Can you hear me?
Is my camera working?
Oh sorry my connection dropped.
Can someone go on mute?
These are just a handful of the cliché phrases we hear during pretty much every virtual meeting. You would think we would have all gotten used to digital communication by now! These moments are undeniably awkward, especially if the call is with a new or potential client. Imagine how uncomfortable a conference call played out in real life would be? Gone are the days of big board rooms and polished pitches complete with sparkling water and croissants. Whether it’s an internal touch base or a new business proposal, nearly all of our meetings are virtual.
It might not be realistic to obtain 100% perfection on a virtual call (cue the dog barking), but here are some tips and tricks to set you up for success when you host your next meeting on Google, Microsoft or Zoom. These tips primarily apply to client calls, because let’s face it, by this point most of our co-workers are used to (and more than ok with) our University sweatshirts and house hair on video calls.
Set The Stage
Preparation is key to ensure any virtual call goes smoothly, even if it doesn’t involve you leaving your couch!
- Dress appropriately – at least from the waist up! Though we would argue that dressing for the work day, even if it’s from your couch, puts you in a go-getting mood that will translate to your calls. Just because we’re all working from home, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put our best self forward, especially when we’re representing our agency.
- Limit distractions – put your phone out of reach so you’re not tempted, go into a quiet room and most importantly (PLEASE) stay on mute when you can!
- Never underestimate the power of an appealing background. A plain wall is better than watching your roommate make a snack or distracting those in the “room” with your messy bed.
- If you share a platform with others, make sure you book your time properly. Double booking is never polished!
- Prepare! Are all documents that you will be looking at updated? Does everyone know what they’re speaking on?
- Where possible, have someone else taking notes if you’re speaking. It’s tough to type and think and talk at once, as least in a polished way.
- Always send an agenda in advance so that everyone comes properly prepared to the call. Especially when it feels like 100 people are on the line, start the call by noting the time and agenda to keep everyone on track. This can help the call from going over, and maybe even keep it shorter!
- On the flip side, send any follow-ups as close to the end of the call as possible. This avoids anything being forgotten and shows your team you’re on top of things.
Present With Polish
Remember in school when you had to videotape yourself presenting, and then watch it back? As mortifying as that was, you most certainly learned a lot about presentation skills you need to improve on. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the basics, so here’s a refresher!
- Pause – utilize pauses when you speak so you don’t speak too quickly or over anyone. Let those awkward silences happen! It could be a delay, someone could be on mute or maybe needs a moment to think. Don’t acknowledge them, which makes the moment worse! Wait a long moment then move on.
- OWN the conversation. Be confident! Even if you have to fake it a little at first.
- Pay attention! It is so unpolished when it’s clear you weren’t listening. Even if it’s not “your part,” you should still be tuned in and ready to jump in.
- Since we can’t be together and are all suffering from virtual fatigue, bring some energy to your calls. Even if there is not video, smiling will add more positivity to your tone and keep the mood up!
- It goes without saying to watch your UMs and UHs, but have you also heard about Upspeak? It’s when you phrase a statement as question by increasing your tone pitch at the end of a sentence. It can come across as less professional and lower credibility. It tends to be more common in women, especially younger generations.
- Lastly, practice! You’re never too far in your career to not need to run through a presentation or a tough call in advance. It will increase your confidence and work out the kinks.
Here are some helpful (and entertaining) videos to learn more about upspeak
Know your audience
A top priority when you’re on a call with a new crowd, is to determine if they want to get right down to business or appreciate some chit chat first. Read the room and remember that structure for the next call. Respecting their preference will go a long way in building trust!
You’ll also learn through more calls if they prefer a shared screen, task list, video or no video. Don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t know! At Faulhaber, we like to do a shared screen of upcoming tasks, especially with clients who are new to PR, to make them feel comfortable that they have a line of sight into what we’re working on for them.
Don’t Forget About Relationship
Sometimes when we are overrun with virtual meetings, we can forget that it’s a human on the other end of the screen, not a computer bot. Even if your call has a down to business structure, use the small moment when you are waiting for everyone to join to do a personal check-in. It can be a smart-share, like a relevant article you read that you think they’d be interest in, or something more specific, like asking about their child’s birthday party you saw on Instagram. We recommend avoiding the “are you still working from home” weekly check, which is starting to feel like the new “how’s the weather?”
Were these tips helpful? Sound off on our social @faulhabercomm