Back in early March 2020, you might not have imagined that you’d be thrust into a new way of doing business. Some traditional sales and marketing activities, such as trade shows and networking events, will take some time to return, and although other activities may be happening, such as conducting face-to-face meetings, many companies are still restricting visitors, depending on where they are located. Love it or hate it, online technology in the form of videoconferencing, video tours, and webinars is necessary to interact successfully with your prospects and customers and will likely be around for some time.
Knowing how to use online technology effectively is no longer a nice-to-have skill but a requirement for doing business. Fumbling with settings or struggling to set up when you start a virtual meeting or tour puts you at risk for coming across as unprofessional and unorganized, which could impact the trust that prospects or customers have in your ability to deliver. Testing your technology before you need to use it is vital for making sure you can hit the ground running.
Even if you are already using online technology, some of these tips might help polish your skills even more. Below we provide tips specific to web meetings, webinars, and virtual tours, as well as more general tips for success.
A phone call may be sufficient for some types of communication, but seeing your prospect on video during a virtual meeting allows you to create a stronger connection. On video calls, you have visual cues that are missing on traditional calls. These cues can help you to alter your message to ensure that it is resonating with your prospect. Web meetings are also more productive than a traditional conference call, as participants are more likely to remain focused. Additionally, web meetings allow you to share your screen to show a presentation or other information.
Just as in a traditional meeting, the same etiquette applies. Prepare an agenda. If you are hosting, arrive a few minutes early. If you are attending, arrive on time. Hosts should provide a dial-in number in case there are issues with participants having a stable internet connection.
Webinars are a great way to reach many prospects and customers and build relationships. For best results, topics should be geared toward where people are in the sales process. If you are looking to engage new customers, keep your topics educational. Current customers might be interested in new technology or services. When designing your presentation, remember to create it from the perspective of your audience. If your presentation is peppered with “we” more than “you,” you may need to verify that you are providing information that will resonate with your audience. Remember the adage “What’s in it for me?”
Practice your webinar before you go live. Practice will allow you to work out any technical challenges, smooth out your presentation, and ensure that you can keep to the time allotted.
Use email and social media to promote your webinar. Create a page on your website with a form and a call to action. The page should also include a brief introduction to the topic, learning objectives, date and time, and the presenter’s name. When someone signs up, they should receive an email with directions on how to sign on. If you can’t create a page on your website, many marketing automation platforms allow you to create landing pages and can automatically send email responses. Remember to send a reminder email on the day of the webinar.
Recording your webinar allows you to promote it later as an on-demand presentation and get additional marketing use from it. You can also send it to those who signed up but were not able to attend.
Virtual tours of your facility are a great way to show off your capabilities to those that are social distancing or that aren’t able to travel. Even though virtual tours became necessary during the recent pandemic, they could remain popular because of the cost-savings.
Practice run-throughs for virtual tours are essential. You don’t need expensive equipment. You can use your cellphone to conduct the tour, but consider using a gimbal stabilizer to keep the image steady while you are walking. If you are talking during the tour, a headset or external microphone will ensure that you can be heard over background noise. Be aware of the direction you are holding your camera; showing the ceiling or floor when not intentional can become frustrating for viewers.
Additional Tips for Success
Here are some additional tips that will ensure that your web meetings, webinars, and facility tours are successful and that you showcase all aspects of your facility and capabilities.
Choosing a platform. There are many platforms to choose from when conducting virtual meetings—Zoom, Webex, GoToWebinar, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and others. If your company doesn’t require a specific platform, you may need to do some research to find the one that best fits your needs. If you are hosting a webinar, for example, make sure it can support the number of attendees you expect. Some platforms may require attendees to create an account, which they may not want to do.
Before live use. Get to know the platform before you host a meeting, webinar, or tour. Some settings you might find helpful for security are preventing meeting link sharing, creating a waiting room before the meeting or webinar starts, and locking the meeting once it begins. Many platforms allow you to automatically mute participants, so their background noises don’t create distractions. You can unmute as necessary during the meeting or presentation. If you are sharing content, ensure that you know how to do it so that the transition is smooth. Suggest to your attendees that they download any software required before the meeting or webinar.
Neutral background. Be aware of what is around you and is visible on the screen. It is best to have a blank wall behind you for meetings or webinars, but if that isn’t possible, make sure it looks as professional as possible. Open closets and busy backgrounds may have people focusing on what is around you and not what you are saying. Many platforms have virtual backgrounds or the ability to blur your background. If you must use one, choose something neutral to avoid distracting participants. For virtual tours, make sure workspaces are tidy. Record a practice tour, and watch it to make sure you are giving the impression you want.
Avoid distractions. Background noise can become annoying to participants. Some platforms have an option to block out background noise. Mute yourself when someone else is speaking. Remember to turn off notifications and turn on “do not disturb” or shut down your email to avoid notifications popping up or beeping during your meeting, webinar, or tour.
Lighting. Proper lighting is essential and often overlooked. For meetings, if possible, position yourself facing a window to take advantage of natural light. Bright light coming from behind you may create glare; reposition yourself or close shades if necessary. Consider purchasing a portable makeup light or ring light to place behind your camera to brighten your face. Virtual plant tours will be more successful if participants can see your facility without struggling. Again, pay attention to any windows that might create glare or any dark areas that need additional lighting during the tour.
Audio. Check your audio to make sure it is clear, especially if you will be speaking during a tour. Some areas of your facility may be noisier or have dead areas where audio could break up. You may find that an external microphone or headphones with a built-in microphone have a better sound.
Camera. For meetings or if you will be on camera during a webinar, position your webcam slightly above eye level. If you are looking down at your screen, you are forcing viewers to look up your nose. If using a laptop, you might need to elevate it much higher than is comfortable for typing, which will require an external keyboard if you will need it during the meeting or webinar. When you are speaking, look at your camera and not at your screen. This takes practice, as it is human nature to look at the person to whom you are speaking. If you use multiple monitors, placing an external camera above your primary monitor can help.
If you aren’t technologically savvy, it can be overwhelming to engage with these technologies. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help with getting yourself set up. Once you get started, you will wonder how you managed before.
This article appeared in the December 2020 issue or AICC’s Box Score.