One of the coolest future moments I’ve experienced was a couple of years ago when I was riding my bike, towing my daughters in the trailer. We were riding through South Minneapolis, and the girls were using Skype on my iPhone to chit-chat with my dad, who lived in New Zealand at the time. Just casual as you please, chatting face-to-face with someone on the other side of the world.
Video v. Voice
It’s not clear exactly how much communication is lost when we talk on the phone, but some certainly is. It’s pretty hard to show a client you are actively listening when they can’t see you. And the casual way people interact in person is much harder to replicate on a voice call. Video calls provide more visual cues.
In fact, a year or so ago my financial advisor told me he is doing more and more video meetings with his clients. Not with younger, tech-savvy clients, as you might expect. The clients who prefer video are older clients who, like my dad, learned to use it to stay in touch with their grandchildren. Once you get comfortable with video calls the advantages are obvious.
I’m not suggesting you need to switch all your client calls to video, but being able to do it is basic tech competence.
Chat with someone—anyone—using Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts. You can do it from your phone, tablet, or computer. If you have an Apple device, FaceTime is probably the easiest to use because it is built in. Of course, it only works with other Apple devices. Skype—now owned by Microsoft and integrated with Office 365—is easily the most widely used option. Google Hangouts is also easy and works great, especially for group calls.
While you are video chatting with someone, take the time to figure out what makes you look better on screen. There’s no point if you look like crap.
Get the camera up to eye level so the person you are chatting with feels like they are sitting across from you, not in your lap. Make sure there is a light source in front of you so your face is well-lit and the picture is clear. Find a clean backdrop, like a solid-color wall.
And while most broadband connections and 4G/LTE devices will work great, pay attention to the connection quality. Find a spot where you get a strong signal. If you can’t get it working at all, you probably need to upgrade your bandwidth anyway.
Add Video to Your Client-Meeting Repertoire
Now that you can use video, consider using it with your clients. It probably shouldn’t replace all your in-person meetings, and some clients won’t be open to it. But it can be a good way to save your clients the inconvenience of coming to your office, especially for serious conversations that you really need to have face-to-face. It can also expand your geographic reach if you can meet face-to-face with clients living far from your office.
If you already use video chat in your practice, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.