You’ve been directed to work from home. You’ve done it before but, now it will be for an extended time. In this blog, we’ll provide you quick and effective ways to have the right setup, tools, techniques to increase your effectiveness with team members, clients, and prospects. For client-facing roles, we will also provide tips for building momentum in the sales process that simply aren’t achievable in traditional, face-to-face encounters. Shockingly, you will learn how to become MORE productive than when you were in the office! The following are excerpts from our recently released video course, “HomeOffice2Win!”
Your Home Office Setup:
An optimized home office setup does not have to break the bank but does require intentional enhancement. Make sure your audio is clear, your video is eye-level, and your background is suitable for the viewer.
1. Audio– Always prioritize the quality of your audio over the quality of your video. While this may seem counterintuitive, meeting participants must be able to hear you clearly and naturally to absorb your message as effectively as an in-person meeting. Use a good quality condenser microphone over the inferior microphone built into your laptop. If your home office includes noise distractions (dog barking, noisy children, etc.), upgrade your audio to a noise-canceling digital microphone/headset.
2. Video – People need to see you! Yes, that means you have to dress appropriately and make sure there is no spinach in your teeth! Laptop video cameras are typically, at best, average quality only made worse by an unflattering camera angle! If you must use your laptop camera, raise the height of your laptop to as close as eye-level as possible. Better yet, use an external camera like a Logitech C920S for $70 or upgrade to a Logitech Brio for $199. Going external also lets you put your camera on a height-adjustable stand.
3. What’s behind you? – This crucial element of web meetings is often ignored but critically important. Here’s a simple test. Open the camera application on your laptop (Windows it’s called “Camera” and a Mac. It’s called “Photo Booth.”) Now, what do you see? If it is any part of the ceiling or a window, change your camera angle. Consider some quick room rearranging. What you want is a calm, neutral background. Bookshelves, room dividers, plants, personal pictures are all great! Remember, your audience can’t see what isn’t in the shot. So, feel free to move clutter just out of the shot if you’re not ready for a more significant office project.
Tools abound when it comes to working from home and using web meetings. Some are incorporated into your web tool. Add on tools can further enhance the effectiveness of your sessions.
4. Know your Web Tool – Now, let’s turn our attention to your on-line web tool. If you are like most, your organization has a tool of choice. Some of the top tools include Microsoft Teams, Zoom, WebEx, Blue Jeans, and GoToMeeting. Whatever flavor you have, learn how to smoothly navigate the features of the tool so you can easily chat, share an application, and direct the video. A quick search in “help” often reveals informative videos on these basic features of your tool. For example, the chat feature of a tool drives engagement of meeting attendees. If you initiated the meeting, you could use chat to engage with participants as they enter the meeting to model for them how you want the more quiet-types to be “heard.”
5. Private vs. Public Chat – Speaking of chat, be sure you understand the difference between a private chat and a public chat! I’ve witnessed some incredibly embarrassing and unprofessional messages come across the meeting chat when one individual thought they were sending a private chat to a colleague only to learn that everyone on the call read it! Our advice is to never send private chats in the same tool as the meeting. Use a different channel of instant messaging on a second screen or your mobile device.
6. Sharing a Screen vs. Application– Virtual meeting tools offer at least two styles of screen-sharing. If you choose to share your “screen,” every application on that screen, including your toolbars, instant messages (e.g., “Nobody has any toilet paper!”) will be seen by everyone on the call. However, if you need to show multiple applications in the meeting (e.g., PowerPoint, Software, etc.), it makes a presentation much more manageable. Here’s a quick tip. If you share your screen, turn off all notifications. In Windows, click on the “start” button and type “presentation,” and the control panel option will appear. Select that option and set yourself to presentation mode. On a Mac, select “Do Not Disturb” in Preferences.
There are a variety of techniques you can use during web meetings to make your messages stick, invite collaboration, and minimize multitasking. Below are three quick tips.
7. Mirror Neurons and Video – People often ask us, “Why is being on camera so important?” Mirror Neurons! In our book Rule of 24, we highlight a study by Marco Lacoboni that discussed how we use our body to communicate our intentions and feelings. For example, if you have a positive message to deliver, and you smile while delivering it, the other meeting attendees will sense your smile and absorb more of your positive message. Likewise, if I want to express pain, and I do so facially, the meeting attendees will feel the pain. Be intentional (and careful) with your facial expressions and use video to your advantage. Remember that you make ”eye contact” with your remote audience by looking into the camera lens, not at your screen.
8. Whiteboarding – Digital, handheld, wall-mounted. Replacing the collaboration and open-thinking that takes place with whiteboards is not without its’ challenges. There are three possible replacements to a group meeting whiteboard. From simplest to more complex are a handheld whiteboard, wall-mounted whiteboard, and digital whiteboard. For many people, illustrating a thought requires a whiteboard and a marker. It is incredibly easy to purchase a small, handheld whiteboard and write on it while having it directed at your camera. “Low tech!” you say? Absolutely but, really simple and effective. The second option is a wall-mounted whiteboard, but only if you have a room that supports it close to your webcam. If you don’t want holes in your wall and the permanent look of a whiteboard in your home, use Cling On Static sheets. They are erasable and simply attach to any flat surface with static electricity. Finally, there are digital whiteboards and a large variety of them. You’ll need a touch screen or a digital pen to be effective. Some web tools have whiteboard features as well.
9. Use of People’s Names – Based on our global research, 74% of respondents believed multitasking of meeting participants is the number one problem with web meetings. What’s worse, according to a Stanford study led by Clifford Nass and Anthony Wagner, “Multitasking is a myth.” People can’t pay attention to more than one thing at a time. First, follow the tips above to make your meeting more engaging to prevent multitasking. Second, use people’s names to get them to “task switch” from what they are paying attention to back to your meeting and critical messages. Do this by first announcing their name in a complete sentence or question. For example, “Olivia, I want to ask you a question.” When Olivia hears her name, she will immediately task-switch!
If you have a customer-facing role, you may have concerns that working from home will disrupt the deal momentum you experience with face-to-face meetings. Quite the contrary! Follow these tips to accelerate your momentum further using recorded video:
10. Personal Video – Setting aside web meetings, our discussion moves to asynchronous communication in the form of recorded video. Personal video is merely using a recording tool (as simple as the software built into Windows or OSX) to record a preceding or following a web meeting. For example, our salespeople will create a brief greeting to a prospect and include a course-specific video for circulation to their selection team members ahead of the web meetings. Doing so makes better use of the time in the meeting. It allows our salesperson to focus on the conversation on a potential client’s needs versus spending fifteen minutes explaining a course overview or trying to find out what they are most interested in. We also use personal video to circulate to select team members as a follow up to a meeting. Personal video shortens sales cycles by eliminating the need for scheduling an additional follow up meeting by creating positive momentum in the selection process.
11. Authenticity over Perfection – One of the many advantages that personal video provides is the ability to re-record the video if you aren’t pleased with the result. However, don’t overthink this. It doesn’t need to be perfect and post-produced by a video department. On the contrary, your audience will prefer your authenticity, including pauses, as you find the right words or refer to your notes. As you become more comfortable recording video, you will find the process of recording and sending videos will become second-nature.
12. Teleprompting vs. Notes – If you need absolute precision in your recording, use a teleprompter. Wow, that sounds expensive! Well, it isn’t! I use a product called “Teleprompt+ 3” on my mobile device, and it is a whopping $24.99! These types of apps provide the ability to maintain eye contact with your mobile device as you read and record your video. Most of our team members have become so comfortable recording personal videos that they simply refer to a sticky-note next to their camera for the next topic.
We offer a full video course on the specific How-Tos of what I’ve described in this blog…and more.