As we adjust to the new reality of virtual communication, online meetings have kicked into a whole new gear. We want to be there for our clients, but for now, that’s going to have to be accomplished virtually. There is a big difference between inter-office virtual meetings and the new way we have to communicate virtually with our clients. You will have to make a number of adjustments in how your communicate and for the sake of this BLArticle®, I’ll focus on what I call, “The three P’s of virtual communication.”
Your image online can be as grainy as you’d like when communicating with your coworkers; this is mostly due to poor lighting and an unstable connection. If you’re trying to put your best foot forward with your customers, however, you’re going to need to step up your game!
If you want to get rid of the graininess, improve your lighting. That can be as simple as putting a lamp or two in front of you, or go online and order some lights that clamp onto your desktop. As for that unstable connection, try and run an ethernet cable from your router directly into your laptop or computer. If that isn’t possible, at least try changing locations to find a strong signal within your home.
There is one last point regarding preparation. I understand there’s a microphone located in your laptop, but when it comes to virtual communication, audio is king. You don’t want your potential client to think you’re communicating from your garage or from a tin can. A microphone, or a headset with a microphone, are inexpensive purchases and will serve you well.
When you’re on an internal call, feel free to mute yourself and have a bowl of Cheerios, but with a client, you’re going to want to look your best. To begin with, you will need to move your webcam up to eye level. You don’t need to have a sit/stand desk to pull this off; a couple of big books will do the trick to help elevate your screen. Now you can look your client right in the eye. Please remember that your client’s eyes are not in the middle of your screen, but where your actual webcam is. There’s no need to get into a staring contest, but when you want to make a point that requires you to look your client in the eye, remember, that eye is your webcam.
There is another important point regarding positioning. Feel free to have your laundry basket and yesterday’s lunch positioned behind you for an internal call, but that won’t work with a client! Move to a location without clutter behind you, or declutter what’s behind you if you can’t change locations. If necessary, you might want to invest in a backdrop to reduce any chance of distractions between you and your clients.
Finally, it’s “go time” and that means it’s time to focus on your client. Don’t just mute your phone, turn it off. That goes for all other apps as well. I know you think you can multitask, but once again, you’re confusing internal conversations with external conversations. With those internal conversations, you can turn your camera and sound off and vacuum and cook breakfast. For the calls with your clients, stay focused on one thing: the conversation you’re having with that client. It’s almost comical watching those that I coach when they’re trying to get away with multitasking. It starts with the vacant stare, and the expressionless face, and ends with a confused response when I call them back from their multitasking trip with a question.
Want to really show your client that you’re listening and engaged? Sit on the front third of your chair, and lean in when your client or you are making a key point. It’s a great way to show your client, nonverbally, that what he or she has to say is important.
Virtual communication is here to stay. It’s not always the words you use, but how you say those words that matters the most. Focus on the “Three P’s” for those virtual communications with those outside the office; preparation, positioning, and performance. If you do those three things, your words will take on a whole new level of meaning with your clients and you’ll truly be there… virtually for your clients.
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