How to make the most of virtual meetings

After a vigorous debate in recent years over the suitability of virtual meetings for client discussions, overnight COVID-19 has made them a key part of how many advisers are staying in touch.

By now most advisers will have had some experience using the systems. It’s always valuable to know how to get the most out of technology, so Ian McKenna, Managing Director at the Financial Technology Research Centre, outlines some steps you can take to optimise the effectiveness of your virtual meetings.

  1. Set an Agenda

    Sharing the specific agenda in advance with the client outlining the areas you wish to cover can be valuable in helping set the structure for the discussion.

  2. Make clients comfortable

    If you are having a virtual meeting with a client for the first time, or indeed they are a new prospect, run through the key elements of the system you are using at the beginning of the call to make sure the client is comfortable with how it works.

  3. Make time for chit chat

    If you’re running a meeting with multiple people, it can be helpful setting the meeting invite for five minutes before you wish to start. Inevitably there will be some social interaction to begin with and allowing for that joining period should enable you to start the session on time.

  4. Be time-smart

    If you are using mass market video conferencing services avoid starting meetings on the hour or the half hour. With millions of people starting meetings at this time services can degrade slightly. It can be worth starting meetings at a quarter-to or quarter-past the hour or even 10-to or 10-past.

  5. Use a background

    Most virtual meeting systems will allow you to import your own background pictures. This can be a nice way of personalising your meeting. Also, many of us are working in spaces we would not have expected clients to see.

    Some firms have had bespoke backgrounds created for their virtual meetings which highlight the firm’s client philosophy, equally just having an image of something in your local area or that is of interest to you can add a nice touch.

  6. Try the record button

    One enormous benefit of online meetings is that they can be easily recorded. It’s always important to make it clear from the outset that you will be recording the session and giving the client the option of not doing so.

    Recording virtual meetings provides a valuable compliance record for the future. One large firm I know, who have been recording meetings for many years, have found that in 90% of cases if they get a complaint it can be resolved very quickly by listening to the recording.

  7. Take advantage of the transcription service

    A further benefit of recording meetings is that many virtual meetings systems can generate a transcript of the discussion. This can be useful both in creating meeting notes. Even if a transcription is only 95% accurate, it can be far quicker to review this and edit as necessary to create full record of the discussion and actions agreed.

  8. Consider the alternatives

    While the most popular video conferencing systems are immediately available at low-cost it is worth recognising that these have been built for use by any industry, rather than being financial services specific. There are several systems however that have been designed specifically for use in financial advice.

    Typically, the systems have been created to follow a generic advice process from first customer engagement, perhaps from someone visiting your website, reaching out to engage via a bot-type interface and progressing the dialogue all the way through to face-to-face virtual meetings.

  9. Explore integrated solutions

    Where a practice management system or similar software supplier has integrated a specific specialist virtual meeting solution you can expect that they will have built deeper integration into their system. For example, some systems automatically save the audio or video of the entire meeting directly to the client record as soon as the meeting has finished.

  10. Higher conversion rates are worth it

    These specialist tools can lead to far higher conversion rates for new enquiries, for example, one such system enabled a large US insurer to increase their conversion rate for online enquiries from 3% to 50% in a matter of months.

    These specialist systems may cost a few pounds more per user per month, but the additional features can bring significant additional benefits. If virtual meeting software is going to become a core part of how advisers work, as it inevitably will, it’s worth spending a little bit more to get the best possible solution. In an increasing number of cases the virtual meeting software is now being embedded within the specialist client portals these firms offer.

    While in the first instance I would recommend getting comfortable with one of the off the shelf video conferencing tools we all use day-to-day, I would certainly recommend speaking to your main adviser software suppliers to find out if they have any specialist products available.