More than a stack of books and a blurred-out backdrop…

If you want to communicate better, you’ll have to do more than fix how you look on a video call. Matt Guarente runs through the basic principles to consider.

Early on in this no-travel, no-meet world where IRL means sitting in a business shirt and PJ bottoms wishing you’d had breakfast BEFORE this Zoom started, we had some guidance points for our global clients.

They were mostly about your own performance, and they were decent ideas. But they assumed that the stuff you communicated when actually in a room with people, or with investors at a capital markets day, or your colleagues at a town hall, would do perfectly fine for this new medium.


When I prep CEOs for a sit-down with Lex or the Journal, it’s one approach. When I prep them to sit with Quest Means Business or BBC News, it’s quite another. Their core messaging may stay the same but the rules of what works and what doesn’t change dramatically.

And it’s the same with delivering via VC versus delivering in the ballroom of a five-star hotel. You need different stuff.

In the past few weeks we’ve been meeting demand from people who have realised they don’t just need the performance advisory. They need the content advisory on how to inform, and influence, via digital platforms. And they don’t know it, but they need structure advice too. Because those folks smiling and nodding in the little video thumbnail on your screen could be watching the Simpsons for all you know.

Five things to think about for VC comms:

  1. Less of everything. Less time; less information; less detail. Win the argument, but send the detail-heavy slides later if you really must. Just don’t try and share them in the call.
  2. Give people some help to track your narrative progress. Insert a lot of structure, and tell people where they are. If they feel ‘lost’, they’re not listening.
  3. Mix things up. We often tell people that TV cameras ‘flatten’ performance; a VC call sucks the life out of everyone. Consider multiple speakers, use of film, changing the pace, using arresting visuals.
  4. You are on the call to get something done. Focus on that; then get off. Extraneous ideas and side-tracks simply blur your first intent. Nuance is likely to be a casualty.
  5. The tech will mess you up. One platform in particular fills me with dread when a client wants to use it. No names. Have contingency; be prepared to just go back to a good old conference call and ditch the video.

Please get in touch if you’d like your important meetings to land better.

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