In 1971, UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian laid out what would become the 7-38-55 rule. The rule states that in a normal conversation, the degree to which we like the other person is impacted by word choice (7%), the tone of voice used (38%), and, most of all, the person’s body language (55%). Fifty years later, many of us still don’t use this rule to our advantage, especially during virtual sales meetings.
We’ve all sat in on cringy Zoom calls. Messy or disjointed virtual backgrounds. Poor microphone quality. Limited eye contact. The result is a walled-off experience that’s wholly unsatisfying and unpersuasive.
If your livelihood depends on talking to prospects and clients online, then you can’t afford to stumble through Zoom presentations. True, you can’t rely upon the body language communication and cues you naturally get in person. But that doesn’t mean you can’t nail a presentation or close a million-dollar deal without seeing someone in person.
Here are some pointers for giving a fresh, polished appearance on virtual sales calls. Even if you’ve been using Zoom daily during the pandemic, these refreshers can’t hurt as we near the second year of the virus:
Practice Basic Video Etiquette
It’s amazing how often a Zoom meeting starts on the wrong foot because of overlooked considerations. For instance, plenty of people disregard their appearances because they’re working from home. Remember: If you want the other people in the meeting to feel like they’re important to you, dressing appropriately is critical. Personal hygiene matters, too; it’s obvious right away if you haven’t spent time on your image.
In addition, send out an agenda prior to the call. That way, everyone understands the general flow of the event. Oh, and be on time! Making people hang around in a Zoom waiting room isn’t a good reflection of your time-management skills.
Invest In the Right Technology
Most laptops and other devices come with a camera and microphone. Regrettably, they’re rarely top-notch quality; this is why so many virtual speakers sound like they’re talking from a tin box or their audio begins to waver.
The workaround for these problems is to pay attention to your technology and invest in good tools. Check your Wi-Fi and connections before you hop on a virtual call. Invest in a good camera and a solid microphone-speaker combo. (I use a Yamaha YVC-200 and have had success with it.) Expect to spend a few hundred dollars on your tech stack. It’s worth every penny to know you’ll always look and sound like a pro on sales calls.
An interesting phenomenon happens when people start talking on video: They speed up. Rather than incorporating natural pauses into their discussions, they plow through their delivery. However, most people can’t handle being “talked at” for long. They zone out. And your words become lost thanks to listener fatigue.
To ensure that you don’t rush your presentation, set a two-minute timer. Every couple of minutes, stop to ask questions or gather audience opinions. While you’re speaking, try to shave about 20% off your speed. You’ll sound self-assured rather than frenetic or even anxious.
Make Eye Contact
Where do you look when you’re talking during a Zoom meeting? Ideally, it’s directly in your camera and not on the faces on your screen. Nevertheless, most virtual speakers don’t realize that when they look at people’s Zoom squares, they’re breaking eye contact.
Eye contact is critically important, whether you’re chatting in person or virtually. So find your camera and practice speaking into it. Pretend that you’re talking to a person — not a lens. Be sure you don’t look away often or read from a script. If you need to have some notes, tape them to the side of your screen so you can glance at them and still stay engaged with your audience.
Provide Engaging Content That’s Suitable for All Attendees
You’ll have a variety of learning types in any virtual presentation. Therefore, you need interesting content that will engage visual, audio, written, and kinesthetic learners. On Zoom, you’ll have to work a little harder to create messaging that satisfies all the senses. But it can be done.
For example, you might want to use a slideshow to emphasize no more than five key points or present questions. The chat function of Zoom can spur people into participating physically, too. It’s very easy for people to start checking emails and sending texts when they’re bored. Your goal should be to keep them focused with a well-considered experience.
Invest In Small Talk
During an in-person meeting, you might chat a bit with attendees before launching into your presentation. Try doing the same thing on a video call. It’s okay to set aside a few minutes for banter.
Small talk will help you build rapport with the people in your meeting. It also gives you a chance to reconnect with those you haven’t seen for a while. Encourage everyone in the Zoom call to play a role — and pay attention to what’s in their background. Noticing something like a college sports team’s banner on the wall behind a participant can also spark ideas for future touchpoints.
Follow Up to Cement Your Message
Within a week of your video call, attendees will only remember 10% of what you said. Therefore, you need to cement your message after everyone hits the “Leave Meeting” button.
The most straightforward solution is to send out an email within 24 hours. The email can thank them for attending and reiterate the most important items that were mentioned in your presentation. If the meeting was meant for prospecting, then you might want to pick up the phone and chat with each attendee about next steps.
Nailing virtual presentations every time takes forethought, but it’s not an impossible task. Just spend time planning your approach down to the smallest detail. When you do, both you and your attendees will benefit.