One of the most important tools contractors have when it comes to managing clients during the pandemic are video calls. Easy to set up, free for the most part and allows you to have a more personal meeting with clients that you wouldn’t be able to meet personally.
But because we’re talking about a business, meetings via video call should strive to be just as professional as regular meetings. This may look simple on the surface, but when you consider the limitations it can prove quite a challenge – the stationary camera, limited field of view and general awkwardness some clients feel while on camera are barriers to overcome.
Yet, they can be overcome. There’s no reason why a call can’t be professional as long as you’re comfortable and confident on camera, and know how to use the platform to it’s best effect.
With that, here are some tips that will help you make perfect video calls with your clients!
Become familiar with your platform
This is a simple but very important step. Before you make any video calls, take some time – perhaps with a friend or family member – to perform a test call so that you can become more familiar with the platform.
Check where volume sliders are, how to mute or unmute calls, troubleshoot any issues that might come up (such as your webcam not working)... go through the whole process so that if any issues come up during a call with a client, you’ll know how to fix it quickly.
Besides, this is also a good opportunity to become more comfortable on camera, which is an acquired skill for most people.
Set a time and be punctual
Just like for in-person meetings, it’s crucial to set a time and be punctual. Sure, there’s a lot of freedom when it comes to video calls so it might be easy to assume there’s no problem being a few minutes late – but this flexibility is the exact reason why you should avoid it. Think of it this way: if it’s so easy to be on time for a video call, why would you be late?
Besides, being punctual is always an act of courtesy to others, so try to build this habit!
Take advantage of technology
I’ll be using Google Meet as an example because it’s the platform I’ve used most often to make video calls. Here are a few things you can do on Google Meet that might come up as useful resources during your meeting:
You can still send text messages while on the call. This might seem useless on the surface, but it’s actually very handy for sending links or writing down notes on the fly in a way both sides can see it, therefore guaranteeing there’ll be no misunderstandings.
You can share your screen. This is particularly useful for showing projects, going through estimates or contracts in detail, sharing photos, etc. It’s the video call equivalent of having the client right beside you and looking at your computer screen, making it easy to share anything you have on your machine.
You can mute your mic. I’ll give some tips on audio quality below, because ideally you shouldn’t have any audio problems in the first place… but accidents happen. Maybe your mic has noticeable noise, or you have background noise (such as a construction site, busy streets, or your kids playing near you) interfering with the call. So when you’re not talking and just listening to your client, you can quickly mute your mic to ensure they’re not hearing any distracting noises.
Set up a good background
There’s nothing wrong with setting up in front of a wall and having the call there, but if possible, try to have your back towards the bulk of a room, not just a corner. And if you can do that, make sure there’s no noticeable mess and that the room is well-lit.
In truth this is an optional step that will probably go unnoticed by most clients, but a bit of visual variety does help in making the call more pleasant overall. Having your back turned to a bland white wall might give the impression you’re having the call inside a bathroom cubicle and we want to avoid that.
Ensure good lighting
Perhaps one of the biggest problems with video calls, getting good lighting is trickier than it sounds. Assuming you don’t own any sort of lighting equipment or HD camera, here’s how to work around it:
Try not to have strong light behind you. Most webcams have average to low video quality and really can’t handle lighting extremes. Having your back turned to a window on a sunny day will make it look like the sun itself is behind your back, which in turn will make you look like a shadow-y silhouette.
Use window light correctly. The above example might make it seem like window lighting is bad, but far from it. The trick is that you should have the lighting facing you at a slight angle, either from your right or your left. If you have the light coming from your exact side however, one side of your face will be brightly lit and the other side may be pitch black. Try to have the window light coming at an angle in front of you, so that one side is more lit than the other, but your entire face is visibly well-lit – not just one side.
Angle your camera. PC webcams can usually be placed anywhere, so if possible, try to have it directly in front of you at roughly eye-level – if you don’t have a small tripod, you can use a stack of books or boxes since that can’t be seen on the video feed. Laptop cameras however are placed on top of the screen, so if possible, place your laptop a bit higher using the same technique in a way that’s comfortable to type. It doesn’t have to be perfectly at eye-level since that’s quite high, we just want to avoid an extreme low-angle that might look unflattering.
Good audio is crucial
And finally, the greatest problem of video calls: the audio. So far you’ll have noticed that no investments were necessary to make video calls work – the platform is free and setting up the camera, background and lighting is also completely free. Now, there are some tips you can follow for better audio, but if you want to invest in anything, it’s a headset with a decent microphone.
Laptop microphones in particular are usually pretty bad as they tend to pick up the sound of your typing and clicking. But new microphone or not, let’s get down to business:
Listen to yourself. Every computer has an option to hear feedback from your own voice somewhere in the audio settings. This should always be turned off while on a call, but it’s very useful to make sure your voice is coming through clearly and the mic isn’t picking up any other sounds. If it is, you can tweak the mic sensibility to a sweet spot, preventing it from picking up low rumbles and other subtle noises.
But you can also set up a call with a friend or family member and just ask if the audio is good on their end.
Make sure your environment is quiet. While on a meeting, be sure to turn off noisy appliances such as dishwashers or washing machines, and also close doors and windows whenever necessary.
Listen through your headset. If your client’s sound is coming out of your speakers, their voice can be picked up by your microphone, meaning they would end up hearing themselves. But even worse, if they’re also hearing you from their speaker, their rebound voice will show up there as well and create an infinite loop known as “squeaking” – an ear-piercing high-pitched echo caused by the feedback.
Though there are tools that automatically detect and prevent this issue, they’re not 100% reliable. You’re much safer simply using headphones or a headset for your audio output to prevent this from happening at all.
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