Hosting a Webinar ‘Coffee Chat’ for Clients: 6 Tips to Combat Isolation and Information Overload

Mar 26, 2020 / By Debra Taylor, CPA/PFS, JD, CDFA
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Now is the time to offer a more casual webinar, one that makes clients feel connected and offers focused information. With a virtual “coffee chat,” you can reassure them, help them gain a clearer perspective on the outbreak and economy, and most of all, connect in a human way during this stressful time.

Editor's Note: For more information on hosting webinars of your own, join us for our free webinar “Webinars That Work: Connecting with Clients Virtually” on Monday, March 30 at 2:00 pm EST/11:00 am PT. Register here.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. March is shaping up to be the worst month in the market since 1931. There is a serious question whether we are heading into a global recession to rival 2008-2009. Volatility is at unprecedented levels. And the list goes on and on.

During this time of uncertainty, what are you doing differently today than yesterday? How are you upping your game to serve your clients in the ways that they need right now?

Communicate early, often and over a variety of media

Many advisors don’t do a great job of communicating in between meetings. No newsletters. Few, if any, phone calls. You get the picture.

Well, novel times require novel approaches. Start something new that you can be proud of. Consider a newsletter, and if you do a newsletter, consider sending it a little more frequently now that there is real news to address daily.

Try sending announcements (we interrupt our regular programming to bring to you…). And, in the absence of regular meetings that can’t be held, pick up the phone and call those clients. It is critical to have a communication plan in times of crisis.

Hold a virtual coffee chat

We have been doing all of the things mentioned above, but I felt like we could do more. So, we decided to hold a webinar “coffee chat” on March 20, the Friday of the worst week in the markets since 1931. In fairness, when we sent out the invites on Monday, we had no idea that Friday would crown such a horrible week. In any event, our timing was prescient. We sent out invitations (see the figure below) again on Wednesday and noon on Friday, as reminders.

Invitation to Taylor Group ‘Coffee Chat’

Source: Taylor Financial Group

Admittedly, I was nervous all week about the coffee chat. Despite the fact that we use GoToMeeting all the time in the office for meetings, a Webex for clients was something completely different and brought with it a whole new set of variables: How many clients would call in? How could I add to the dialogue? Would the technology work since we were doing it all from home?

I am happy to say that everything went off without a hitch and the clients were incredibly appreciative that we held the coffee chat. I encourage everyone to consider this as another outreach opportunity. It is something completely different than an email or even a phone call. We had 30 clients dial in (out of 100 households), and we received several emails afterwards thanking us.

Here are some helpful hints if you should decide to try this out with your clients.

  1. Set the tone with the invite. Create an interesting and catchy invite and make sure to include all the relevant information including dial-in options for video and audio-only (for technology-challenged clients). And make sure that you send out the proper dial-in number and participant code, because there are different passcodes that allow you to mute the participants. I try to make these types of events sound a little informal, hence we named it a “coffee chat.” Choose your own theme and approach depending on what feels right for you.
  2. Choose the best time to start. Consider choosing Friday and holding it 15 minutes after the market close (allow yourself a little bit of time, say 4:15). We scheduled it for 4 p.m., which was too soon to digest the day’s and week’s data. Given recent market swings, you will need time to compile that data.
  3. Double check your Webex provider. Does it have unlimited participants? Does it allow for screen-sharing and video-conferencing? Does it record and allow for chat? Set up the A.V. several hours in advance and test it to allow for plenty of time to fix any bugs. Do a dry run well in advance. Look for proper lighting, appropriate background, and clear sound. Given the thin utilization of video due to remote workers, the video can be of poor quality, so you want to be aware of this.
  4. Prepare thoughtful, compliance-approved content. Your clients are likely in isolation and hooked into the 24/7 news cycle, so make sure you have done your homework and have something to say. They want to hear your opinion and your thoughts. Create a deck with slides that explain what is going on, what you are watching, and the path forward. Also make sure you discuss the action items you are taking for them, such as tax-loss trading, Roth conversions, rotations out of or into certain positions, and so forth. And don’t forget: it is critical to discuss the path forward. Clients need hope.

    They need to know that you are working hard for them. We created a 20-slide deck that required about 50 minutes to review. We also created a one-page handout that we distributed immediately after the call to all clients. Have any support materials set up before the call and ready to go at the push of a button.

  5. Set the agenda first. Tell clients up front what you are going to do and how long each item will take: reviewing the deck, taking questions, sending the deck and one-pager afterwards. Don’t rush it. Take your time. It’s not like you are doing this everyday for them.
  6. Be sure to make the personal connection. Remind your clients that you are here for them and their families, and that you want to help them with whatever they need. This is a global health crisis first, and an economic crisis second. Remind them that it is a privilege to serve them and that you are available to discuss these issues (and anything else) whenever and however they like. At times during the coffee chat, I displayed charts and data points that were very sobering. But try to finish on a reassuring note, reminding clients that you are in this together and that we will figure this out, one way or another.
  7. Some final thoughts. Holding a coffee chat is stressful, but it is worth it. Many clients commented this week about how they appreciate our dedication and our heart. Your clients could be listening to CNBC or you—which would you prefer?

Debra Taylor, CPA/PFS, JD, CDFA, is the principal and founder of Taylor Financial Group, LLC, a wealth management firm in Franklin Lakes, N.J. Debra has won many industry honors and is the author of My Journey to $1 Million: The Systems and Processes to Get You There, a book about industry best practices. She is also a co-creator of the Savvy Tax Planning program.

Comments

Have broker/dealers had any issues with approving their advisor to do this? Any suggestion on how to create or prepare a slide deck for this given the difference in client savvy that might attend?
Would you care to share the equipment, software, etc. you used for this? That would be great.
We use GoToMeeting, which allows unlimited attendance. I know others use Zoom. We created a PowerPoint deck, it was about 20 slides. Compliance approved the deck pretty readily. No issues. Approved for prospects and clients. My best advice is to also record it so you can distribute it. We had 25% client attendance. That is a high number. And I reviewed the call log and nobody hung up early. Literally. We got great feedback all week on it and we plan to do it again in two weeks. Regarding content, I have a tendency to shoot a little high with our clients. I don’t believe in dumbed down decks or platitudes. It seemed to work well.

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