As a coach, with the fall season in full swing, you may be planning to use video conferencing to maintain social distancing. Here’s a look at how you can prepare in advance, to make your online practice most effective.
1. Find a tool and stick with it
By now, you likely have some experience with video-conferencing platforms. But if you need help choosing one, look up a features comparison like this one from ZDNet.
To begin, experiment with your chosen tool to make sure you’re totally comfortable in it. Set up pretend meetings with colleagues or family members.
Make notes on the ways you can control the tool, and hang them from your monitor so you don’t have to think about them. For instance, how do you activate your camera and mike, can you affect your coachee’s camera or mike, what control do you have over the display?
When setting up your appointments, take the lead, and tell your clients which tool you intend to use. Otherwise, they may pre-empt that decision and leave you on unfamiliar ground.
You’ll do your best work when you don’t have to think about the technology.
2. Optimize your machinery
While you may think it geeky to wear earbuds or a headphone with microphone, they’ll provide you with the best connection to the subtle but informative undertones of the coachee’s voice. And they remove the possibility of distracting audio feedback.
Arrange your lighting so your coachees can see you clearly, which will reassure them about your empathy. Position the light that illuminates your face behind the camera, whether it’s a lamp, ring light, or window. Never leave lights shining behind you, because they’ll force down the exposure of the image, making your face dark and hard to read.
Raise your camera to your eye-level using books or boxes. By now, you’ve seen how, even on network television, some participants leave their cameras down low, which unfortunately emphasizes creased and wrinkly necks.
Wear a simple but professional top. You don’t have to show your entire body. Most of the time, it’s your face that’s crucial to the meeting.
3. Make it look good
Don’t sit right in front of a wall. The shadow behind you will be distracting, and you’ll look crowded. Pull your chair forward, then adjust the background as needed.
Your coachees know that everyone works from home these days, but try not to make a point of it. They’ll find it reassuring to see you in a professional-looking a setting.
A book case or simple vase of flowers will make good backgrounds, although some coaches like the plain backgrounds provided by certain networking tools. The key issue here is that wandering animals and children (no matter how cute), unmade beds, even large posters, can all distract from the important business of coaching.
4. Maintain eye contact
You already know that coaching is about empathy and engagement. So where you look during the session makes a big difference.
Don’t let yourself be distracted by your own image, but do use the monitor to check the face of your client for emotion or other indications that may guide your coaching.
Otherwise, unless you’re consulting notes or need a moment to think, it’s best to look straight into the camera. For the coachee, that translates as you looking right at them, just as you would if they were in your office – not off to one side, up, or down.
You may even want to stick a reminder note on your monitor: an arrow pointing to your camera.
Once you’ve prepared these technical aspects of your coaching, it’s wonderful how free you’ll feel to forget all about them.
And that means that you’ll be totally present for your client.