Last tax season came with many challenges across the accounting industry, one of which was more accountants navigating work from home than ever before. With the pandemic still going on, you’re probably anticipating having just as many virtual meetings with your clients this tax season. With that in mind, we’ve put together a few tips around how to have an effective virtual meeting with your clients.
How to set up a virtual meeting
The first step to having an effective virtual meeting with a client is setting the meeting up in an easy-to-use way. There are many different types of video conferencing software you could use to meet with your client virtually, but they are not all created equal when it comes to the user experience they provide. Some good video conferencing options include:
- Google Meet
Google Meet and Zoom are both popular options among businesses. Google Meet works through email, and Zoom is an app your clients will download. Slack is an app that offers both video conferencing and messaging software to keep in touch with your team. FaceTime is the least formal of all these options, but some of your clients may be more familiar with it than the others. Be sure to look into different options for how to set up a virtual meeting and choose the one that fits your team and your clients’ needs best.
No matter which software you choose, there are a few best practices when setting up your virtual meeting. Some best practices to consider are:
- Sending out information about how to use the video conferencing platform to all clients before meeting with them. You could do this through bulk email.
- Send your client the link to the meeting ahead of time, so they have plenty of notice.
- Remind your client about the meeting or set up an automated reminder in your accounting practice management software.
Keep in mind, for the meeting to be completely virtual, the documents you and your clients share will need to be digital copies.
Conducting effective virtual meetings
Beyond the setup of the meeting, there are more things to know about conducting effective virtual meetings.
Have an agenda
Having an agenda is a good rule of thumb for conducting any meeting, virtual or not, but virtual meetings in particular can start to feel like they’re drifting if there’s not an agenda to keep things on track. Prepare the agenda beforehand and make your client aware of that agenda at the beginning of the meeting.
Be mindful of the length of the meeting
Going along with having an agenda for your virtual meeting, don’t make the meeting longer than it needs to be. Avoid meetings of more than one hour if possible. After that point, it becomes more difficult for participants to pay attention.
Share documents with all parties
If there are files and documents that all parties need access to, attach them in the notes of the meeting or share them during the meeting. Being proactive about making sure your client has access to everything they need will make it so you don’t have to go back and email them with the documents later. Keep the ball rolling and the meeting progressing by sharing all documents right away like you would in person.
Choose the right place to have your meeting
For your virtual meeting to go more smoothly, and for you to come across as professional, choose a quiet, non-distracting place to have your meeting. If you choose somewhere crowded or loud, your client will probably have a hard time hearing you. If your background has a lot of activity happening, your client may have a more difficult time focusing.
You can’t always avoid distractions—especially during a time when a lot of people are working from home—but try to make your virtual client meeting as official and professional as possible. After all, your client is trusting you with their financial information, and that’s not to be taken lightly just because the method of meeting has changed.
Bonus tips for virtual meetings
Once you’ve gotten your virtual meeting set up and you’re following virtual meeting best practices, consider these bonus tips for your meeting to go as smoothly as possible.
Know how to use the mute button
Every video conferencing software includes a mute button. This is useful for muting things on your end (if needed) when your client is talking. Often your computer picks up more sound than you think it does, and it can become distracting or potentially embarrassing quickly if your client hears conversations or commotion you didn’t intend them to.
Share only part of your screen
When you're sharing your screen with a client, be mindful of which part of your screen they can see. For example, Google Meet allows you to present your screen, a window, or a tab. If you select screen sharing, it will show your entire screen during the meeting. This may not be the best option if you have sensitive client information open in your other tabs or popping up in messages. If you choose to share just a tab or window, that’s all your client will see.
Learn more about running a virtual accounting firm
If you’re interested in turning your accounting firm fully virtual, check out our complete guide to running a virtual accounting firm. You’ll discover the benefits to becoming a remote accountant, tips for starting and managing a virtual accounting firm, and an overview of what kind of software you’ll need to invest in.