Virtual meetings are today’s touchstone; I myself partake in multiple virtual meetings each day. It’s undeniable that virtual meetings are far safer with COVID-19, and more convenient without the travel time and associated vicissitudes. They are an excellent method of building our relationships with prospects, clients, and our internal team. Therefore, our sales success requires us to take advantage of the ease of virtual meetings, while avoiding the limitations and pitfalls. Here are my best tips on how to deliver effective and valuable virtual meetings.
Virtual meetings come in a variety of flavors: You’ve got basic phone conference calls, then myriad choices of audio, visual, and video services. Some of us have access to a big screen in our conference rooms, while most use the technology on our smart devices and computers. Options you may have heard of are GoToMeeting, Zoom, and WebEx, to name only a very few.
Regardless of the system you select for any given meeting, your objectives, time, and energy need to be focused on the desired outcome. If your system is new, or there have been recent updates, practice and test to ensure you have the technical requirements and ease of operation down pat. Consider new functionality and your network bandwidth needs for the material you will be sharing. This is your prep work for a great meeting.
My number one tip is to know your objective of the meeting: the why. The format and tactics you employ for the meeting feed your desired outcome. There are times that an audio-only meeting fits the objective parameters. This can be especially effective if you have attendees joining from across the globe: Your clients can be comfortable wearing bunny slippers in the wee hours on phone conference calls. Audio-only calls are useful to address and tidy fine details, or to plan a formal meeting. They are often ideal for internal meetings.
Video conference calls are an obvious choice when sharing visual content and making a face-to-face client connection. This is where the why comes in. If the meeting is a formal presentation, business review, or new offering reveal, then a video conference is an ideal format. In other words, share your screen for the presentation while utilizing your video cameras to stay connected to your audience and they with you. If this is your first video meeting, be sure to test it with your client first. Don’t become stunned if your client’s antiquated equipment will not support mainstream video conferencing services. This happened to me with a Fortune 500 company. Avoid the angst – test!
Now that you know your objective, follow this checklist to cover your bases and complete your meeting preparation.
- Agenda – review with your key client stakeholder or contact
- Materials – review with internal team, and contact your client if needed
- Invitation – include an agenda; optional to include materials for preview
- Research participants
- Prepare questions and interaction
Bring the same energy and passion to your virtual meetings as you do in any sales undertaking. Your attendees can hear the emotion and commitment in your voice and, when on camera, see it in your eyes and smile. You are building relationships and making a deeper connection with your clients and prospects. Your words and actions feed your authenticity and credibility. Use our tips on phone meetings, and add the visual kapow to obtain robust participation in the meeting. Humanize your meetings with video and interaction.
A key principal for virtual meetings is to encourage candor and mutual interest. Particularly when the individuals may not know you, your company, or even each other, it’s vital to make them feel connected to have a productive meeting. During the meeting, remember to check the temperature and engagement of the attendees periodically. It’s important that all of the meeting participants stay present. Structuring your meeting with questions to drive the conversation and opportunities for interaction keeps your audience focused. I really cannot stress this enough. It’s so easy for attendees to check their cells and emails or multitask during virtual meetings.
My rule is to visualize that I am in the same room as the other participants. My full attention is focused on the meeting. It’s paramount to assume that the microphones and cameras are live as soon as I enter the meeting. It can be downright embarrassing to say or do something when you are not aware you are live with your clients. Give yourself an edge by always initiating or joining the meeting early. Have everything ready. It demonstrates your respect and value of everyone’s time, and adds to your relational capital.
Here is my check list for a powerful virtual meeting:
- Be animated and authentic – share your passion.
- Stay on point – follow the agenda and plan a separate meeting if you’re heading into the weeds.
- Location – if you have participants joining from the field, establish ground rules for muting their audio. You may need to disable their video if the background is too distracting.
- Check for a pulse – ask questions to drive lively conversation. Get your audience engaged and thinking about the subject at hand. Ask each person for input to build connections.
- Takeaways – ask each participant what they gained from the meeting.
- Ask for minimal actionable commitment – this is the why of the meeting, the desired outcome.
- Follow up – do what you say you will do and establish the next touch point.
Virtual meetings are an excellent opportunity to further your relationship with your clients or prospects. The key is to create an environment that encourages active participation and candor. Champion the occasion to establish mutual interests and deepen the connectivity of the participants. Keep the energy up and dialogue engrossed. Approach your virtual meetings with the same commitment as an in-person meeting. With this readily available technology, you are poised to build engagement, trust, and genuine affinity.