Viewpoints | Advyzon

Make the most out of video calls

Written by John Mackowiak

Many of us jumped head-first into video calls as a way of navigating COVID-19. As things return to normal, we’re seeing more advisors incorporate remote meetings into their regular practice. Not only do video calls save time since there’s no conference room to prep or travel required, they can also widen a firm’s geographical reach.

If you’re one of the many advisors thinking about making video calls a regular occurrence, make sure the experience is both high-quality and compliant. Here are a few ways to help you get the most out of video calls.

1. Teach your clients how to video chat securely.

Many clients, particularly older clients, might be intimidated by video calls if they’ve never used the technology before. Consider having someone in your office (or even hiring a virtual assistant for the job) reach out to clients to explain the software and set up a test call. You could also record a how-to video for clients, then attach it to meeting invites and reminders.

Compliance experts may recommend you take a few steps to ensure your meetings are secure. This can add a layer of complexity that you may need to explain to clients ahead of time.

According to Kim Collins, President of Compliance Resource Partners (CRP), “You’ll want to ensure that client calls can’t be hacked. So, video call on a secure network only, require a four-digit passcode to enter the meeting, and enable the privacy settings to where the host accepts participants into the meeting.”

Preparing clients for what they can expect—from invite through to hang up—can go a long way. You may find clients are more willing to meet remotely once they’re comfortable with the technology. Plus, you’ll have added to their skillset!

2. Have a virtual receptionist to maximize your time.

No matter how familiar you, or your clients, are with video technology, there’s always the possibility that something will go wrong, or that you’ll need to make adjustments once the call starts. If you have the bandwidth, consider asking someone on your team to open the call before you join. This way, your clients can work out any issues with microphones, sound, and more before you get on the call. It saves you both from potential awkwardness so you can maintain professionalism and hit the ground running.

3. Set an itinerary and share documents in advance.

Reach out to your clients to let them know what you hope to discuss and to see if they have any questions for you. If they do, you may need to adjust your video chat settings. For instance, your client could want to get your opinion on a 401(k) you don’t have visibility into. You might ask your client to send you a PDF of their plan in advance so you’re able to reference it remotely. Planning which documents you’ll review and sharing them in advance can help minimize the need to share screens or use the ‘chat’ feature. This may make video calls easier from a compliance point of view (more on that in a minute).

Whatever agenda you set, make sure you create time to talk about impromptu topics. It can be tempting to skip small talk and get straight to business when you’re in an uncomfortable setting, and you don’t want to lose the benefit of hearing about how your clients’ kids are doing at college or whatever other news they have to share.

4. Get comfortable with screen sharing — but don’t share confidential info.

If you’re used to printing papers and walking clients through documents in meetings, the shift to video meetings can be extra challenging. Make sure whatever video software you’re using gives you the option to share your screen. Check your screen ahead of sharing to ensure you only share relevant client information. If you tend to mark up or draw on papers during your client meetings, think through how you can replicate that on video chat. If you expect to do this frequently, there are plug-ins that allow you to use a pen-style stylus to mark documents. Or you might simply use text boxes or the draw feature to do basic annotations.

Here’s another note from the compliance team at CRP: Don’t show account numbers or Social Security numbers if you’re reviewing documents on a video call—essentially anything that would fall under PII, or personally identifiable information.

5. Know whether you need to archive the call, including the chat feature.

Collins also cautions advisors that if they plan to use the chat feature on a video call, that call should be recorded and archived. It may seem minor mid-call, but the chat feature triggers the electronic communication rule. If you prefer not to record your calls (perhaps you want to stay as close to the “in-person” experience as possible), simply turn the chat feature off.

6. Stage your shots to look and sound your best.

You want your video shot to convey the same professionalism as your office does during in-person meetings. Think through:

  • Your background. Try not to sit in front of a window, since backlighting can cast you in a shadow. Similarly, try not to sit in front of a plain wall. A bookshelf or plant is ideal. If you don’t have a backdrop you like, explore some of the remote background options that are available now; you could set your background to your firm’s logo, for instance.
  • Lighting. Sitting with a window in front of you can provide great lighting, but this isn’t always an option. The most popular way to light a shot is using a ring light. These are increasingly popular and can be bought from a variety of retailers, including Amazon, usually for less than $40.
  • Microphone. Good audio is important. Buying a microphone that plugs into your computer can help clients hear you more clearly and can minimize any outside noises, like an ambulance driving by or a dog in the other room.
  • Your eyes. To look at someone directly over video chat, you must look directly into the camera when you’re speaking. And that means NOT looking at your clients. That said, you want to be able to gauge your clients’ reactions. Try putting their video stream as close to your camera as you can, so that when you look at them, it appears as if you’re looking into the camera.

Much like regular client meetings, setting up the perfect video call can be more art than science. But the tips here should help you get started and help your clients acclimate to this new approach to meetings. Have additional tips that have helped you master video calls? Tweet us @Advyzon so we can share them!

John Mackowiak is the Chief Business Development Officer at Advyzon, a comprehensive technology platform for independent financial advisors.

Written by John Mackowiak