Contributed by Ryan Ayers
Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of Fortune 500 companies within multiple industries including big data and business technology. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs, with a keen focus on business communication and C-suite leadership.
Fully engaging your team members’ attention can be challenging. This is true for in-person meetings, and even truer with virtual meetings.
Global Workplace Analytics predicts that 25% to 30% of the workforce will work from home in some capacity by the end of 2021. With the right tools and strategies, business managers can prepare for this future and ready their teams for a productive and collaborative remote experience.
Virtual consultation calls will only become more crucial over time, as meetings continue to take place online for convenience, logistics, and safety. Here are some tips for making these meetings as productive and successful as possible.
Set an Agenda
An agenda is important for any consultation, but it’s especially key for a virtual session. It’s easy to get off track when meeting virtually, and some upfront preparation will help you prevent problems like awkward pauses and skipping important points.
Set the ground rules for your virtual meeting during the first few minutes, and then go over the agenda. During virtual meetings, distractions are almost inevitable, which can make it more difficult to stick to an agenda. Still, this means that you must be MORE prepared, not less prepared, in order to make the meeting a success.
It’s more difficult to hold participants’ attention in a virtual session than it is in-person. No one wants to sit and listen to someone drone on over Zoom! To avoid this common issue, you need to encourage participation.
Use the 60-second rule to capture and hold the participants’ attention. You won’t be able to get a group of people to work on solving a problem unless they really experience or feel the effect of the problem. It’s important to do this within the first 60 seconds, whether that means sharing dramatic statistics, talking about a competitor’s success, or telling a powerful story.
The point is to engage the emotions of the people on the call. Once they feel and experience the problem or opportunity, they’ll be more engaged and willing to listen to what you have to say. Get that attention early and leverage it!
Prepare for a Variety of Questions
You need to be ready for anything on a virtual consultation call. Don’t just assume that every client will ask the same questions. Be prepared for a variety of questions by writing down every possibility you can think of. It’s also a good idea to write down a brief summary of the answer so that you don’t find yourself searching your brain for the proper response in the moment.
Build Trust and Credibility
To get buy-in on your virtual consultation calls, you need to build trust and credibility. That’s not as difficult as it sounds, though, as long as you’re well-prepared. The key to building these key elements is to be upfront with people about what they can expect, and then follow through. That’s it!
Be honest and genuine, and confront any concern head-on. Don’t over- or under-sell what you’re able to offer. If you fudge anything, people will find out later on and that trust you built will disappear instantly.
You should also look at virtual meetings as an opportunity for enhanced personalization. Personalized consultations will build trust and goodwill because it shows you took the time to create something just for this meeting. Your time is valuable, and if you can demonstrate to people that they are worth your time, you’ll be rewarded with trust and you’ll start to build a strong working relationship.
Record the Session
Many people are tense during meetings, especially if they’re trying to take notes and pay attention at the same time. This can make connecting and engaging clients difficult and often leads to people forgetting the action items you request.
It’s easy to bypass these common pitfalls—just record the session! Many people will feel much more relaxed if they know they’ll be getting a recording they can refer back to. It also adds value to the meeting and a touch of professionalism.
Most video conferencing software allows you to record a session or get a transcript of your meeting with ease. Or, you can use tools like Yondo or otter.ai. Try out different tools to see what works best for you. Check with the meeting participants to get their consent, then record away!
Create a Follow-Up Plan
After the meeting, you still have some more work to do. Effective virtual consultation calls are all about preparation and communication. Even if you discussed the next steps for your client on the call, they will need and appreciate more follow-up from you.
Right after the meeting, send over a summary of what you discussed and the participants’ next steps. If you will be providing deliverables at this stage, discuss what will be delivered, who will be responsible, and when the client will see those deliverables. You will also want to set dates for action items and a future check-in.
This might seem like a lot, but it’s a great way to make the most of your virtual consultations. It will also help you maintain engagement and stay top-of-mind. Remember, communication is key, especially when you’re hundreds or even thousands of miles apart.