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How professional do you appear on your (Zoom) screen?

23 Apr 2020

Is this you?

Now working remotely, #workingfromhome.

Zoom / Microsoft Teams installed. You are picking up the threads with you clients, communicating as professionally via ‘a screen near you’ as you did ‘in the room.’

Or are you?

Three questions to ask of yourself:

  • How do you show up on screen?
  • What is the experience for your client on the other side of the screen?
  • Why does this even matter?

Think of your daily lives. Of your client’s daily lives. You are cocooned in a transmedia bubble almost every moment of every day. The advertising, the marketing that surrounds you on your social media. On TV. Constantly.

You may be saying “I can resist the hype!” yet the slickness, the professionalism of the communication still surrounds you. Expectations are set. Your client’s expectations are set.

As a professional, you are accustomed to setting high standards when meeting your clients ‘in the room,’ meeting their expectations. But now you are on screen, in a virtual room, with an added layer of skills required, an added set of communication pitfalls to avoid.

That’s why it matters.

So let’s look at three fundamental areas to enable you to add a layer of professionalism to your on-screen communications:

  1. Your visuals
  2. Your voice
  3. Your office!

1) Your visuals

“Are you looking at me or what?”

We’ve established that you are the ultimate professional in your role, and proud of it. You are in a role where meeting the client is crucial. You understand the importance of engaging visually with people in the room. Holding their gaze at the right moment, glancing away within the norms of social acceptance.

You know how to do this. It’s automatic for you. But now you are on screen with your client. On Zoom / MS Teams. Wondering why there a sense of something…missing.

Why is that?

Think of the times you were in a family snap on a mobile phone where, at the ‘say cheese!’  moment you have looked at the screen rather than the teensy camera at the edge. When subsequently looking at the photo, you appear slightly detached, a tad disengaged. It’s the same when you are talking to your client on screen.

Unless you are fortunate enough to have your camera in the middle of your screen, the temptation for all of us is to look at the face in front of us, not the camera at the edge or webcam.

Prove it to yourself. Use your ‘phone to take a short video of yourself looking at your face. Then record again, deliberately looking at the camera. Which do you prefer? Which demonstrates engagement? Which will your client prefer?

TIP 1) Look at the camera, not the screen. You will be more engaging.


2) Your voice

“Say cheese!”

How important is smiling on screen? Previously, when preparing to meet clients in the office, you put on your ‘game face’. Agenda; check. Coffee; check. Smile; check. You know this, It’s automatic for you.

But now you are on screen. What is your default face now?

Here’s the scenario. Tomorrow you have an early call. No office colleagues to talk to; not a word said to anyone since yesterday evening other than a cursory grunt to your cat/dog at breakfast. Now cometh the allotted time; your client is on screen. Why, two minutes in, is there a feeling of disengagement?

Obvious though it may seem, your smile will help, for two reasons.

You are already aware that smiling is fundamental to the warmth of your greeting. You may not be aware that smiling lifts your soft palate at the back of your throat, making your voice warmer, more engaging.

In the office, you do this automatically. Now, though, your ‘I haven’t had my coffee yet’ face can easily replace the game face.

Prove it to yourself. Record a clip on your ‘phone with that pre-coffee face. Now record again with a deliberate grin. Listen through the ears of you client. Which is warmer, more engaging? Which would your client prefer?

TIP2) Make an effort to smile on screen. You will sound warmer, more engaging.

3) Your office!

We’ve established that you are the consummate professional. You prepare thoroughly for client meetings. Your dress style is appropriate to the situation, the venue, the client. You are sensitive to your clients’ preferences, and if like me in my Bank Manager days looking after High Net Worth clients, you probably even know their biscuit preferences…

You know how to prepare for meetings. It’s automatic for you. But now you are on screen. How does your ‘office’ match your client’s preferences now?

We can work on blurring and green screens another time; let’s look at what is in view now. In your client’s view. Your own biscuit preferences may be digestives, but is your client looking at a half-eaten specimen adjacent to a stained coffee cup? In your ‘real’ office, papers would be neatly filed away. Yet what’s that scruffy collection piled up behind you?                              

I may be doing you a complete injustice here, in which case my apologies! So prove it to yourself.

  1. Go stand the other side of the desk – or as close as you can if against a wall – to view your ‘office’ through your clients’ eyes
  2. Open Zoom / MS Teams to look not at yourself, but at what is around you. What does your client see?

TIP3) Prepare your virtual meeting room as professionally as you would prepare your meeting room.

Ges Ray, Founder & Chief Public Speaking (On Screen) Confidence Builder at Speaking in Public Ltd.

Find Ges on Twitter: @gesspeaking

Please note, this content is not produced by the IoD and therefore does not necessarily represent the views or thoughts of the organisation.

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