Updated Sunday, January 25, 2015 as of 3:22 PM ET
The right body language for Skype, FaceTime and video conferences
by: Cam Weprin

Most advisors would prefer to meet face-to-face with clients. Sometimes, that isn't an option. And that’s OK. Video conferencing apps such as Skype and FaceTime have become so prevalent and reliable that they have become go-to tools when it’s not possible for the financial advisor and client to be in the same room. “It's extremely easy, whether it's Skype, or for Apple people, FaceTime,” said Sal Cocivera, a certified financial planner at Copper Beech in New Jersey. “We've found that the older clients embrace it more. They're used to it more, because they're always checking in with their kids and their grandkids.”
Eighty one percent of adults with household income over $75,000 have a smartphone, according to the Pew Research Center. With that number expected to grow in coming years, video conferencing will become even more commonplace.
Cocivera told us that he and his partners have used it with clients based in different cities or to eliminate long drives for quicker business meetings. He has found the most success using video conferencing with longstanding clients because a strong relationship has been established over the years. With newer clients, it may be difficult to read body language, pick up on nonverbal cues or see if the client is truly following the discussion.

Jan Hargrave, a body language expert and CEO of Jan Hargrave & Associates, gave us the following tips for how advisors can make the most of their video conference client meetings:

  • The full picture: The advisor and client should be able to see each other’s hand gestures. If the advisor can’t see the client, ask her to move farther from the camera.
  • Palms up: By opening the conversation with your palms facing upwards, Hargrave says, you’re saying, “I welcome you into this conversation.”
  • Know the steeple: The steeple gesture is when the advisor or client holds the tips of the fingers together at chest level like a pyramid. “This is the biggest sign of confidence I could ever teach,” Hargrave said.
  • Be sincere: It’s usually obvious when someone is insincere in her gestures because the gesture is not in sync with what the person is saying.
  • Eyes wide open: 80 percent of the time should be spent looking directly into the camera at your client while 20 percent can be indirect eye contact.
  • Refocus: If clients are in defensive positions, such as sitting with their arms crossed and hands in a ball, have them look at a document to change their position. Sometimes that is enough to change their outlook.

Paying attention to the sequence of body language movements can give an advisor insight into how the client is feeling and lead to questions to help alleviate anxiety or give the client confidence. Here are two examples:

Scenario 1: Client crossed arms tightly in front of the body, looked at his watch, then did a steeple. “It would say that they feel very confident in telling me no,” Hargrave said. In this case, it’s important for the advisor to try to turn the tide.

Scenario 2: Client made good eye contact, leaned forward and then did a steeple: “It says that this person is very confident with what you're saying and probably will absorb that and go with what you're suggesting,” Hargrave said.

If done right, video meetings can benefit both the advisor and the client, bringing a level of personalization and engagement an audio-only call can’t match.
“We can speak with them. We can look them right in the eye. We can get our business done, and get going,” Cocivera said.
Cam Weprin is a writer for Transamerica’s New Age of Advice.

Check out Transamerica’s Your Client Is Now a Family program for more on the better way to use technology.

Transamerica Resources, Inc. is an Aegon company and is affiliated with various companies which include, but are not limited to, insurance companies and broker-dealers. Transamerica Resources, Inc. does not offer insurance products or securities. This material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as insurance, securities, ERISA, tax, investment or legal advice. Although care has been taken in preparing this material and presenting it accurately, Transamerica Resources, Inc. disclaims any express or implied warranty as to the accuracy of any material contained herein and any liability with respect to it. Interested parties must consult and rely solely upon their own independent advisors regarding their particular situation and the concepts presented here.
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