A telephone call is often the first encounter between two people.
More and more, job interviews, sales calls, and business meetings are conducted over the phone because it's easier, faster, and more economical. Because listeners cannot see you, they form critical opinions based primarily on the combination of your words and voice tone--what you say and how you say it. To optimize your impact over the phone, consider the following tips:
Rehearse your opening remarks.
To ensure a confident strong start, practice aloud the tone and content of your first minute. Include a greeting, welcome, introductions, and purpose statement. Your listeners form their impression of you in the first few seconds, so give extra preparation to your opening.
2. State the specific purpose of the call.
A top pet peeve of teleconference attendees is having their time wasted. Put them at ease by stating the reason and objectives for the call right away. This provides focus and direction. It also shows you're prepared, in charge, and committed to a successful meeting.
3. Use a pleasant tone of voice
. As the saying goes, "Smile when you dial." Consider keeping a mirror by your phone and occasionally check your face to ensure it's relaxed and positive. A pleasant facial expression can actually be heard in your voice. Also, get in the habit of recording your side of telephone conversations. Afterward, listen to the recording and evaluate your voice. Do you sound enthusiastic or bored? Helpful or impatient? Self-assured or timid?
4. Avoid speakerphones whenever possible
. To ensure optimal sound quality, speak directly into the telephone receiver or use a high-quality headset. Use the speakerphone only when absolutely necessary, such as when multiple people are in the room. When using the speakerphone, make sure you place it as close as possible to the speaker(s) and urge everyone to speak up so the callers can hear all comments.
5. Practice good posture
. Sit up straight as if you were actually face-to-face with the person you are calling. Avoid slouching or slumping, which often causes a lethargic tone and mumbled speech.
Also try standing up when you speak over the phone to project an even more commanding confident voice tone.
6. Avoid discrediting speech habits
. First, minimize filler words and phrases such as "um," "uh," "er," "like," "sort of," and "you know." For tips on how to eliminate these filler words, please read a previous article at
Second, are you a fast talker? Avoid speaking too quickly because listeners disengage if they can't follow or understand you. An optimal rate of speech ranges between 140-160 words per minute. Slow your pace and place a pause at every punctuation mark.
7. Avoid multitasking
. Concentrate on the other speaker. No matter how hard you try to camouflage your activities, such as checking e-mail, typing, filing, or doing paperwork, your voice will give you away. The listener can hear a tone of distraction in your voice. Give your callers the full attention you would if you were face-to-face with them.
8. Listen actively
. Tune out distractions. Focus only on the speaker's voice and the meaning of the message. Take notes. By keeping track of key points and noting who says what, you can refer to others' ideas and contributions during the call. In addition, make reflective statements occasionally to verify and clarify what you hear. For example: "Don, what I hear you saying is . . . Is that correct?"
9. Use verbal nods
. Remember that the listener can't see you, so be sure to indicate you're listening by giving occasional verbal nods. These include words and phrases such as "That's interesting," "Oh, really," "Ah-ha," "Good," "I see," "Please go on," "Yes, I understand."
10. Be patient and don't interrupt
. Even though you may eagerly want to say something, or finish the speaker's sentence, or chime in with an idea, wait your turn. Let the other person finish his or her thought.
11. If you must place someone on hold, ask for permission and explain the reason
. It's impolite to place someone on hold abruptly without telling them why. Also, never leave someone holding for more than twenty seconds without offering to call them back.
12. Choose your words carefully.
Avoid rambling, ambiguity, slang, slurs and jargon. Keep your language clear and concise, and your tone positive and upbeat. When you're speaking over the phone instead of in person, words themselves carry a greater impact because the listener does not have your nonverbal cues to provide meaning. That's why it's especially important to prepare and rehearse your speaking points ahead of time.
If you would like more tips and techniques on effective presentation and communication skills, please read my book, Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results (available in hard cover, Kindle, and audio).
Feel free to contact me directly to schedule an in-house corporate training event for your team. I would be honored to support your presentation and communication success.