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If your inbox is anything like mine, by now, you’ll have received all sorts of communications from all sorts of companies, telling you about their response to the coronavirus.

These are extraordinary times and my goal isn’t to fuel the reaction to this any further. But there is one area I did want to share.

It’s an area I’m very familiar with and most businesses I work with, sooner or later, take an interest in (virus or no virus).

For the last five years, I’ve spent a lot of time working remotely.

Being based in Australia, a land of vast distances and a small population, it’s almost inevitable that distance between myself and my clients would be an impediment to me delivering the best of what I do, unless dealt with.

A lot of firms I work with are in the same situation. Just because they’re located in Sydney or Melbourne, doesn’t necessarily mean they just work with clients in that locality.

Still, the idea of engaging remotely rather than face-to-face can evoke a range of reactions.

I remember speaking at an event two years ago.

The topic of the panel discussion was technology and after diving into the opportunities presented by various apps and technology, one attendee in the audience shared her views around the negative social impact technology exerted.

Her voice told me this was an emotionally-charged topic for her.

I was mindful of not dismissing what she said. In truth, I actually agreed with a lot of it, but after she made her eloquent point, I responded with a contrary view.

In truth, there’s a lot about technology which isn’t good. On the flip side, when I was growing up, I remember the annual Christmas call to my family in the UK.

At $5 a minute, it was like a 20m baton relay, with everyone passing the phone around as quickly as possible with a quick, “Hi Grandad & Grandma, bye Granddad & Grandma…“, hoping to get away with this scant social connection for under $50

Nowadays, anyone can jump onto a free online meeting tool and have a conversation face to face with their loved ones at pretty much zero cost.  My father can read his grandchildren a story at night in a way my grandparents could never.

It’s hard to put forward many cases for positives around what’s happening right now.

Yet, despite events, the need for us to be there for clients to help them make the right financial decisions, meet the commitments we made and to ensure our small section of the economy isn’t one that comes grinding to halt has never been greater.

Which means that there is an opportunity amongst this to step forward, and remote meetings are one of two key, “new-world” elements that need to be embraced for this is to happen.

If you’d like to see a live case study of that, I ran a Masterclass session with a former program member, Dean Holmes, who literally moved to London for the best part of 18 months, didn’t lose a single client and, as he shared, actually found the level of engagement with his clients improved during the “experiment”.

Watch the interview here.

Remote meetings can be just as powerful as face to face.

That’s not to say there isn’t benefit to meeting face to face, just that not every meeting needs to be face to face.

But one of the common questions I get is, “What is needed to really make it work?”

It’s about three things.

  • The right intent,
  • Confidence in what you’re delivering, and
  • The right setup.

The first is all about how you view it. If you choose to believe it’s a second-class solution, you may find yourself apologising for it, or inadvertently sending out that message via your interactions.

When that happens, you’re unlikely to invest the time to get comfortable with and master the approach, which means the second becomes an issue.

If you, however, are ready to view it as being a powerful means to engage clients, and you’re willing to push through those initial barriers, then getting the setup right will hasten the journey.

Here’s what I’ve learnt about getting your setup right.

Firstly, there are two types of remote engagements – 1 to many and 1:1.

The set-up for each is very different, and what works for one won’t for the other. In the case of 1:1 – which is the primary focus here – you need a setup where you’re face on to screen and in close proximity (head and shoulders), and not a full boardroom shot. It’s the only way to do it.
A full Boardroom set-up doesn’t feel right any more than speaking to someone personally from the other end a long, empty dining table would.

From a tech perspective, get five key things right.

  • Solid software. I’ve used Zoom for most of my coaching for well over five years for client meetings, webinars and team catchups and it does everything I need it to, plus it’s super simple for the people on the other end of the camera to setup (literally, I send them a link, they click it and we’re off). I’ve trialled other tools like Skype, Google Hangouts and more, but Zoom is the one I trust.
  • A good camera. My go-to is the Logitech C920. It’s the market leader, as it’s High Definition and the accompanying camera app allows you to change the width of the shot, zoom, focus, brightness, contrast and a number of other settings that will allow you to adjust the image to look suitably professional. We don’t want a shot that makes it look like you’re sitting in a dark broom closet. If you don’t want to invest in one of these, then your laptop’s in-built camera will do a decent job, but pay special attention to the point below around elevation and line-of-sight.
  • A good mic. You could easily use Apple headphones for this, albeit the “I’m a professional” factor is going to be turned down, but what you don’t want to do is use your laptop’s on-board mic (unless you think echo and background noise sounds good). Sound is one of the two most important things to get right (lighting being the other). For me, if you’re serious about this a USB mic like the Blue Yeti is a must (unless you specifically want a headset mic).
  • Good lighting. As mentioned, this is the second of the two most important things and the difference between looking like you’re set upright. I’ll forego the lesson about colour temperature. The simplest option here is to set up the computer so it’s next to a window. I’ve achieved this by having a specific setup using a desk with an adjustable height, bought for less then $100 on Gumtree. Having said that, I use a ring light when it’s a little dark and I want to make things look bright and breezy. The one I have though is top-of-range and you could get away with something less expensive, as long as it has a lumen rating that matches daylight (5400k+)
  • Right elevation and line of sight. I cannot stress enough the importance of this. It’s almost impossible to form a connection with people online when you’re not looking as directly at the camera as possible. That usually means having the camera at eye level and as close as it can be to what you’ll be looking at. If you’re on a laptop, that means setting up your screen so the little box with your clients faces as close together as possible. When on my laptop, I achieve this with one of these stands, but again you can achieve the same aim with any stand that works. If you’re using the C920, pop it on top of your primary monitor. Under no circumstances have your camera in one location and your primary screen elsewhere. If you decide to use an elevated stand and don’t have a separate mouse and keyboard, then these may be worth buying too.
Beyond that, there’s a bunch of elements that present opportunities – video & audio messaging, having a strong content marketing strategy for existing clients, getting your website in order and a number of other areas that I look back on and be grateful that it’s formed part of the work done via the program these past years.
These are extraordinary times but, as Darwin is sometimes quoted as having observed:

“It is not the strongest of the species or most intelligent that survives, but rather, that which is most adaptable to change.”

PS. If you’re struggling with any of this, drop me a link at stewart@audere.com.au and let me know which parts. It’s important during this time we stick together like never before. Humans are at their best when we co-operate, so let’s make this something that brings out the best of us, instead of the worst.

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