How to Stay Connected While Social Distancing
As social interaction is restricted over the coming weeks, we must rethink how we conduct business. Face-to-face meetings are no longer an option, yet clients still want to be reassured of your commitment to them and their financial objectives, particularly during such uncertainty.
Thankfully, meaningful and thorough business can be carried out remotely through virtual meeting platforms. Although the basic framework of in-person and online meetings are the same, there are distinct preparations you should make prior to setting a virtual appointment.
Build a Client Communication Plan
Communication is key to reducing anxiety and deepening your relationship with clients.
When building a communication plan for the near-term, be conscientious of your client’s preferences. Learn a bit about their schedules and what their expectations are and let them know the best way and time to contact you should they have any questions.
Once you’ve established your mode of communication, consider scheduling a short 5- to 10-minute weekly update with clients. If different time zones are an issue, a weekly update via email with a longer phone or Skype meeting once a month is another option.
Decide on Systems
An important step in creating an effective virtual communication plan is to determine which video conferencing service you’ll be using. Be sure to select a platform that is easy to access or download, and is simple to use, especially for those clients who find technology intimidating. You may also consider a platform that provides helpful capabilities such as screen sharing, cloud recording, or note-taking.
Top-performing options include:
- Skype: No sign-ups or downloads; great for one-on-one conversations; screen sharing; mobile-friendly
- Zoom: No sign-ups for participants; one-click connection; high quality video and audio; virtual backgrounds available; screen sharing; meeting recording; great for multiple locations, webinars, or larger audience
- GoToMeeting: One click to join meeting; cloud recording; mobile-friendly; simple document-sharing; free service available
- Join.Me: Download not necessary; personalized invitation links; great for small groups or one-on-one
- Microsoft Teams: No download or sign-ups for participants. Higher quality video and audio; blurred background option; screen sharing; good for multi-location meetings; provides integration with Microsoft Office 365; free service available
There are hundreds of other online tools available to make remote work easier. Use cloud-based storage systems such as Dropbox or Google Drive to store project-related documents. Explore high-quality, mobile-friendly scanning applications such as Adobe Scan or Genius Scan. Take some time to experiment and find the tools that best meet your particular business needs.
Always be sure to work with your organization’s Information Security team when applicable to ensure the technology tools you are using meet your company and regulatory requirements.
Video Conference Best Practices
It’s not enough to have a firm grasp of the technology. Just as you would for an in-person meeting, it’s important to prepare yourself and your clients.
- Contact your client to ensure they have access to the video conferencing platform you’ll be using. Send an email listing the steps they’ll need to take to join the call.
- Send a meeting invitation that includes an agenda link to the virtual call.
- Keep your agenda simple. Be sure to not cover too many points in one meeting.
- Do a test run to make sure that the technology runs smoothly, your camera is well-positioned, and you can resolve basic technological difficulties should they occur.
For the Call
- Dress as you would if you were meeting clients face-to-face. Avoid noisy jewelry, such as bracelets.
- Be sure to have easy access to any documents you may want to discuss.
- Ensure your background is not distracting. Many video conferencing platforms provide tools to alter your background. For example, Zoom offers virtual backgrounds and Microsoft Teams allows you to blur what’s behind you.
- Call from a quiet place to avoid auditory distractions for you and your clients.
- Be sure to mute your mobile device.
- Speak clearly and allow pauses for your clients’ responses.
- Be present. Don’t be distracted by email or your phone during a virtual meeting.
- Be sure to look in the camera when speaking to your clients, not at their faces on the screen.
- Keep body movements minimal but natural. Remember that body language is harder to interpret virtually.
- At the end of your call, discuss or recap action items or next steps, including setting up a follow-up meeting, if necessary.
- Send a follow-up email to delineate what actions you will take and anything your client may need to do.
- If necessary, send an invitation to your next meeting.
Virtually connecting with clients may provide a sense of comfort in these uncertain times. This Business Continuity page will provide guidance and resources to help you and your clients navigate the coming weeks.