When there’s an elephant in the room, you can’t pretend it isn’t there. My clients and others in the consulting community finally “got that” this week. You may have noticed.
There has been a marked increase in the number of webinars being promoted. One passed through my email that had pricing of $98 for one major speaker $980 for both major speakers and streaming of the whole event and $9880 to be allowed to Q&A with the principal speakers. I have never seen a pricing structure like that for a webinar. I checked with a friend who literally wrote the book about online presentations. He said, “I’ve seen pricing that high and that low but never with that kind of spread for the same event. Of course, the elephant in the room is causing more people to move their events online than ever. We’re going to see even more weirdness”
Three times this week I’ve done impromptu workshops with a client to give them tips on how to use Zoom without giving a bad impression. Here are the highlights:
- Get dressed. You may be comfortable in those sweats but would you wear them to an in-person meeting? Really? Dress to impress. No, you don’t have to suit up, but you should be in unwrinkled business casual at least. Let your clothes say a little about you. Creative? Wear something zingy. All business? Go with a pressed button down collar.
- Hair and makeup please. Okay, you guys can skip the makeup but comb your hair and shave. Before this lockdown is over there are going to be a lot of guys with ponytails. I’m already having trouble finding my ears. Women, do not think the camera on your computer is forgiving. It isn’t. Apply the paint, you’re going hunting after all.
- Come into the light. Before you opt into the meeting or request an instant meeting, turn on the camera on your computer and look at your face. One of my clients self-described his look as a “sickly cadaver” Turns out his wife’s grow lights for the plants in his office were on! It is good to be lit from the front with natural light say by a window.
- Look behind you. Clients who have visited my office know about the stacks of books and boxes of client products. They would think it strange if I appeared and they weren’t there. Dirty dishes in the background is not good. A stack of toys visible over our shoulder is not good. I’m just as averse to background screens. Let me see your home office. After all, most of us are adlibbing here.
- Step away from the computer. Too many of us are used to moving forward to convey our sincerity and interest. It doesn’t work when you are using something like Zoom or Skype. Back up. When you move closer to your computer we lose sight of your hands and suddenly it is like you’re being muted visually. We are so oriented to body language that when we can’t see the hands of the speaker we feel disconnected. You can see yourself on the screen. Make sure your hands are visible.
- Have a live video signal. My Virtual Assistant and I regularly use the video chat capabilities of Microsoft Teams. Her husband who is on lockdown was cooking in the kitchen and leaned in to ask if she wanted tea. It’s hot there. All he was wearing was shorts. Startling when you are deep into a database discussion. The point here is that we are all coping with an unusual circumstance. Let your family know when you are live on video. Develop a visual warning sort of like the red “On Air” lights in radio and TV studios.
- Bring it! Stop worrying about what you look like and think more about what you have to say. Before the call, make notes about what you want to cover. If that is complex and you want to say things perfectly, put the information in a word document and put it up on your screen for a sort of homemade teleprompter. (Just don’t inadvertently share your screen!) If you are going to be asking questions figure them out before you enter the meeting and don’t be hesitant to record the session if you’re uncomfortable taking notes.
- Know how to use the technology. Take the time to watch the video tutorials and then telephone a friend to actually have a meeting. It is easier to make all the mistakes when the person on the other end knows it is a practice call. Be sure to return the favor.
- Take a coffee and body break before. Take it from a professional speaker—you don’t want to step on stage without having relieved yourself. A video meeting is just like stepping on stage. (you don’t want to ask to be excused leaving your fellow caller with “dead air.” I don’t drink coffee on stage but I like to have my morning cup with me if I’m on a call. And I always have a glass of water handy to quell those frogs that invade my throat. You can be quite comfortable sipping as you pause to make a point or while the other person is talking.
- Play to the camera. When someone is talking you inherently want to look at them. That’s okay. But when you are talking look at the camera. It’s that bright white dot centered above your computer screen. That way people will feel you are looking directly at them. In the “real world” we call it eye contact. It is the fastest way to generate feelings of trust.
- Get there early and Network. A video group meeting is no different than one in-person in the days before social distancing. Wave. Say Hello. Put on a happy face. Share some non-threatening observations. Small talk is okay until the meeting is called to order. Want to meet privately with someone in the group later? Be up front about it during the networking. Don’t do it while “in session” though, that generates negative feelings unless it is at the behest of the group or group leader.
- Say thank you. In one to one meetings a hand-written thank you note has proven to be one of the most powerful branding devices I’ve ever seen. An e-mail thank you to attendees is, in these times, nearly as powerful. This is particularly true if you met one-on-one with a prospect or client.
Zoom and Skype and other kinds of video calls have replaced face-to-face meetings for the moment. It is truly the elephant in the room but not one to be afraid of. Acknowledge it and have fun learning to ride it.
Sorry, I’ve got to run. I have a video meeting coming up and I have some files I’m going to want to share and I need to refill my coffee and comb this unruly mop. Barbers are going to be really busy once the all clear sounds!
And so it goes
Jerry Fletcher is a sought-after International Speaker, a beBee ambassador, founder and CEO of Z-axis Marketing, Inc.
His consulting practice, founded in 1990, is known for on and off-line Trust-based Consultant Marketing advice that builds businesses, brands and lives of joy.