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Shining in the Virtual Spotlight: Tips for Commanding an Online Presence

In today's world, so much of our communication and interaction takes place online. From video conferences for work to virtual hangouts with friends, many of our conversations and connections happen virtually. This means it's more important than ever to learn how to communicate effectively through a screen.

Just like performance artists command the stage with their presence, we can learn to shine in the virtual spotlight. The principles for engaging online conversations are actually quite similar to those used by actors on the stage. By framing your camera strategically, modulating your voice, using expressive facial expressions, and staying present in the moment, you can captivate your virtual audience.

Today we will explore tips for shining in the virtual world, so you can engage more effectively in online conversations and video calls. Drawing from techniques used by performance artists on the stage, these tips will help you improve your on-screen presence.

Framing the Screen

One of the most basic but impactful things you can do is pay attention to how you frame yourself on the screen. Carefully consider the backdrop, camera angle, lighting, and how you position yourself in the frame. This is similar to how a performance artist thinks about their positioning on the stage.

Some key tips for framing yourself on camera:

  • Background - Choose a solid, neutral wall if possible, and remove clutter from the background. A plain backdrop keeps the focus on you.

  • Camera angle - Position your camera at eye level or slightly above for a flattering perspective. Looking down at the camera can be unappealing.

  • Lighting - Face a window or use a lamp to illuminated your face. Avoid having a bright light source behind you.

  • Costume - Dress professionally from the waist up since that's primarily what's visible. Solid color shirts generally look best on camera.

  • Framing - Position yourself close enough to the camera so your face and shoulders are fully in view. Maintain good posture and lean slightly towards the camera to appear engaged.

Use these tips to set up a professional, flattering on-screen framing. Pay the same attention to your virtual background as a performer does in positioned themselves on stage. A thoughtful, intentional frame brings focus to you and your message.

Modulating Your Voice

Your voice is your instrument for connecting with others online. Just as performers do vocal warm ups before a show, you can warm up your voice before video calls or presentations.

Some tips for improving your vocal presence:

  • Before hopping on a call, take a few minutes to do some vocal exercises. Humming, lip trills, and tongue twisters can relax your vocal cords.

  • Drink water and avoid dairy before speaking to keep your throat lubricated. Consider having tea or lemon water nearby to sip.

  • Check your microphone volume before joining a call. You want the volume loud enough to be heard clearly without distortion or echo.

  • Use vocal variety and inflection as you speak. Avoid monotone by varying your pitch, volume, and speed. Pausing between sentences also adds impact.

  • Enunciate and articulate words clearly. Don't mumble or speak too fast. Over-emphasize consonants for clarity.

  • Add energy and warmth to your tone. A lively, enthusiastic voice engages listeners and builds rapport.

With preparation and practice, you can develop a smooth, expressive virtual speaking voice. Pay as much attention to your vocal delivery as a performer does when rehearsing for the big show. A well-modulated voice makes you shine online.

The Face: Your Canvas of Expression

Facial expressions and eye contact are key ways we convey emotions and connect with others. That's still true in the virtual world, even though we're looking at screens instead of real faces. Use your face as a canvas to express yourself more fully.

Consider these tips for boosting your facial presence:

  • Make strong eye contact by looking directly at your camera when speaking. This simulates eye contact with others.

  • Raise your eyebrows, nod, and use expressions to signal engagement in the conversation. A smiling, interested face brings energy.

  • Allow your face to fully express emotions like excitement, empathy, or humor. Don't suppress your natural expressions.

  • Avoid distracting mannerisms like excessive blinking or face touching. Be aware of subtle tics.

  • Keep an upright head position. Slouching and looking down appears disengaged on camera.

  • Stay near the center of the frame so your whole face is visible. Moving around can take you out of view.

Your facial expressions add essential emotional context in virtual conversations. Use your face as an actor does on stage - don't hold back. With practice, your facial presence will become a natural strength.

Staying Present in the Moment

Being fully mentally present during virtual interactions is critical for making authentic connections. Avoid multi-tasking and give your full attention to others on the call.

Here are some tips for being more present:

  • Minimize distractions by closing unnecessary tabs and apps before joining a call. Disable notifications.

  • Do some deep breathing or meditation to settle your mind before joining a call. Clear your headspace.

  • Listen attentively without interruption when others speak. Don't just wait for your turn.

  • Let conversations flow naturally instead of over-planning what you'll say. React in the moment.

  • Read nonverbal cues like facial expressions to gauge reactions. Adapt your style accordingly.

  • If you feel distracted, refocus by making eye contact with the camera or asking a question.

Staying engaged and in-the-moment makes virtual interactions more natural. Don't let your attention drift - treat each call like a live performance requiring your full focus. With practice, you can achieve the same level of energetic presence online as you would in person.


Shining in online conversations requires adapting many techniques used by performance artists on the live stage. Consider how you frame yourself on camera, warm up and modulate your voice, use your face for expressive impact, and stay mentally present. With preparation and practice, you can command attention and connect with audiences virtually.

Bring your best, most vibrant self to video calls and online interactions. Project confidence through your voice, expressions and postures. Listen attentively and react naturally to others. By following principles used by actors on the stage, you'll consistently shine in the virtual spotlight. The online world is your platform - own it.


Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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