As computers with live camera and talk capabilities increasingly become widespread, more conversations between financial advisors and their clients are being done via video with Skype, the voice-over-IP phone service that lets users make calls either for free or dirt cheap (depending on how the calls are made).

So how do you make the most of it? Practice and preparation are key, said Joyce Newman, a New York-based presentation consultant.

One-on-one video conferencing allows you to show yourself as a true professional who’s genuinely interested in your client in ways that voice alone doesn’t. But, Newman cautioned, maximizing the advantages of Skype takes planning.

First, be mindful of eliminating video distractions, which means that all white, black and red clothing and backdrops are out because they can create glare, she noted.

It can also be hard to keep your client’s eyes focused on you during a video conference, particularly in a home office if there’s activity behind you. Newman recommends investing in a WebAround, a blue screen that attaches to the back of a chair and blocks out clutter and people behind you. The foldable backdrop is available at The 42-inch version is $30; the 52-inch size is $40.

In addition, Newman suggested communicating with a friend or family member on Skype to gauge how to best position yourself on camera and get feedback to avoid a poor performance that could cost you clients and money.

“It’s really critical to have steady eye contact with the camera,” Newman said. “Without it, you won’t look confident. You can come across as shifty, untrustworthy, unprepared or not at the top of your game.”

She also recommended avoiding large gestures that can be out of camera range and are seen as quick, jerky movements with the delayed timing on Skype. An occasional smile adds inflection to what you are saying, and a conversational tone works best and enhances natural inflection. For example, since you can now see your clients, you might compliment them on how well they look on camera––perhaps praising their new hairstyle or their jacket or dress.

Your preparation can also be enhanced by having cue cards placed behind the camera at your eye level that are written in large, bold letters with the client’s name and other personal information to prompt you during the call.

“You want to use the client’s name once or twice in the call,” Newman said.

A final tip: Cut out circles of paper and hang them up in your home or office so you can practice talking to them as if you were talking to a camera.

“Skype might seem scary,” Newman said. “With preparation, it needn’t be.”