Virtual meetings continue to gain widespread popularity among financial advisors as a proxy for face-to-face meetings and a way to expand geographical reach. It’s a powerful shift. The ability to meet with clients virtually means the ability to serve clients from anywhere. (Tweet this.)
As with any new strategy, virtual meetings come with their own set of questions around “how to do it right”. Sure, there may be a slight learning curve for beginners, but we’ve chatted with advisors who are having great success with their virtual meetings (and sometimes relying solely on them) and have noticed 3 essential elements for making a virtual client meeting effective:
1. The right tools
With its growing popularity, several new tools for conducting virtual meetings have emerged. However, it’s important for you to use the ‘right’ tool for the ‘right’ occasion.
Voice and video: The most widely used virtual meeting tool is Skype. A big advantage of Skype is that it offers a free platform with all the features you need for a simple virtual meeting, and many of your clients may already have a username. Skype offers videoconferencing for one-to-one calls, conference calls (without video) and even a simple screen sharing tool, all for free. Skype is ideal for a simple one-to-one meeting with a client, or a conference call with your staff. One possible downside is that Skype’s screen sharing capabilities are very basic.
Share your screen: If you need more advanced screen sharing capabilities, you may want to subscribe to either Join.me or GoToMeeting. These are more ‘premium’ services, but with that comes a few premium features – the ability share multiple screens, allow your client to control your desktop, add annotations, schedule meetings and send invites to attendees. These services are ideal if screen sharing is a major function of your meeting. Some advisors may not feel comfortable sharing their screen online with clients for compliance issues or because they worry clients won’t be engaged. If so, equipping clients with a document vault and/or online client portal that they can log into on their own is a great solution.
Log into a shared dashboard: For conversations around performance, it’s useful to have one place a client can log into to see their complete financial position, including performance of individual accounts, asset allocation and financial targets. This is one big advantage of having a easy to use client portal, like Blueleaf. You and your clients can log into the portal during the virtual meeting and navigate to reports and summaries together, discussing up-to-date information or choosing custom date ranges for previous performance, instead of flipping through static reports or files. Your client portal is an effective way to keep clients involved and informed in the work you do with them, both during a meeting and throughout the entire year. Which brings us to the second element…
2. Engaged clients
A common misconception about virtual meetings is that they’re impersonal. This may be true if all your client sees is a Skype window, but there are steps you can take to exert your virtual presence, engage your audience and ultimately keep them focused.
Smile, you’re on camera: Using a webcam to be quasi “face-to-face” with your clients is a great way to provide a visual focus and make the virtual meeting more personable. It’s a good practice to greet your client by presenting yourself on the webcam, and then move on to the substance of the meeting.
Use a visual aid: The best visual aids are simple, informative, easy to understand, and custom to client. For example, encouraging your clients to log into their client portal while hosting your virtual meeting helps you presents all their financial information, both custodied and held-away assets, in a live data platform (one application of a client portal paired with account aggregation, like Blueleaf).
They’re already comfortable navigating the portal, so it’s simply up to you to point out the key information you want to discuss. *If you’re generating static reports on your own, sharing your screen with a client and walking through their paper report is also an option.
Keep it short: To reduce the opportunity for distractions, it’s important to keep your virtual meetings “short and sweet” (15-30 minutes). If a meeting must be longer, allow time for a short break.
3. Proper “meeting etiquette”
Etiquette you follow during face-to-face meetings applies to the virtual meeting, too, but with a twist.
Preparation: It goes without saying that you need to be prepared before for any meeting. For virtual meetings, it’s important to email the agenda, and any links and documents relevant to the meeting.
Eye contact: When you have a webcam running, remember to maintain a good amount of eye contact with the camera. Our natural tendency during virtual meetings is to focus on the screen. Remember to look up at the camera from time to time, since this is how you client will perceive that you are making eye contact.
Slow your pace: To make sure your client follows what you say, it’s important to speak at a slower pace than normal. There won’t be any visual cues to indicate that your client hasn’t understood something, so speak slowly and clearly. You should also allow for a 2-3 second delay in case of any connection issues. Keep this in mind when you ask your client a question, since the delay will affect their response time.
So, it boils down to…
– Find the ‘right’ tool to host your virtual meetings. A basic Skype account may do the trick.
– Keep clients engaged with visuals they actually care about. A well-designed client portal is most helpful here. Get a Free 30-Day Trial of Blueleaf to see what it’s like to give your clients LIVE reporting and simple account aggregation via your own branded portal.
– Treat it like an in-person meeting, just with a twist. Orient the meeting with an agenda and a meeting “toolkit” for their reference – including the virtual meeting platform of your choice, their online portal, document sharing platform, and other tools you may provide.