All the world's a (virtual) stage and we are merely players

By now you’ve probably been on at least a dozen webinars, around a hundred virtual meetings and heard the phrase sorry, I was on mute so many times your ears could bleed. For some, the transition to work from home hasn’t been easy, but for many the transition to virtual has been a nightmare. The combination of tech struggles, internet lags, mute buttons and an inability to get into the meetings has generated many a deep sigh around the world. Is this all we have left? Screen shares and choppy audio?

Making the virtual a reality

It doesn’t have to be that bad. The secret to a great virtual meeting is to make it feel as much like real life as possible. Here’s what that means:



Greet people at the door

Show the client’s name on screen when they join, and have some music playing

See each other in person

Turn on webcams and get good lighting

Draw a map of how to get to the office

Give them screenshot instructions of what to expect when joining the meeting

Hand them printed copies

Share information on the screen and walk through it

Write down notes or visuals on a note pad

Share a whiteboard and draw or write on it

Give them materials to take home

Send them a handwritten note and materials to their house

Setting your virtual stage

In the absence of being able to physically interact with your clients, your virtual meeting is truly your time to shine. Your lighting, the way your webcam is positioned, your background (green screen or real), the way you move your hands … everything matters because this is all they see. It’s important to get a few essentials right, to get the best result for you and your audience:

  • A killer headset - the gamers got this one right: get one that has a noise-cancelling microphone that you can move closer to your mouth.
  • An HD webcam - say goodbye to the VHS-looking feed and let yourself be displayed in all the HD glory.
  • Set up your background - create an engaging background. Some examples: a nice bookcase with succulents or a virtual background on a green screen.
  • Stand-up desk or a comfortable chair - your energy is key when you’re on camera; help yourself with better posture.
  • Stay in the room with the modem - if possible, situate your workstation in the same room as your modem so you can get the best connection to your Wi-Fi. And if you’re someone who’s experiencing choppy Wi-Fi, it might be time to pull out that ethernet cable.

Lights, camera, action

Your camera is the BEST way for your clients to be present with you. Being on camera is not natural. To make the most of it, remember to smile, to look straight into the camera and to use your hand gestures carefully. When you’re framed in the lens of a camera, the focus is on a smaller portion of your entire body - essentially, your chest up. Make the most it by actually looking happy to be there.

When you look at the screen instead of the webcam, the audience is immediately pulled away from wanting to look at you. They’ll want to look at their screen, too, or something else distracting. Learning to look into the camera is the hardest part: I find having notes taped next to it can help you focus. Once you get used to it, it’ll become a habit.

If you’re a hand-talker like me, moving your hands when you talk on camera won’t come off the same way as in person. First, no one can see you moving your hands if they’re below the camera angle. Second, frantically moving your hands within the camera angle looks awkward and forced. To still engage with hand gestures, try using them to frame a conversation and describe something. For example, use your hands to demonstrate the emotional roller-coaster your client might be feeling when investing in these markets. 

The camera should become second nature, but it requires practice. I recommend opening the camera application on your computer and watching yourself (uncomfortable as it may be) as you talk. Record a few sessions and see how you can improve.

Embrace the tech

For every moment you want to throw your laptop out the window, consider how much worse sheltering in place could be if we didn’t have Netflix, Amazon, smartphones, Zoom, or Facetime. Make the technology work for you by testing out all its capabilities. Challenge yourself to learn how you can do more with the technology you have, or research potential solutions where you identify a gap.

Get out of your comfort zone

I know you may be feeling virtual exhaustion, Zoom fatigue, or web weariness. And that’s OKAY. Physical separation is psychologically draining. Here’s a couple of final tips to help:

  • Disconnect - remember when meetings could have been an email? That's still true.
  • Change the environment - not every meeting needs to happen when you’re sitting in your office. Try doing a team call while walking outside, or think about getting a stand-up desk.
  • Change the mindset - this can be fun. Play music to start a virtual meeting, or use polling and engagement tools to help you get your energy up.
  • Give yourself a break - allow yourself to feel tired, and give yourself the same compassion you give your clients.
  • No really, give yourself a break - build in increments of time throughout the day to breathe. Back-to-back meetings is the biggest cause of meeting exhaustion.

The bottom line

We’re practising what we preach. We’ve been challenging ourselves to stay abreast of the latest virtual technology so we can better help you stay engaged with your clients. Reach out, stay connected and stay safe. 

Any opinion expressed is that of Russell Investments, is not a statement of fact, is subject to change and does not constitute investment advice.