An online CPA meeting can save time. At least, they can if you know how. In this article, I provide examples of online CPA meetings and online software that you can use.
Are you tired of driving hours to see clients? Or maybe you drive two hours to meet with a customer and realize you left files on your office computer. Online meetings solve these problems and make you more accessible. Below I show you how to get started.
First, you need to choose a video conferencing solution.
Some popular alternatives include:
Here is a PC Magazine article that compares these products (and others). All of these packages offer free trial versions. And they all provide similar abilities. The main thing is they allow me to share what’s on my computer monitor and my voice.
So, what video conferencing software do I use? Zoom. Why? It is easy to use and reliable. While Zoom offers a free version, I use their paid Pro version.
The point of this article is not to sell you on a particular online meeting product (though I do like Zoom), but to sell you on the concept. I have spent years of my life (at least it feels that way) driving to and from clients’ offices. So when I heard about online meetings, I gave it a try.
My first online meeting sold me. A few years ago I was assisting an attorney with a forensic project. My final report was several hundred pages long. Rather than making a 4.5-hour trip to meet with my client, I did the following:
The meeting lasted one hour. Once done, the attorney said to me, “This is one of the best meetings I’ve ever attended.”
So rather than taking 5.5 hours (4.5 hours of driving and the 1-hour session), the meeting took 1.5 hours (including setup time). I saved four hours—and I didn’t even have to sit in the attorney’s lobby and wait for him. Also, I didn’t have to stop and refuel my vehicle—or file an expense report.
If sharing video works with an out-of-town client, does it work with in-the-office staff?
Yes, an online CPA meeting works with others in your office as well. Why? For the same reasons. I can share any information from my computer screen. And I can invite several people to the meeting at the same time. They can view what I am sharing from the comfort of their offices. Believe me, it’s better than several people huddling around one computer.
Here are some additional thoughts about online CPA meetings.
Though I don’t do so often, I can record my online meetings in Zoom. Then if I need to watch the session, I can.
Once you are in a Zoom meeting you can share your mouse. This allows your client to control your computer. I find this useful when my client wants to show me something. Rather than the client telling me where to click, I simply hand the mouse control over to her. Then she can move around in the documents we are viewing.
Are there any downsides to online meetings? Yes. Some people don’t want to be seen. Perhaps they are working from home and are still in their pajamas. If they have their camera on, you will see them, and if your camera is on, guess what? Yep. They can see you. You can, however, turn your camera off. And they can as well.
For a more professional look, consider buying a video camera. I use a Logitech 930e (cost is $71.50). It sits on top of my right monitor. Why buy a camera? For higher quality video. Additionally, the camera has a microphone. If you’re wondering about the quality of the video from this device, see the recording above. I used the Logitech 930e for that one.
What if your client is too busy for an online meeting? Record a video and share it. I can do so from Zoom, but I use Camtasia to record my videos. (A single license is $249.)
Say you need to explain the details in a lease document. And you want to show and explain the related journal entries. Turn Camtasia on and shoot the recording with your Logitech camera. Whatever appears on your monitor (e.g., lease agreement in a PDF; journal entries in Excel) is captured in the video. Once done, save the video and send a link to your client. And why do this? So your client can watch the presentation at her convenience.
Don’t want to be seen on video? Then turn it off. Camtasia provides that option. You can record what you present on your monitor and your voice narration–with no video.
I store my videos on Screencast. The cost is $99.95 per year.
You may wonder why I use Camtasia and Screencast, especially when I can record and store video with Zoom. The short answer is I create training videos. Camstasia gives me better editing capabilities. And Screencast was built for the purpose of sharing videos. So the two products (both made by TechSmith) work well together for the creation and sharing of video.
I create and share videos with my partners and staff. Once a video is created, I store it on my Screencast site. Then I share the video link on our firm intranet. That way I can demonstrate something once and share it with everyone.
Do you already use online meeting or video capture software? If yes, what solutions do you use? Share your suggestions below.
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Charles Hall is a practicing CPA and Certified Fraud Examiner. For the last thirty years, he has primarily audited governments, nonprofits, and small businesses. He is the author of The Little Book of Local Government Fraud Prevention and Preparation of Financial Statements & Compilation Engagements. He frequently speaks at continuing education events. Charles is the quality control partner for McNair, McLemore, Middlebrooks & Co. where he provides daily audit and accounting assistance to over 65 CPAs. In addition, he consults with other CPA firms, assisting them with auditing and accounting issues.
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William, thanks for your comment. I do agree that using online meetings too much would not be appropriate. We do need that physical presence.
This is suitable for certain clients, typically from larger firms or professional offices for whom task is more important than relationship. Most small to medium businesses are not suitable clients for this type of interaction as they tend to want to do face-to-face dealings, in part, I think, to be assured of your interest and devotion to them. Relationship management 101. Also in my experience many, if not most small/medium business clients do not have video conferencing equipment available, nor do they feel that they need or want it. I’m certainly glad that it has worked well for you. It works well for me in other contexts.
For the past two years I have tried to implement e-conferences, having no good results. My experience indicated that it was needed some more time to become more popular. Some of the problems I faced were that some participants underestimated the learning use of the application, showing up at the scheduled starting time without pre-preparation causing delays in the conference, insufficient internet power, some computers had overcrowded memory causing poor connection, etc. As previously indicated, it was too new for some people. I decided wait and try at a later time.