When the lockdown put a stop to most travel, the building materials industry quickly adapted by using virtual tools like Zoom.
As with all technologies, younger people got the hang of it much more quickly than us older people. Today, though, almost everyone knows how to host or participate in an online meeting.
We didn’t have high expectations at first. As long as we could see and hear each other, we called that a win. However, now that many of us have multiple Zoom calls each day, we’re starting to notice that some people are better at using video calls than others.
I wanted to focus on this because of a call I had with a client. They told me they trained their sales and customer service people in how to master Zoom calls for more success.
That’s a great idea. When this is all over, the new normal will involve more virtual communication and fewer face-to-face interactions. Even when your customers feel safe to meet with you again, they won’t want to give up the time-saving benefits of a virtual meeting.
I am on three to five Zoom calls each day. I’ve seen the good and the bad. Here are the most common mistakes I see building material people make on video calls.
1. Not Getting the Lighting Right
I’ve seen everyone from salespeople to CEOs forgetting to light their faces. No one expects you to have Hollywood-quality lighting, but everyone on the call should be able to see your face. Without seeing your face, it’s hard to tell what type of person you are. And being able to see how you’re reacting to what is being said is a key factor in good Zoom communication.
Thankfully, this is easy to fix. Most people who make this mistake are sitting in front of a background that is brighter than the light on their face. They might be sitting in front of a window or the lights behind them are too bright.
There Are Four Solutions
- Close the curtains on that bright window.
- Move so you’re facing the window and the light is illuminating your face instead of your back.
- Add a light that is facing you. This can be a lamp or any type of light. Make sure that the light is at eye level or a little higher. Lighting yourself from below will give you spooky Halloween vibes – great for telling ghost stories, not so great for a sales presentation.
- Zoom and similar apps allow you to add a “green screen” or whatever background you like. They have some stock backgrounds like the Golden Gate Bridge or you can add your own like (your company logo, your products, a jobsite, or just a beautiful scene). This can actually make your face look better by eliminating the bright background (though it still helps to have a light source that is facing you).
2. Poor Background Choice
Speaking of backgrounds, you should also consider what is behind you. People will notice the setting you’re in and it can shape their opinion of you. Sitting in front of a messy or haphazard background could send the wrong message. Are you a professional I can trust or are you just someone trying to sell me something?
If you do your calls from home or the office, take a few minutes to find a background that enhances your image rather than detracting from it. Find a good spot and take a few minutes to clean and organize any clutter behind you. Or sit in front of a plain wall – that is a better choice than many of the backgrounds I see every day.
3. Your Voice Is Irritating
Okay, so you can’t do anything about your voice but you can do something about the quality of your audio. That’s the real problem anyway.
People may be attracted to your image but if you don’t sound good, they will leave.
The most successful podcasters and YouTubers know that good audio is better than good visuals. People can put up with bad video quality, but bad audio is irritating.
Most companies assume that because computers have built-in cameras and microphones, they’re all set. However, that built-in hardware is usually mediocre.
The company I mentioned above – the one training their people on how to be more successful on Zoom – they equipped their people with headsets that have noise-cancelling microphones. That allows them to hear better while blocking out background noise like dogs barking, children screaming, or co-workers talking.
Your company should provide this equipment for you. If they won’t, I recommend buying a headset for yourself. I personally use a Sennheiser CC 520. It’s wired (which I find more reliable than wireless models), costs around $115 and is well worth the investment.
4. You Go a Little Too Casual
When we first switched over to video calls, most of us were working from home. We didn’t bother with the usual office wear. It was Casual Friday every day.
That was fun for a while, but now that the novelty’s gone it’s a good idea to get back to your usual work clothes.
You can set yourself apart by dressing like you would if you were meeting an important prospect at their office. I recently had a Zoom call with an architect who wore a sport coat and tie. It stopped me in my tracks because I hadn’t seen anyone in a coat and tie in a long time.
I’m not recommending that you wear a coat and tie necessarily. What I’m recommending is that you dress the way you did when you were calling on customers. If you used to wear polo shirts or collared dress shirts, start wearing them again on video calls.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
There is a lot more to becoming a Zoom master, but these are the basic mistakes I see most often. And other than investing in a headset, none of these improvements cost anything so you can start making them right away.
You can also spend more on cameras, lighting, and audio. But unless you want to start a podcast or a YouTube channel, you don’t need any of those things.
Just put your best foot forward and you’ll be all set to make a great impression.
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More Zoom Suggestions
“Great article. I would also throw in the mistake when you are the one who set up the call or the primary audience, and you choose to do audio only. I have seen this a number of times. Usually it means the person wants to multi-task during the call.” Russ Kathrein, CEO Alexander Lumber
“Be prepared for the conversation, do not wing it. Try to make sure background noise is minimized.” Mike Kennaw, VP Sales and Marketing Fox Blocks