My initial reaction to the notion that phone calls would one day include cameras is very clear in my mind. I remember exactly where I was when someone shared this news item with me.
It was sometime in the mid-’90s. I was standing outside my office in our industrial space at Spadina and Adelaide in Toronto. At this point, my main job in my company was to be an active part of our sales team, making outbound calls most of every day. The very idea that phone calls would also include a camera was … to say the least … abhorrent to me!
I remember shaking my head and saying to my colleague, “When that happens, I’ll be retired.”
Yet here we are in 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, and I’m “on camera” about 5 hours a day. In fact, I embraced on-camera teaching about five years ago and have continuously been studying best practices. While this technology is amazing and something I’m glad to have in my world, sometimes the best choice is still … to pick up the phone.
What are some of the best practices for video conversations? And when is a phone call a better choice?
Video meetings are the best choice when the screen is used as an essential part of the discussion. For example, the screen is used to share an agenda, which keeps the meeting on track and everyone focused. Or there is a slide deck that provides visual support for the information being shared or the skill being taught. Or the screen is used to actually do something, use software, navigate a platform, complete a specific task. In all these cases, video is superior to a phone conversation.
(Years ago, while helping a colleague grow his software business, I did support by phone. Believe me, having the shared screen would have eliminated a lot of frustration and miscommunication.)
When the video screen is only going to display everyone’s face (or perhaps only a name because a camera is turned off), you want to consider the following:
- Is everyone on this team comfortable with being on camera?
- Do you need facial expressions in order to have this discussion/work on this project?
- Does being on-screen create distractions that disrupt the discussion, i.e. pets, children, unusual backgrounds, the urge to check email constantly, etc.
When you invite a client to a video meeting, find out about their preference.
Many of us are now comfortable (most of the time) with looking at our own faces but this isn’t true for everybody. If your client isn’t 100% comfortable doing video, and it isn’t necessary in terms of sharing information on your screen, book a phone conversation instead.
One of the things I have always loved about phone conversations is the focus they naturally create. On the phone, the absence of sight allows our hearing to be amplified. When we listen well, we can learn so much more about our clients and prospects. We can hear when they are uncertain, when they are getting excited, when they have a question, and when they are ready to say “yes”.
There is a level of connection available in a phone conversation that is often absent on camera. And I’ve heard from more than one colleague that they are experiencing “screen exhaustion”. If video conversations are draining you of energy, you aren’t going to have effective conversations or meetings.
So don’t forget the simple technology that’s been with us since 1876. Pick up the phone, make things happen!
For some of my best tips on conference calls, grab my free version of the Conference Call Bingo Card here.