Before you jump on that next sales call or client meeting, look around. In fact, take a moment and fire up your favorite online conferencing software (Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Meet, Cisco Webex) and look at yourself using a video preview. See yourself as your client will see you. Then ask, “Is this the brand image I want to project?”
Nearly a year ago, you were catapulted into a virtual world. For many, your virtual world shares the same location as your real world. Still today, your virtual office may double as the classroom for your kids, dining room for your family, or bedrooms for yourself. While that reality remains, it should not be an excuse for not representing yourself and your organization in the highest possible way. Because the moment those virtual calls connect, everything our clients and customers see represents your brand. With that in mind, what is your brand saying about you?
Recently, I was looking forward to jumping on a call with John. Several colleagues had recommended I connect with him because he was a highly skilled leader, extremely active in his community, and was passionate about helping others. The colleagues had shared that while John had an important message to share with others, he needed help in making sure his virtual audiences understood his content and were motivated to act.
John works closely with state and local officials to coordinate disaster relief efforts in several southern states. From weather events like tornadoes or floods to life-changing scenarios such as a global pandemic, John, and other trained coordinators like him, were on point to quickly get information to teams of recovery organizations and volunteers. Because of the importance of John’s work, I was eager to help.
On our call, John told me about an hour-long informational program he was preparing to deliver to a large contingent of coordinators and volunteers. He had shared that the presentation’s goal was to ensure that those attending the virtual program were inspired to “lean in” by seeing the scope of training and support they could count on at the state level. As a lead coordinator, he wanted to demonstrate his expertise to instill confidence in the audience. With this context, I asked John to go through the first 10-15 minutes of his program. Within 5 minutes, John’s brand was coming across as disorganized, unprepared, and lacking confidence. Essentially, the absolute last thing you’d want in a disaster coordinator.
For starters, he was attempting to use a virtual background to mask a less than ideal setting in his home. Unfortunately, the virtual background he had created for himself, which was a mostly white background with a company logo in one upper corner, appeared to be improperly sized. This resulted in half of the logo being cut off by the Zoom window itself. Next, his choice of white shirt in front of his white background made him appear as a floating head. His microphone was choppy, dropping in volume for a few seconds before exploding into eye-squinting loudness. The act of sharing his PowerPoint slides took over a minute to do correctly, all the while John apologized and asked me to “Hang in there.” But all of that paled in comparison to his slides and his delivery. The slides bounced from color to color, includes strange animations and unnecessary musical transitions. Every slide was filled with long lists, all of which John read in complete detail. In the midst of each slide, he’d drop in a personal view on one particular organization being known for its slow response and which disaster was his favorite (his intention was to convey a particular disaster as ‘most memorable,’ but he used the unfortunate wording of ‘favorite’). By the time John finished, I still had no idea what his program was about and how I could use this information. A less-than-successful result.
If you persuade, inform, inspire, or educate, you are a salesperson. In the world of virtual sales, just like in-person sales, you represent a brand. Regardless of whether you work for a startup or an established organization or you are an entrepreneur, your personal brand is as important as your company brand. Your company brand is a collection of components such as the products or services you offer, your customer service approach, testimonials, staff, and word-of-mouth. Your personal brand includes your appearance, expertise, confidence, and ability to connect to those you serve. We’ve all heard the expression, “People do business with people they know, like, and trust.” Much of that comes from your client’s perception of you. In other words, your brand.
In my group and private coaching, I work with my clients to help them become more aware and intentional with their brand. For you, in preparation for your next virtual call, think about these four strategies:
See what your audience sees.
- This can range from the location or background you choose for your online calls plus camera placement, sound quality, distractions, and more.
Before every meeting, ask “What do I want them to do as a result of us talking?”
- Having a clear outcome will help you with focus, message clarity, and sense of purpose.
Plan your brand.
- Just as important as asking what you want your client to do, ask yourself, “How do I want them to feel about my brand?” Does your appearance, content, and delivery all coordinate to convey that feeling?
Practice before the meeting, not during.
- Don’t spend hours meticulously putting together a presentation that showcases your solutions, innovative thinking, and value and then wait until your customer joins to practice how to share your slides smoothly. Practice in advance.
Follow these simple tips to ensure your brand is as invincible as you are!
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