It’s never been easier to stay connected and sustain relationships using a platform like Zoom. If you’ve never used it before, or if you’re a bit scared of technology, I would just say: keep an open mind and be curious! You don’t need lots of tech knowledge to set yourself up, and it’s easy to learn.
Most importantly, Zoom could be the difference between continuing to support your clients and earn a living, or not. Whether you’re a counsellor or psychotherapist, whether you offer one-to-one consultations (nutritional therapy, homeopathy, etc) or whether you can adapt and translate part of your service into an online form (guided yoga nidra for yoga teachers, demonstrations of exercises and stretches for massage therapists), Zoom could work for you.
Using Zoom – your guide to the basics
What is Zoom?
Zoom is a way to hold face to face meetings online. If you’ve used Skype, it’s similar – but it works much better and it’s a more professional platform to connect with your clients online.
What does it cost?
You can sign up for a free account, though you’ll only be able to hold meetings (video calls) of up to 40 minutes. A monthly paid account is around £15.
Where do I even start?
Go to www.zoom.us and sign up for a free or paid account. Once you’ve done that, go to Profile, and upload a professional photo of yourself. That’s the first step done!
How to set up a Zoom meeting
On Zoom, a ‘meeting’ is the name for an online video call. Click on Account. Then click on Meetings. Next, click Schedule a Meeting.
The most important sections to fill in are:
- Topic This is mostly for your reference, but you might want to name it “Therapy [whatever type of session you’re offereing] – Client’s Name”. This will make it easier when you have a whole list of scheduled meetings in front of you.
- Time (enter the start time, AM/PM and duration of meeting)
- Check the box for whether you want a client to have to enter a password or not – this might be a good idea for added security, though for a smooth and welcoming process to begin with, you could uncheck the box so no password is needed. Each separate Zoom meeting that you create will have a different individual link.
- Check the boxes so that Host and Participant Video are both set to on, and check the box in the Audio section that says both.
- Click Schedule Meeting at the bottom
There are other options as you can see, but those steps are the basic ones to set up a call. Once you start to practice, and if you’re holding back-to-back sessions, you can check the box to enable waiting room. This can be a professional way of letting your clients know you’ll be with them shortly if you’re still on a call with the previous client – a bit like when they arrive in the reception area of your practice and they’re asked to take a seat for a few moments until their appointment.
What to do after you schedule a meeting
After you click Schedule Meeting, you’ll be taken to a page with all the confirmation details. You can either click Copy Invitation, and then paste all of the details into the email you send your client. I prefer just to copy and paste the Zoom Link itself, rather than all the extra info.
How to invite your client to their online call
The first time you invite a client to an online session, keep things clear and simple. You’ll want to suggest:
- that they go ahead and download the Zoom app on their ipad or device now, so that they have it installed already. Recommend that they go to the app store and search for ‘Zoom cloud meetings’
- that they click on the link a few moments before the scheduled appointment start time, and that you’ll be with them shortly
- that the first time they connect, they may need to click a couple of things to enable audio and to start their video camera
- if they have any problems at all they can contact you on your usual number
Be clear, reassuring and keep it as simple as possible.
Tips for being professional and creating a safe, held experience
Decide where you’re going to be holding your video calls
If you’re working from home, you’ll need to make sure that what the camera sees in the background is what you’re happy for your clients to see. A non-cluttered space, perhaps with a plant, some wall art, a bookshelf. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does need to be tidy, calm and welcoming. It’s good to have some soft lighting to one side – if there’s a lamp directly behind you, your face may appear shadowed.
Before your first client call, test out the process out with a friend or colleague
Go through all the steps just as if they were a client. It should be straightforward, but this will help you spot any glitches and know if there’s anything else you should tell your clients to expect! This will allow your first call to be as smooth as possible.
Be observant. On your test call, keep an eye out for any habits you wouldn’t usually notice – bobbing your head, playing with your hair, frowning – these things can seem quite amplified on camera! Check what’s in the background, how the lighting looks, and if there’s anything you can spot that doesn’t belong on camera.
You don’t need to look perfect! Just professional, and however you would usually look when you see clients.
If you have headphones with a microphone, it’s worth using them as the sound quality at your client’s end will be better. If you don’t have headphones, don’t worry!
Let everyone else in your household know that you need privacy and quiet during your client call times. Try to schedule online appointments for times when you’re not going to be disturbed, or the doorbell is least likely to ring. Remember to put your phone on silent, and to close any other programmes on your computer, such as your email inbox, in case it ‘pings’ with incoming mail during your call!
Create connection and safety
Make sure you’re looking directly into the camera on your device. It’s tempting to look at your client’s face on the screen, but much more reassuring if your clients can feel eye contact with you. (Try this out on your test call, ask your friend to do the same and notice how you feel.)
Be natural and be yourself…
…but you may need to raise your energy a little higher than usual, make some effort to speak with more emphasis and intonation, and use some more body language/gestures than usual. This is especially important if you usually speak very softly – you don’t want to sound faint or too quiet, and you can still be calm and soothing if you dial up your energy.
Take the time to settle into your body
Feel the chair or surface you’re sitting on, and the ground beneath you – you’re physically further away from your client than usual, but there is a powerful intimacy in online connections, and you may need to put extra intention into keeping your boundaries.
Try not to be nervous!
Your clients will be grateful to still have the chance to work with you, they won’t mind if the first calls aren’t ‘perfect’! Keep your focus on your client, and how you’re there to help them.
Switching your practice over to Zoom sessions
First of all, send out a personalised email to your clients, asking them how they are, and letting them know you’re offering online sessions, and how this could work for them. Don’t overload with information and instructions in this email (you can send them the next steps in a follow up email, including what to expect and how to pay you) but do let them know there is a way they can work with you during this time.
Start by reaching out to your current clients, who already know and trust you, and who might be really receptive to switching to an online session format.
Update your website and post on social media to let new clients know they can still work with you while they’re at home, with some helpful and reassuring tips on how this works. Keep in mind that the first reaction for many will be that they’ll need some tech skills – it’s up to you to make things easy for them, and walk them through the simple steps for their first appointment.
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