How professional do you appear to your client when you are on screen?

As more and more workplaces transition to being remote, meetings are moving entirely online. Public Speaking Expert and Author of ‘Speaker Performance’, Ges Ray provides tips on how ensure you are showing your best self when on a video call.

It’s time, time to meet your client. You’ve secured that all important meeting starting in two minutes.

Previously ‘in the room’, now of course it is online. Virtual. On Zoom, MS Teams, Google. Whatever the platform, now it’s really time. You are on screen, your client is on screen.

What’s the difference between this and your usual ‘in the room’ style?  Apart from your freshly brewed coffee of course, beans ground exactly as you wish, filling your home office with the wonderful aroma of success.

Why shouldn’t you just carry on as before? As you are used to. After all, you are a consummate professional, years of practice in talking to clients.

Three questions to ask of yourself at this point:

  • How do you show up on screen?
  • What is the experience for your client on the other side of the screen?
  • Why does this even matter?

Let’s look at why this does matter.

Think of your daily lives and of your client’s daily lives. You are both cocooned in a slick, professional transmedia bubble almost every moment of every day. The advertising, the marketing that surrounds you on your social media, on TV and on every screen. Constantly.

You may be saying “I can resist the hype!” If you are of the same mind as me, you probably record as much as you can on a box to avoid the adverts.

Yet the slickness, the professionalism of the communication still surrounds you. Expectations are set, your client’s expectations are set.

As a professional you are accustomed to setting high standards when meeting your clients ‘in the room,’ meeting their expectations. But now you are on screen, in a virtual room, with an added layer of skills required, an added set of communication pitfalls to avoid.

That’s why it matters.

Let’s look at one of several fundamental areas that enable you to add a layer of professionalism to your on-screen communications, to enable to you meet, then exceed your client’s expectations.

We’ve established that you are the ultimate professional in your role, and proud of it. You are in a role where meeting the client is crucial, you understand the importance of engaging visually with people in the room.

Now you are on screen with your client, On Zoom / MS Teams and wondering why there a sense of something missing.


Why is that?

Think of the times you were in a family snap taken from a mobile phone where, at the ‘say cheese!’  moment you have all looked at the screen rather than the teensy camera at the edge.  When subsequently looking at the photo, you appear slightly detached, disengaged. Except your cousin who looked directly at the camera and so is the only person engaging with the viewer.

It’s the same when you are talking with your client on screen.

The temptation for all of us is to look at the face in front of us, not the camera or webcam. Only natural; we all want to look at our audience for feedback, for validation.

Yet by making the effort to engage with the camera, we more naturally engage with our client.

Prove it to yourself. Use your ‘phone to take a short video of yourself looking at your face. Then record again, deliberately looking at the camera. You will notice the difference.

TIP: Look at the camera, not the screen. You will be more engaging.

Let’s take this a step further with a couple of practical suggestions to reinforce this into your regular behaviour.

Pareto’s Law

A question that often arises at this point is ‘how long should I look at the camera / look at the screen?’

The short answer of ‘it depends’ is not exactly helpful, so here’s a practical suggestion.

Chances are Pareto’s Law – the 80/20 rule – is something you are already familiar with. So when you are presenting, why not apply it here? Of course, you want to dip your eyes down to the screen now and then to check faces for feedback, so try a rule of thumb approach of 80% to the camera, 20% to the screen.

Post It Note

Whilst we are talking about thumbs, here’s another practical tip to help reinforce screen behaviour to enhance engagement.

Put your thumb up to the camera on your device.

OK, that was just me checking you know where your camera is. (You would be surprised…).

Now draw a smiley face on a cheerful post it note, then stick it by your camera as a reminder.

Now you are engaging!