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How to make digital meetings feel like face-to-face

27 Mar 2020

Written by Sally Boyle, Area Sales Director.

For some people, dealing with their investments will be the last thing on their mind right now.

Yet we know some clients very much want to press ahead with their planning, and we continue to see new investment into our products. This blog is all about how you can continue to ‘meet’ your clients even though you can’t go and see them in person.

Full disclosure: I’m by no means an expert on the techy side of things. Where I do know a thing or two is the art of remote working. I’m on the road a lot, and I also manage several field-based colleagues, so we’ve had a lot of practice at getting business done without being in the same place.

So I thought I’d pass on a few ideas in case there’s something here you find useful in the coming weeks that will help you make your digital meetings more productive. 

Tip 1: Choose the right tools for the job

There are two main options here. One is video calling. The other is an old-fashioned phone call, perhaps accompanied by sharing docs over email and talking the client through them. For most clients, you’ll know which option is best.

When it comes to video conferencing, you have a few options. At Octopus we use Zoom, which has a range of pricing options starting with a free basic account: zoom.us/pricing

It’s fairly straightforward to use, and you can send a client a link so they can speak to you and see any documents you’re sharing. The client doesn’t have to download any special software, they just have to click on the link and follow a couple of straightforward on-screen instructions. 

There are lots of other video calling platforms out there (Google Hangouts, Skype etc.). It pays to shop around with these sorts of things because what’s comfortable for you to use might not be for someone else. Most are either free or offer a free trial, so you can try before you buy. 

The other option – phone call plus email – is worth having as a backup, in case there are any issues with the video call tech. After all, we’re seeing unprecedented use of broadband and communications servers at the moment.

It’s definitely worth exploring video calling options. In the same way that a familiar voice on the phone can be reassuring, so too is a familiar face. For clients who are happy to do a video call, seeing and hearing you should provide a much-needed sense of normality.

But if video calling isn’t an option, then there’s still huge value in phone calls. I’m sure I’m teaching granny to suck eggs here!

Tip 2: Send your client a clear agenda in advance  

I’ve found that a pre-agreed agenda, which everyone gets in advance, really comes into its own during a conference call, whether by video or on an old-fashioned “Who’s that speaking? Is that you Steve?” conference call. 

There are fewer non-verbal cues to know when to speak, even when you can see the person on your screen. Audio delays can also make things confusing.

So knowing what’s coming up next can stop people feeling disorientated.

Another tip is to think about breaking up one meeting into a couple of shorter ones. Accept that at times you may not get as much done on a call as you would do face-to-face, so consider shorter, more frequent virtual meetings (even on the same day).

This can give your client time to digest information that may be less obvious when not accompanied by a face-to-face explanation. You may be thinking this will slow things down, but I’ve found that communicating remotely saves a lot on travel time, so it can actually be quicker overall.

Tip 3: Stick to normal meeting rules 

As far as possible, do all the things you’d usually do in a face-to-face meeting. 

That means having no distractions in the background that might take away from what’s being said. If you’ve got kids (or pets) try and make sure they’re occupied elsewhere (easier said than done sometimes, granted). We all remember the infamous BBC news interview that was interrupted by toddlers 😊. 

Be on time and put your phone to one side for the duration of the meeting. Be mindful of taking turns to speak, too. I’m sure you have excellent manners, but I mention this because video calls can have a slight lag, or freeze altogether, and it’s easy to end up talking over each other. 

Tip 4: Channel your inner presenter

Finally, here are some tips on setting up and hosting your meeting that can make a real difference to its effectiveness.

Speaking: 

  • Talk a little slower than normal.
  • Emphasise and enunciate.  
  • Remember to pause more often and repeat anything that’s been missed.  

Setting: 

  • Have a blank backdrop if possible, or something with few distractions.
  • Avoid spaces with too much (or not enough) light. 
  • Don’t have a light source (e.g. a window) behind you, as you’ll be ‘backlit’ and your face will appear dark.
  • Position your camera so you’re visible from the chest up. 
  • Keep eye contact and think about your body language. 
  • Test how you’re going to look to others before you go live. 

After a few digital meetings, you’ll get a feel for what’s working well. It’s also worth asking for feedback on how the meeting went so you know where to make adjustments for next time. 

Support from Octopus

If you’re new to remote working and could do with some tips about running your business online, our digital experts can help. 

We’re offering to call you at a time that suits to provide practical advice about remote working solutions and submitting online applications. Simply fill in your details here and we’ll be in touch.

You can also keep an eye on our product update centre for information on how the coronavirus outbreak is impacting our products. 

Your local Octopus BDM is also at the end of the phone as always, and will be delighted to help you in any way they can.

We’re as incentivised as you are to keep providing great service to investors during this unprecedented situation, so do let us know if there are any other ways we could support you.

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