Perhaps you can relate to my problem: Once the lockdown started, my wife and I began hosting weekly Zoom calls with friends near and far. We still have Zoom calls several nights a week, which last 30 to 60 minutes. You start with: “What did you do last week?” The answer is “Nothing.” There are 29 minutes to go. You run out of things to talk about. What do you do?
Here are 10 ways to keep calls with friends or long-time clients interesting.
- Prepare ahead of time. Before the call, I make a list of everything I’ve done since the last call. This is easy because I keep a daily journal in the Notes application on my iPad. Armed with a list of where we have dined, what outdoor projects have been done and who has visited recently, there are a dozen or so line items I can introduce when conversation lags.
- Telling jokes. One couple loves telling jokes. It started when the husband recalled a few from memory. For later calls, he had prepared a few in advance. But then his wife took the lead! She spends the week doing research and arrives on the video call with a sheaf of handwritten pages. I do my research online to find my own jokes. We alternate telling jokes. There’s lots of laughter.
- What new recipes have you tried? The people who don’t seem to do much may actually have activities they consider routine and not worth mentioning. They can be interesting.
- What are you watching? Everyone is either online or glued to their TV. One couple has a keen interest in online lectures. These are often organized by prestigious universities. They start talking about the ones they just watched or those coming up in the future. There’s something for everyone. One talk was a retrospective on Sean Connery and the James Bond films. Another was an interview with Dame Judi Dench. Once you get people talking about their passions, it’s hard to get them to stop.
- Bring the pets into the conversation. We have two cats. Friday’s Zoom couple has one. Thursday’s couple in England has two dogs. Get the pets on camera. You start talking about their antics.
- Vacation plans. As the world slowly reopens, many people have a bad case of wanderlust. They want to get away and go somewhere! We talk about vacation plans. Have the borders reopened in that country? Where can we drive to in the meantime?
- Celebrating birthdays. We had our weekly call with a British couple. It happened to be my birthday. They had baked a cake, added a candle and wore party hats! They asked me to blow out the candle from our side of the Atlantic. There are many holidays you can celebrate.
- Pandemic life here vs. there. This is great if you are in different countries. Our British friends talk about the “traffic light system.” Where can you visit that doesn’t require a 14-day quarantine period when you re-enter the U.K.? Unfortunately, the handful of “green” status countries on the list weren’t necessarily welcoming British tourists without a lengthy quarantine period on arrival into that country.
- Friends in common. You can’t keep in touch with everyone. Conversation during Zoom calls can gravitate to, “Have you seen Susan lately? What’s she up to?” Although you might not see certain people, you can share in their experiences.
- How are your children? Our friends have grown children. They live a distance from their parents, often in other parts of the world. Although our friends might not be up to much, they are in touch with their children and grandchildren. Almost everyone likes talking about their children’s accomplishments.
There might be a significant economic gap between you and certain friends. You don’t want to brag about doing things they cannot afford. This can become a serious problem if the other person is a client paying fees to your firm. If your life sounds too comfortable, they might conclude their fees are too high.
As the world opens up, your housebound clients might be getting out more. In that case, your calls, while still on a schedule, might be spaced out. A friend hosted an ‘80s themed Saturday night dance party via Zoom for a year. As lockdown eased and people made other plans, she went from having them once a week to once a month. This must be done tactfully. You don’t want to imply: “I’m bored with you. Let’s end this now.”
Having scheduled Zoom calls with friends can be great, but you need ways to keep the conversations fresh.
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. His book “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” is available on Amazon.
For more ideas on how to engage clients: