At the Kinder Institute, we have learned much over the last three months since converting all our in-person training programmes to online equivalents. While there are challenges for hosting courses in an online format, there have been surprising benefits.
Through modelling Life Planning meetings during our experiential training programmes, we developed the following list of tips to help advisers feel confident in making the shift.
Tip 1. First, set the container for your space:
- Consider the lighting—your clients should easily see your facial expressions. Make sure there is not too much or too little light on your face.
- Consider your technology—a quality microphone, speakers, camera, and connection to the internet are essential. If necessary, upgrade your video conferencing equipment and connect directly to the internet with an ethernet cable.
- Consider your environment—a one-tone background with few distractions is best.
- Frame yourself appropriately—your head should take up the top half of the screen with a little space above the head and the bottom of the screen should stop before your chest. If you gesticulate, make sure the client can see your hand movements.
- Adjust where you are looking on the screen, so it seems to the client like you are looking them in the eyes. Consider moving the client’s video image so that it is below your camera. It is important not to break eye contact with your client.
Tip 2. Second, help set the container for your client’s space. If possible, try to get a sense of your client’s environment so that you may get ahead of potential distractions.
- Consider recording a video of yourself enticing the client to create an environment free of distractions so they can be completely present and get the best results from the conversation.
- Share your tips for holding Life Planning conversations online, including powering down cell phones, closing other browser windows, arranging care for kids and pets, and having note-taking materials, a glass of water, and tissues on hand. Ideally, you do not want the client to get up from the engagement because that breaks the momentum of the experience.
Tip 3. Third, during the meeting, the adviser should amplify the ways they demonstrate empathy and strong listening. Where the adviser might feel shy showing some expressions and gutturals (general noises of approval to show you are paying attention) in an in-person conversation, in the online environment they are essential to making the conversation really come alive.
- Consider adding more head nods during pauses to show the client you are with them and prevent them from asking if your screen has frozen.
- Consider increasing the volume of your guttural noises
- Demonstrate range with your voice.
- Use hand motions for emphasis but sparingly.
Tip 4. Fourth, maintain a strong inner listening practice, to help you connect with the client’s emotions through your screen. Life Planners know it is essential to feel what the client is feeling during meetings. Regular inner listening, or mindfulness, practice allows the adviser to truly be present for whatever comes up for the client. I recommend taking at least 20 minutes a day to be silent and focus on the breath—letting thoughts go and feelings be.
Our online programmes have received some of the highest evaluation scores of any of our courses since the Kinder Institute launched in 2003. We currently present our online EVOKE® Life Planning training for advisers in the UK quarterly and they are open to anyone worldwide. When we emerge from the Coronavirus crisis, we plan to offer a mix of in-person and online programmes to meet the demand of our global audience.
George Kinder, CFP®, RLP®, is the founder of the Kinder Institute of Life Planning and designer of trainings for client-adviser relationship skills. His new book, A Golden Civilization and the Map of Mindfulness is available now.