Crossover Communication Skills that Make Every Meeting Better

online learning

Quick, think of somebody who has achieved “crossover” success – in other words, they turned their skills into success in more than one domain.

You can probably name someone who has achieved success in both music and acting, in both science and politics, in both performing arts and business. These are modern crossover stars, and they share at least one thing in common: A set of skills that translated across domains. In other words, crossover skills.

(My favorite crossover artist? Leonardo DaVinci. He painted the Mona Lisa AND invented the automated bobbin winder!)

Crossover Opportunity: In-Person and Online

In 2020, a lot of advisors resembled musicians in their first movie. Like music and acting, they are adjacent domains, but distinctly different in communication and engagement. Does your talent transfer from one domain to the other? Does your live meeting translate to the small screen? Are you Will Smith (successfully crossed over), or are you Vanilla Ice (did not)?

Fortunately, there is a smart set of crossover skills that make EVERY meeting more engaging, more effective, and ultimately more productive. I’ve been teaching – and using – these skills to deliver advice for years now, and they work.

Crossover Skill 1: Visual Listening

You already know that great listening is the foundation of great advising relationships, and that premature or unsolicited advice is a relationship-killer.

Problem: Clients can’t FEEL you listening online like they can when you’re in person – the small screen constrains your listening.

Solution: Use visual listening skills to bridge the gap. Specifically, get really good at asking for, and capturing, client input VISUALLY.

Examples: Here are three examples of visual listening applied to client meetings.

  • Agenda-setting: Use a screen to put a visual agenda in front of clients to start the meeting and leave space for their inputs. Take a minute to ask about their agenda and type/write their thoughts. Because it’s digital, you can edit and reorder your agenda. Now clients feel like it’s their agenda and the meeting is personalized for them.
  • Class input: Use either a blank screen or a screen with a blank mind map on it to capture client input (fig. 1). What’s changed? What do they need? What are their priorities? Concerns and questions? When you capture these digitally, you can then show them to clients at key moments in your meeting. Clients feel you picking up what they’re putting down, and trust grows.
  • Key questions: Pose your questions on screen and capture client answers. Asking questions visually may be as simple as an X and Y axis or a T chart.

Crossover Skill 2: Information Management

Most clients learn better when they see it. However, we’re easily overwhelmed by “too much information” (TMI) and will seize up in the face of confusing data and choices.

Problem: It’s harder to walk clients through complexity online, and it’s harder to see when their brains get full.

Solution: Use information management skills to match your delivery to client capacity. Specifically, chunk information into bite-size morsels by leveraging the advantages of digital meeting materials.

Examples: Here are three ways to take advantage of digital meeting materials.

  • Zooming in: Make your materials more legible through the simple act of zooming in. if you have a touch screen, it’s as simple as pinching. Otherwise, use your cursor.
  • Using a highlighter: whether you are using a PDF or you have pasted materials into PowerPoint (my favorite), use the highlighter to draw client attention to the information that matters most. If you have a touch screen, you are at an even greater advantage.
  • Annotating: Use a stylus and the draw tab in PowerPoint or Word as your digital yellow pad. Draw, write, and illustrate concepts onscreen like you would on a real yellow pad (fig. 2). You can also annotate product information and screenshots of dashboards and websites, just don’t save or send.

Crossover Skill 3: Visual Accountability

Clients find it easier to give a verbal commitment than to admit they are unclear about or hesitant to take the recommended action.

Problem: it’s harder to gauge hesitancy or ambivalence online dash clients feel even less accountability on the small screen.

Solution: Use visual accountability to increase clarity and commitment. Specifically, turn verbal commitments into visual commitments.

Examples: Here are two ways to create visual commitment in your meetings.

  • Capturing client needs an priorities: Use the visual listening skills I’ve already described to create a basis for your recommendations. When they’ve already expressed the needs were concerns your recommendations help with, next steps are more clear and more meaningful.
  • Creating a visual action plan: Prepare a screen with a simple “who does what when” table (fig. 3). Then, use questions to help clients articulate their intended actions and time frame. Fill this table in as you go, then share and clarify the results. You can now use this in your follow up to remind clients of their commitment, triggering their innate desire to be consistent with their words.

Crossover Skills Make EVERY Meeting Better

The punchline here is, each of these skills when properly applied make all of your meetings better. Add these skills to your in person meetings, and you’ll reap the benefits of communication, understanding, and trust just as you will online.

Just like the performing skills that help a musician be successful in the movies, these crossover skills help you succeed in both domains, online and in person.

Dan Smaida teaches advanced consulting skills for advisors. See more of his work at