Published 14 January 2022, The Daily Tribune

The pandemic has brought about the accelerated development of virtual conference technology. Applications such as Zoom, MS Teams, and BlueJeans (no, not the types of denim) have become commonplace. We now have to daily scroll among several platforms such as SMS, Viber, WhatsApp, and Telegram to check our various messages. Not to mention FaceBook Private Messages and Instagram Direct Messages. We have never been so connected!

The past two years have certainly been a challenge in that we had to learn to adjust to virtual conferences and the issues that came with not being face-to-face with clients and counterparties. So how can we close the deal when we are not physically present? Here are some tips borne out of our experiences in negotiating and closing deals in a virtual setting:

  1. Be on time. We don’t have to battle with our usual horrendous traffic to get from one office to another. It would be a good practice to go online about 10 to 5 minutes before your meeting just to make sure you have a good internet connection and your proper background filters are on. It would also afford you a little time to get to know the participants in the meeting if you are meeting them for the first time.
  2. Ensure you are accessing the proper app. It is common to mistake the videoconferencing app that was sent in the invite. Some participants may be waiting in MS Teams while the others are on Zoom. Double-check the invite.
  3. Check your microphone status. The most common phrase we will hear is “Sorry, but I think you’re on mute.” People may have missed something important we were saying and we will have to repeat it, thus taking more time or it may become an irritant to some.
  4. Use video when possible. We do understand that some internet connections work better if we turn off our video, but as much as possible it is easier to negotiate and communicate when we have a face to the name. It will likewise afford us the opportunity to see how the counterparty may react to a comment, revision, or suggestion being raised. Make sure your face is also properly framed in the video – not too close that the participants can only see a portion of your mouth and nose nor too far away that they cannot see your facial expressions or that you have shorts underneath your suit. A good rule is to try to look like a TV news anchor reporting the 6 p.m. news.
  5. Use a calm and polite voice tone. The best negotiators are those who are always able to keep their calm and composure even when the situation becomes tense or stressful. The sound in virtual conferences tends to be more amplified than they actually are, thus speaking with a loud voice will come across as anger or frustration. This may lead to the other party walking away from the deal.
  6. Let the other person finish talking. In virtual meetings, the app will usually highlight the box of the person speaking. Thus, we can easily determine when a person has stopped speaking. Show respect for the person speaking, although you may not agree with what they are saying. Negotiations are intended for the parties to reach mutually acceptable terms and conditions, not a points contest on who gets the most concessions. Remember that during virtual meetings, once another party talks, the person currently speaking loses his/her microphone and can no longer be heard.
  7. Sharing your screen. When sharing your screen, make sure the document is readable/visible. Remember, not everyone has 20/20 vision. Often times we ask the presenter to enlarge the view, especially when the discussions revolve around contract details.
  8. Use the chatbox. Should you need to share information such as mobile numbers, email addresses, or should you have a query or issue which you want the meeting participants to discuss, use the chatbox instead of having to interrupt the person currently speaking.

We can expect that even when the pandemic ends, virtual conferences will still be the preferred mode of meeting considering its convenience and minimal costs. Technology will surely continue to improve and evolve, and at the same time, we must learn to adjust to the ever-changing times.

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