You better get used to it.  Even after the stay-at-home orders are lifted, some clients will still want to connect with you online instead of in person. There will be a mental trade-off in their minds about how important your meeting is and they will weigh the “hassle” factor of going to an appointment vs meeting via technology. My guess is that technology will win more than lose (it will at my house). So if we have to get used to it, we might as well get good at it, right?

In today’s guest post, Sara Grillo provides some great ideas on how to get better at using Zoom (or any other video chat platform).  Please enjoy   --  JDA

Ever wonder if you’re offending others on your Zoom calls?

Before you all troll me on Twitter, I will openly admit that I am a Zoom etiquette disaster.

During this crisis, I have been stuck at home with my four kids, all under six years old (including a one-year-old baby who is learning how to climb). If my living room were not the equivalent of the Bronx Zoo, here are the Zoom etiquette moves I would make.

Before the meeting

For compliance purposes you may need to do some or a few of the following:

  • Get familiar with how to use Zoom. This will decrease anxiety. If need be, do a rehearsal call. Learn how to respond to a chat message, mute someone (including yourself), unmute someone, remove someone from a meeting, record the meeting, and share your screen with the audience.
  • Get used to talking to a computer. If need be, record a mock call and then play close attention to how you came off when talking. Do you seem comfortable? What does your body language say? Were you using the right tone of voice?
  • The day of the meeting, get on Zoom and look at how you would appear to the audience. Is your hair sticking up? Do you look tired? Is your shirt wrinkled? Given my crazy life, looking presentable isn’t always an option. The best I can do is to have a Boston Red Sox (yes that’s right, Yankee fans) hat right next to my computer to toss on. An emergency stash like this is a good idea.
  • Do a sound test. I have a Blue Snowball iCE microphone that cost me about $50. It’s a step up from using the computer microphone, but doesn’t cost a fortune.
  • Do a lighting test. I film using natural light and find it works well. The best hours for natural light are mid- to late-morning and early afternoon. If it is an evening meeting, you will have to make sure there is sufficient artificial lighting.
  • Adjust the Zoom settings. A few settings that financial advisors should be particularly mindful of is the call masking feature, which allows you to hide a few digits of the participant’s cell phone, the renaming function (which allows you to change your name as it appears on the call), muting, disabling video, and the automatic notification that states that the call is being recorded. There are many more; watch a tutorial on Zoom settings and allow 20-30 minutes to go through each setting prior to your call.
  • Consider using a photo background to hide any unprofessional items such as the Thomas the Train high chair and the Elsa Disney Princess tricycle. You can adjust for this in Zoom settings.

Helping people get onto the call

Sara GrilloAs Zoom is now the go-to solution for all meetings, you’re going to find many people who aren’t tech-savvy (and have no interest in using Zoom) who now have to. Make it as easy on them as possible.

Their ease of access sets the tone for the meeting. You don’t want to have people start a meeting off annoyed by having a technology war while the call is starting.

It’s not possible to eliminate all technical difficulties your participants will face, but here are some suggestions to reduce frustration:

  • Have a back-up option if the person cannot manage to figure out how Zoom works. Yes, this happens.
  • Appoint someone in your office to address any last-minute stragglers who can’t seem to log on or who lost the call information. You don’t want to deal with this. You can provide this person’s information to the participants beforehand or just forward over any inquiries you receive during/prior to the webinar.
  • Include a how-to video with the invite that displays, step-by-step, how to download and use the Zoom app.
  • Send the dial-in instructions more than 30 minutes before the call, and suggest that people test their login 10-15 minutes prior to the start time.

During the meeting

No matter how hard you plan, things inevitably are going to come up during a Zoom call. Here are some of the traps I’d wish I had been intelligent enough to avoid:

  • Log on 5-10 minutes before the start time.
  • Don’t expect most of the people to show up until five minutes after start time.
  • If it is a presentation-style meeting, such as a webinar, have a moderator to help the presenter address any questions that may come up over Zoom chat. It’s highly distracting to have to field questions as you are speaking, and it will be obvious to the listener.
  • Close your other windows, especially email and anything client-sensitive. You don’t want to be in a screen share, end up on the wrong page, and accidentally expose something you shouldn’t have. Do not minimize these screens; close them. Operate under the assumption that if the screen is up, the audience will see it.
  • Turn off your cell phone.
  • Have a glass of water close to the computer – but not within the camera’s view. I once had a coughing fit and I was unprepared.
  • Look at the webcam while you talk. It’s a common mistake to look at the other information displayed on Zoom or at your notes. This may have a distracting or jarring effect on the audience.
  • Have a back-up computer fired up with Zoom ready to go. I was burnt badly once when my computer crashed during a webinar. It took me about 10 minutes to get people back on the webinar, and many of them did in fact stay with me. However it was highly stressful and made a poor professional impression.
  • Many people who are camera shy will ask me if it’s okay to show slides without having people see their face. Clients deserve more than an impersonal slide deck, and prospects will be significantly less trusting if they can’t see your eyes. Body language communicates more powerfully than any words. It’s okay to feel self-conscious, but you must overcome this.

At meeting end

In my meetings (and especially webinars), I have found that people tend to drop off after 25 minutes. But for those who stay, how you end the meeting is important:

  • Send out the replay if you can. This is a great asset for people who can’t make the meeting but need to know what was discussed. If you are having a webinar, understand that more people will fail to attend than will attend. However, many of them will check out the replay if you send one. You don’t have to send the replay directly from Zoom. Often I will upload my replays to my YouTube channel and mark then “unlisted,” so that only the people who receive the link will be able to view it.
  • Include a survey.
  • Tell people how they can access the replay. Even people who were on the call may want to listen again.
  • Understand that when you signal by saying something like, “So that’s it! Thanks for joining us!” people will naturally start to leave. This is different from a phone call where people won’t want to offend you by hanging up – but they will on Zoom! Cover all the important details before signaling.

Sara’s upshot

Online webinars and meetings are an integral part of the crisis marketing plan that we are focusing on in my membership. But, if you join, beware that I may just break a few of my own Zoom etiquette rules.

Sara Grillo, CFA, is a marketing consultant who helps investment management, financial planning, and RIA firms fight the tendency to scatter meaningless clichés on their prospects and bore them as a result. Prior to launching her own firm, she was a financial advisor.

This post first appeared in Advisor Perspectives.

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