By now, many of us are adept at handling Zoom meetings. We’ve figured out the technology and benefitted from the ways it has allowed us to travel less and connect more. But even those of us who have become experts at knowing the best lighting and sound controls for online meetings are still missing out on some irreplaceable aspects of in-person gatherings.
We’ve heard recently both from clients and in-house teams about the ongoing challenges of Zoom calls and remote work. Here are a few pitfalls to avoid when possible:
- Don’t presume you are past the need for Zoom etiquette: One client shared a recent frustrating interaction with an outside counsel when discussing a new engagement. Because they had an existing relationship, the attorney assumed they would get the work. They provided no agenda, kept their video off and ignored background noise that made the call more difficult to hear. Not surprisingly, they did not get the new work.
- Don’t forget your associates: When associates participate in client calls remotely, they often miss the most valuable part of the learning experience. The “bookends,” the before and after conversations with senior lawyers, are when those associates learn from partners about why they handled the call a certain way or made a specific suggestion. Ensure your firm’s associates engage with partners before and/or after calls to better understand not just the matter at hand but the nuance behind the interaction.
- Consider assigning a point person: In the current landscape, meetings often include both in-person and remote participants. We’ve heard of some firms having success by tapping a point person for all remote participants, making sure they can hear/see everything and encouraging participation when needed.
In addition to those pitfalls, remember that your professional image and appearance are critical components to building trust and rapport. Keep in mind these evergreen tips for better communication and better Zoom etiquette:
- Ask clients what communication mechanisms they prefer and defer to their preferences.
- Consider the goals of the interaction and nature of the relationship, and tailor the format and formality accordingly.
- Manage expectations about your surroundings. Acknowledge and apologize for surprise distractions or interruptions.
- Test backgrounds, camera angles and lighting to identify the best locations in your house for video.
- Elevate your laptop so you are not looking down at the camera.
- Dress and groom appropriately. You don’t have to put on a full suit and full face of makeup but make an effort to look polished and put together.
- Look at the camera—not the screen below—to have better eye contact. Smile.
- Use ‘Six Steps for Better Meetings’ as a guideline:
- Have a clear purpose in mind.
- Honor the time contract.
- Ask authentic, open-ended questions.
- Listen and learn—follow the trail.
- Align your communications style.
- Agree on next steps together.