March 16, 2020

Keeping Communications Persuasive When Working Remote

Christopher Lane

At Rob Roy, we love to travel. We excel at getting in our clients’ faces. There’s nothing better than getting on a plane, heading over the horizon, then meeting in person to present a proposal, pitch a solution, or conduct a series of interviews. We know that the power of persuasive communications is amplified by a live audience. It doesn’t matter if it’s one person or 1,000.

Our clients love it when we travel, too. Just not right now. With the Covid-19 outbreak, our clients have postponed everything.

Tradeshows.

Major conferences.

Any live gatherings.

Rob Roy is looking ahead towards several weeks, if not months, of no travel. No plane flights, no hotel rooms, no handshakes, hugs, glad-to-see-you-again-or-just-meeting-you.

But the work goes on. Our clients want proposals, solutions, training and all the persuasive communications we can bring to bear. We’re just doing it through phone and video feed. And many of our clients are working remotely themselves, logging in from whatever room in the house works best. And trying to occupy those kids who are home because their school is shut down. We get it. We are, too.

Not what we’re used to, but we are making it work, and work well. How? By keeping a few things top of mind while we move through this period:

Watch your background

When you’re working from home and participating in a video call, remember that everyone else can see what’s going on behind you. That can be distracting, even if it’s just everyday clutter or your pet being playful. Do what you can to find a space to work in front of that’s relatively serene, even if everything else in your house is naturally chaotic.

Primp

You’re still at work, even if you’re in your own space. And when you’re on camera, you want to look like you’re on the job, especially in front of clients. Shoulders up, you should look like you’re ready for the office. Minimize the bedhead, and your sweatpants and pajama bottoms can hide under the table.

Know your tech

Test your presentation technology before your first live event. Do a run-through and record it so you can see what’s working and what’s not. And keep in mind that you might need to do some serious alterations to your presentation. Many web conferencing services host the presentation on their server while you present, and these will often strip out some (if not all) of your animations. The sooner you learn what you’re working with, the better you can prepare.

Invest

If you’re not so sure about the built-in microphone on your laptop, buy a microphone that will be ensure you are heard clearly. Consider noise-cancellation headphones to eliminate the hubub of your happy household.

Remember that your audience is still there

When you go into presentation mode with your slides, you often lose the ability to see the reactions of your audience. Facial expressions, heads nodding, crinkled brows—you won’t see it. Likewise, those listening can’t see you, all they can do is hear you. But act like they can. Pretend they are in the room. Get up on your feet. Put your body into it, just like you would in a live setting. The energy of that performance will permeate your vocal inflections and resonate more with those listening in.

Break it up

Studies have shown that people lose focus when they are listening to someone else talk for extended periods. Keep your narrative stretches to ten minutes or less and take breaks to interact with the audience. Invite questions, call on people by name, and make it more engaging for the attendees.

Establish ground rules for questions

Nothing throws a remote meeting off course quicker than too many people asking questions over each other at the same time. It’s especially counter-productive when you’re presenting to the group, and a series of questions leads to a discussion that hijacks your narrative and diminishes your persuasive power. So, take the time at the beginning of your presentation to establish when and how the audience can interject, make points, and ask questions:

All of us at Rob Roy Consulting are looking forward to seeing our long-distance clients in person as soon as we can. Until then, we’ll be maximizing the power of persuasive communications with our desktop cameras and making every home office into a virtual auditorium!

Here’s to getting back in each other’s faces. We’ll even roll with the new norm and suppress the urge for a firm handshake or heartfelt hug. You can owe us one later when this is all over.

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