Connecting with clients - Best practice guide for video conferencing

"The times they are a changin". Bob Dylan may have written this song in 1964, however it certainly feels appropriate for the way our workplaces have changed in recent weeks. As a result of medical advice and new government policies, many of us have quickly found ourselves working from home. Our daily communication with clients and colleagues has been challenged and during a period of peak volatility and market uncertainty.

It has been interesting to note that there is a desire to do more than just communicate, but to build connections in this new context. The value of connecting with real people, seeing faces and their emotional reactions has become of high importance in a very short space of time. As a result, we have seen the wider adoption of video conferencing technology occur at breakneck speed. Video conferencing was already used by many large and small businesses, but the adoption rate has increased exponentially in recent weeks. For example, the Video conferencing app Zoom went from averaging 56,000 downloads a day to 2.13m downloads on 23 March, the day the lockdown was announced in the UK (ref 1).

We understand that everyone may have different levels of experience with video conferencing technology. To help you, your clients and colleagues maximise your engagements during this time and in the future, we have provided our best practice guide for making the most out of your video conferencing technology.

Preparing your session

Know your audience - this means knowing if a video conference will work for particular clients or not. There may be clients that you will just be unable to do this with and they will require a different communication style. Consider if the technology is appropriate for your audience and will they be able to access the application from the type of device they may use.

Then you can design the format of the meeting you want to host around this audience. Be clear if it will be a one on one session with the client, or if extended family members will be included. Planning a broader all client investment update or general lifestyle planning workshop will require slightly different preparation and style than smaller or one on one sessions.

Plan the agenda for the session and any resources you may want to use. Prepare ahead of time the post event communications or follow-up you will need to communicate after the event.

Set the Scene

There are simple things to look at to help set the scene that will work best for your session:

Review your background -is it appropriate? - This can provide your clients with a look into your environment and provide a personal touch but be mindful it’s not too distracting. Another option in some applications is selecting your own background graphic and investing in a green screen can also be another option.

Minimise distractions. There is a greater appreciation of the realities of working from home now more than ever – so there will be some distractions you can’t control and that’s fine, mention it and move on. There are distractions that you can control. Close your email and other applications during the call – don’t try and multi-task! Consider what could be distracting for your audience – avoid unnecessary mouse movements, large hand movements, sound issues.

Ensure your lighting is sufficient - you want your clients to be able to see your face clearly as though they were sitting in the same room as you. Find someone to check your sound and test your technology. We suggest running through your presentation live with a colleague and ensure you know the technology and how you will use it. In the chance that it doesn't work (and that's happens - it's ok), have a back-up communication option ready.

If you have clients that haven’t used this technology before, offer them a quick phone call before to make sure they can access it and are comfortable with the process. This out-reach can be a valued activity for clients that are also experiencing a significant learning curve across various technology platforms.

Raising the bar- consider your engagement strategies

There will be many video conferences and webinars in the coming months. One opportunity you have with your clients is to consider how you can maximise the engagement experience of your audience.

First impressions count - Take time to look at the onboarding experience. This could be something like playing music during the pre-meeting stage whilst attendees wait to join the meeting. Select a holding slide that sets the tone and aligns with the key messages of your session.

Use video where possible - The facial expressions and nonverbal communication greatly enhances the opportunity for connection. If bandwidth or connectivity issues are a challenge, start and end of the session with video and then switching to audio, this will provide an initial connection and end with a personal connection. Remember to look into the camera, when you are speaking and listening.

Choreographing your participation - This doesn't mean running a script but planning how you would like your audience to participate. This may be including directions in the introduction on how to ask questions via the chat or Q&A function or to ask the audience to leave questions until the end you will answer. Within a small group where you have the opportunity to ask questions, try signalling your upcoming question to the specific participant. “Jane, I might ask you this question…..”. It gives the audience a chance to actively listen and prepare their technology to respond.

Building variation within the session can help maintain concentration engagement. Depending on the style of your session, this could include having a guest, a subject matter expert or another member of your team to join the session. Another way of building variation could be with the resources you share - point to websites, use various charts and pdfs to reinforce your messages.

Use tech enabled tools - Most technology available will have tools that help increase engagement. This may include a 'hands-up' function to show the host they want to ask a question, or the chat box function to write a question. Pre-prepared polls can encourage participation to be interactive and provide live feedback to the host. A white board function can help illustrate both simple and complex key messages.

It’s important to remember it is quality not quantity when designing your video conference. Select the strategies that you believe will make the biggest impact and that you are most comfortable with.

8 best practice tips

The most important thing of all – is to get started. To help you get started – her are our 8 best practice tips:

  1. Have a clear agenda and timeframe - And stick to it.
  2. Know and prepare your tech systems in advance – test test test
  3. Choreograph participation - but make it feel natural
  4. Consider your engagement tactics – select the right ones for you
  5. Look at the camera to build connection
  6. Minimise distractions – for you and your audience
  7. Conclude your session with key messages and next steps
  8. Be authentic – be yourself and remember the value you add to your clients.

Ref 1 - https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/mar/31/zoom-booms-as-demand-for-video-conferencing-tech-grows-in-coronavirus-outbreak

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