that before the pandemic only 6% worked primarily from home and about 75% of workers had never worked from home before? Fast forward to May of 2020 and over a third of the employed worked from home due to the pandemic, opening up a new world for organizations who are now able to offer remote work for the majority of their staff. Research states that most workers and employers expect to permanently implement more flexible remote work opportunities post pandemic increasing the need for enhanced virtual presence, by learning to be "virtually there."

So what does it mean to be virtually present? Virtual presence is the ability to authentically connect and lead with true influence without the luxury of in-person communication. Virtual presence creates a connection with others in the digital environment so that they feel:

  • included,
  • engaged, and
  • empowered.

The question is - how can we ensure this happens via the online meeting platforms we use? We all have heard of Zoom Fatigue, which prompts us to ask, "what can we do to remain virtually there…and keep our audience engaged?"

Here are 5 keys to being virtually there that will ensure learners come with an inquisitive mindset and leave after being fully engaged in the content, technology, and tools so they can apply what they have learned in the workplace.

1) 1st Key for Virtual Presence: Be Intentional

One of the biggest causes of not being fully present and connected to others is multitasking during online encounters. This takes virtually there and results in people being virtually anywhere else.

There is no benefit to a name and shame approach, but we invite you to be honest and authentic as you think about a time when you were tempted to multitask in a virtual session.

Maybe your mind wandered as you thought about a project you needed to work on, the groceries you needed to buy on the way home, or the argument you had with your partner last night, the IM that just dropped on your screen, or the WhatsApp message that just pinged you on your phone. These are not multitasking, these are all distractions...how do we retain virtual presence?

First step: Take charge of yourself and put those distractions away. Treat the activity of being online the same way as if you drove to the office and are sitting in a meeting.

A couple of questions come to mind when you're talking with somebody who is multitasking in person or virtually. Start by thinking about how that makes you feel when others do it to you. Then think about how you make others feel when you're not present. Virtual presence affects the emotional engagement of learners in the room.

What can we do to be in the moment and not be distracted or tempted to switch tasks? We can:

  • Eliminate distractions: phone, instant message, email
  • Hold something in your hand so you can't type
  • If you need to disengage for a moment, acknowledge that - don't fake being present, people can tell and it has an impact
  • Turn on your video camera and look at people

Speaking of your camera – how can you use your camera to help you stay fully present? 


2) 2nd Key: Be Purposeful

Ask yourself, How do you look on camera or webcam? Do your facial expressions matter if you're on a webcam?

Test your webcam and see how you look before the session. Think about more than whether your hair is in place but how do you appear on the screen.

Maybe it’s moving around, sitting still, or does that cause distraction? Do you talk with your hands?

Check your background, the height of you in your computer window. Virtual backgrounds are good but can look odd without a green screen - take that into consideration. Remember, how you appear on camera can either be distracting or attractive. Effective virtual presence requires that you look as natural as possible on camera.

In an in-person class, you don’t stare at people the entire day. You make eye contact with many learners, so do the same in the virtual classroom. The camera allows you to connect visually with people but it doesn’t mean you're virtually there. Being on camera for the sake of being on camera does not make it engaging, it actually causes learners to be distracted from the purpose of the class which is content-related.

Build camera use into your classes with purpose-driven activities like role-playing, open forum discussions, debriefing activities. Limit using your camera to check if learners are paying attention. Instead, use the camera to engage the learner.

If they are on camera and they raise their hand, call on them. 😊 Acknowledge if they are nodding their head in agreement…in other words, if cameras are on, be purposeful and use the cameras to read the nonverbal body language in the room.

Here are a few Camera Tips:

  • Consider how you look to others
    • the height of the camera: are you looking down or up at the camera. The best view is to look straight on - you need to be looking into the camera as if you're looking through the computer at your audience.
  • Lighting - do you look like you're in witness protection or glowing like an angel? Check your lighting; it's always best to have lighting coming at you versus behind you. Distance how much background they see on the screen: are you taking up the entire screen, are you in the center of the screen, are you high enough on your chair? Sizing up how you look on your camera matters.
  • Background distractions - is the ceiling fan cutting off your head, does the light next to you look like it's sprouting out of your ear, and what's else is in the background that could be a distraction? It could be laundry, a plant, or dog toys. Take a look around and make sure you want everyone looking at what is visible on the screen.

3) 3rd Key: Be Flexible

Being present is about being focused, engaged, and present in the moment but it also means being curious, open, and observant. You must also be ready to handle whatever comes your way, meaning being flexible with content and timing.

You have to make decisions about questions that are asked and how to weave them into the learning without distracting the learners and then handle that content in the moment. You can't connect learners and content through technology unless you're knowledgeable about the content, comfortable with technology, and fully present in the moment.

4) 4th Key: Be Verbally, and Non-Verbally, Present

There are many virtual present indicators that affect the quality of our presence. They affect how we are perceived by others in a meeting or training.

Take breathing as a signal: a negative virtual presence indicator is that you're out of breath; a very strong virtual presence indicator is just taking a deep breath.

Take the signal of voice: a very weak virtual presence signal is monotoned, muffled, or strained; a very strong virtual presence indicator is varied tone, clear, and resonant.

Taking time to identify the signal and how we deliver impacts our virtual presence, which has a direct effect on our emotional engagement. If someone is hard to hear, we as learners start to become disengaged emotionally because we become frustrated. The same is true if we feel like the person is talking too fast or too slow. Our virtual presence impacts how people feel about the training, therefore it affects if the transfer of learning can happen.





Out of breath

Deep breaths


Monotone, muffled, strained

Varied tone, clear, resonant


Fast without pauses

Varied pace with pauses



Filler words (um, you know)

Common words

Few fillers


Avoids/fills silence

Uses silence for reflection

Eye contact

Shifts; looks to the side

Looks directly at your webcam

Body language


Stiff movements

Upright posture

Natural movements


Lost in content

For processing and reflection


Another important part of building presence and a factor that impacts emotional engagement is the way you build connections with others in your meetings. Relationships are the currency of business. The key to reaching out is the ability to intentionally bring your attention, care, focus, and energy to people with whom you're interacting. Being centered on what they need so that you can frame your communication to support them is intentionally creating opportunities to transform the transactional into the interpersonal and create an environment of trust. All connections are here, any and all are good to make.


As you build connections:

  • be aware of other’s personal needs
  • be curious
  • actively listen and respond with empathy
  • build relationships and trust

Not only do we need to be vocally present, but we need to focus on listening. To be fully present we must work to find listening techniques that cut out the need to always talk and identify why listening is so important. When we're hearing someone, we don’t necessarily listen intently.

To really listen and understand we must:

  • Stay focused.
  • Listen for and detect emotions.
  • Ask questions, or prompt them to “say more about that.”
  • Don’t interrupt or preempt what the other person is saying.
  • Don’t begin to think about how you are going to respond.
  • Take notes. 

Now that we have laid out the groundwork of signals of virtual presence, we need to talk about how we make choices about our presence based on what we want to accomplish.

What is our true intention? Using indicators can influence if we're really getting across our intention. The idea of intentionality is to build trust which influences our ability to emotionally connect with learners.

First, we must broaden the conversation of how we use it. If our intention is to connect content and people, then we really need to keep it about the people - truly dig in and find out what their purpose is.

Is their purpose that they want:

  • to be challenged
  • or empathized with
  • or to be supported
  • or to be motivated
  • or to be affirmed
  • or to be pretty shaken up a bit?
That's our job as Facilitators - to figure out what is the intent of the learners being there. Once we identify their intent, we can match the intent to the course content and facilitate the knowledge of the group with the content to reach their interest level.

5) 5th Key: Be Technically Aware

To be fully present in the virtual world, one needs to understand the technology enough to support others in the room. You need to be able to take learner intent to the next level and guide the learner, not just provide content to the learner. Being virtually present means creating connections and in order to do that, you have to find alternative modes for learners to connect. If you focus on fostering the environmental engagement of the learner, you will enhance the learning for the group.

First, we ourselves need to learn, understand and perfect the capabilities of the platform so that we can use the tools to guide our delivery. Allow chat to be as good as the voice. Allow the tools to indicate when someone wants to chime in and make sure you provide think the time for learners to become virtually present in your sessions. To avoid the common learning and development pitfalls that many people encounter, we must learn that mastering technology is only the start of your transition to virtual learning. If we are technically aware both in and out of the virtual classroom, we can engage learners and influence their intellectual engagement while we are at it.

Virtual presence is so much more than turning on your camera or asking others to turn on their cameras. It is the intentional use of speaking with and listening to learners within your audience and getting them to collaborate with others during your meeting, training, or webinar.

Being present means intentionally getting to know your learners and helping them to connect with people and content through the use of technology. Therefore, virtual presence is a part of environmental engagement when referring to Insync’s InQuire Engagement Framework™ that directly impacts the intellectual engagement as well as the emotional engagement of learners. From Facilitators to Producers down to learners – we all need to convey a high level of virtual presence as well as receive it from each other to truly allow connection and collaboration to happen during learning transfer.


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