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How do I run a successful virtual client meeting?
There are many advantages to online meetings and it can definitely take some of the hassle out of your work day. One of the biggest benefits of virtual meetings is enhanced productivity due to better time management and significant savings in travel expenses. It also provides you with easy contact with clients across the world presenting differentiated service offerings.
In my role as a financial planning coach, I spend a great deal of time on online training as well as co-attending virtual client meetings. Below are some tips to help you kick-start your online meetings with clients:
1. HAVE A CLEAR AND WELL-COMMUNICATED AGENDA
To manage your client’s expectations as well as create certainty, prepare a formal agenda with all the key issues to be discussed in the meeting. Send the agenda well in advance for input or acknowledgement from your client and clearly communicate your expectations from the meeting.
2. PREPARE YOUR SYSTEM IN ADVANCE
All you need is stable connectivity, a good microphone and camera as well as most importantly, screen sharing capabilities.
Skype remains the most popular video conferencing service for one-on-one meetings. Recently I have also been introduced to Zoom, which works especially well in a corporate environment where you may have restrictions on certain software capabilities for external networks due to security reasons. It’s important to ensure that your client knows what software you are using and where to access the software and link to your meeting.
Here are some things to consider doing before your meeting:
• Reboot your computer ahead of time. If you occasionally need to reboot your computer, do this before the meeting.
• Connect 10 to 15 minutes early. If there are any issues, you want to make sure you know about them ahead of time.
• Have alternative connection information available. Many web conferencing solutions allow you to stream audio from your computer or phone.
• Test your connection and network speed. Voice speed and quality of connection can affect the way your voice is transmitted.
Bonus Tip: If you have problems with sound quality, try to use a phone for the voice connection so, at the very minimum, you can hear and be heard clearly and still make use of the software’s screen sharing capability.
• Have a backup internet connection that you can easily switch to. It’s important to have a safety net if the primary connection goes down.
• Shut down any other programs.
3. CONDUCT A TEST MEETING
Practice makes perfect. If you’ve just set up your new online meeting software and are about to use it for an important client meeting, you should do a test run with a colleague beforehand. This will allow you to familiarise yourself with the user interface and features. You can also test your microphone and speaker settings to eliminate any surprises on the day of the meeting.
4. BE PREPARED
Make sure you have everything prepared before the meeting. Video conferencing tends to magnify any lack of preparation on your part, so make sure you have your documentation or files (electronic or hard copies) at hand.
When taking a client through their integrated wealth graph through screen sharing, make sense of their life and graph beforehand and be prepared to interpret the graphs and assumptions as well as to do live online modelling to co-create possible solutions with your client.
5. SET TIME LIMITS
Time capping your meetings can significantly boost your productivity and help you achieve more value in the limited time you have. For example, you can set the meeting duration to 30 minutes and assign 10 minutes to each of the agenda points. This way you and your client will stay focused.
6. MINIMISE DISTRACTIONS
Be very aware of what is in the background or in front of your desk. Try to keep your office as clean and clutter-free as possible. Be very careful of people walking behind your office. It can be distracting and may look unprofessional.
7. PAY ATTENTION TO SOUND
Use a good headset and make sure that you won’t be adding any noise to the meeting. You may need to turn off your fan or close a window to ensure your environment is quiet. Sound quality is even more important than video quality. If there is a distracting buzz or wind sound when you need to talk it will detract from what you have to say.
The sound that you have learned to ignore may be very distracting for someone else.
8. VIRTUAL MEETING ETIQUETTE
The key to a successful virtual meeting is to remember that you are in a meeting, so give your full attention. The following are some pointers on virtual etiquette:
Keep body movements minimal
Move and gesture slowly and naturally
Maintain eye contact by looking into the camera
Be yourself and have fun!
Don’t eat or drink
Avoid distracting sounds or movements
Don’t interrupt other speakers
Side conversations are unacceptable
Never cover the microphone
Source: St. Leo University Office of Information Technology
9. CONCLUDE WITH CLEAR ACTION ITEMS
Conclude the meeting by summarising all action items for each of the agenda points and get acknowledgement from the client. The key rule is to identify an action item, assign it to one individual and agree on a deadline. Without these three things, no action item can be tracked effectively.
10. SHARE MEETING NOTES
Once your online meeting concludes, make sure you send your client a summary of all the notes. List the action points identified for each agenda item along with the name of the person responsible for its delivery.
Make use of the opportunity to ask for feedback. Simply ask the following:
• Did the meeting meet your expectations?
• Is there anything else you would like to see in future meetings?
Virtual meetings can save you valuable time and money. It’s the way the future is heading and changing the face of how people work and collaborate effectively. All you need to do is make the effort in your preparation and process to ensure a great and convenient client experience.