Friday, November 14, 2008

Speak To Influence Minicourse Part 4 Of 5

Writen by Gary Horsman

In part 4 of the program you will learn:

1. Why your telephone voice is important
2. Bad telephone habits and telephone tips
3. How to leave a great voicemail message
4. How to script your out-going message


Most business relationships strongly rely on the telephone as a communication tool. It is very important to consider how we sound on the telephone, as the tone and pitch and the emphasis that we use affect how our message is received.

Most people determine the meaning of what you say more from how the words are stated rather than from the words themselves. A large part of the content of your message lies in how you say it rather than what you say.

Consider the following sentence. Notice what happens when the emphasis is put on different words. Say these sentences out loud to really emphasize how the meaning changes.

I did not break that dish.
(I did not do it. Someone else did it.)
I did not break that dish.
(I did not do it.)
I did not break that dish.
(I did not do it.)
I did not break that dish.
(It may have been cracked but not broken)
I did not break that dish.
(I broke another dish.)
I did not break that dish.
(I broke something else.)

In each case, with the emphasis on a different word, the sentence has a different meaning. The meaning, as heard by the listener, will be different (sometimes very different) in each case.

It is important to realize that we are only broadcasting our message. It is also being received. There is sometimes a big difference in what we feel we have broadcast versus what is actually received.

Now that we know we need to consider how we say something let take a look at some real distractions to the receiver of our message when we talk on the telephone.


Here are some big telephone turn-offs. There may be more but here are some important ones from my list.

What you do while talking on the phone affects how you sound to the person you're talking to. Your message may not come across well if you are doing any of the following. Therefore, when speaking on the phone, do not:

• Cradle the telephone between your shoulder and ear. It has a tremendously negative impact on the quality of your voice.

It may put unnatural pressure on your larynx. The risk of dropping the phone may distract you from what you're saying. This tenuous position keeps the mouthpiece from remaining steady, and when the mouthpiece moves, it sounds to the person on the other end like your tone and pitch are varying unnaturally

• Overuse the speaker phone. I once had a colleague that used the speaker phone for every call. There were occasions when I thought I was speaking only with him and then later learned that others were also in the room. On most occasions this may be fine but there is always the chance that your message may then be overheard by the wrong person or taken the wrong way by someone else in the room without the necessary background to fully understand what you meant.

If you are going to use a speaker phone, make sure that everyone in the room introduces themselves. This is a common courtesy.

• Use a grouchy voice.

• Have sloppy body language. The way you are standing or sitting reflects your attitude, and, this can be understood over the telephone. Leaning back in the chair with your feet up can be detected. If you can convey a smooth and confident tone this way then fine. My general advice, however, is to be careful with the positioning of your body even on the telephone. If you are hunched over your computer terminal or slouched over your desk you will not sound as good as you could. I often stand when I want to boost the quality and authority of my voice when using the telephone. Avoid having bad body language or posture when on the telephone.

• Do not do other things while on the telephone. Have you ever had a conversation when you knew that someone was typing away on their computer while talking to you? Did you feel that you had their attention? Of course not. You would never try to do another task while talking with a client or customer face to face. Don't do so on the telephone either.

Here are some tips for improving the way you come across over the phone.

• State your purpose up front. If you state why you are calling at the beginning of your call, you focus the receiver's attention. You give them a chance to understand how long the return call may take and determine a good time to discuss the topic.

• Smile when you talk. Just as a negative attitude will come through in your voice, so will a positive one. I know of a company that was in the market for a new phone receptionist. The primary job of the receptionist was to greet people on the telephone. Therefore, each member of the hiring team chose their top three candidates simply by making phone calls. After interviewing the top three candidates, they then made a fabulous offer to the top pick and hired her. She was the "voice" of the company and she was chosen, in part, because she sounded enthusiastic and professional.

• Compose yourself before answering. When the phone rings, stop what you are doing, take a deep breath, and smile. Then answer it.

• Wait until a good moment to answer. Do not just drop what you are doing to answer the telephone on the first ring. If you are half asleep, just out of the shower, or in the middle of completing an important rush job do not answer the telephone. If you do answer and cannot compose yourself you will answer sounding tired, annoyed or distracted. We have voicemail for just such occasions. Let callers leave a message, then return the call when you are ready and composed.

• Always let the other person hang up first. It is good practice to end a phone conversation by asking one last question, such as "Is there anything else I may help you with?" or "Do you have any other questions?" Pause and allow them to answer.


Here are a few tips for leaving voicemail messages that people will want to return.

• Leave your first and last name.

• Leave your number twice, once at the beginning of the message and once at the end. So many times callers leave long messages, and then mumble their telephone number only at the end. If I need to listen to the long-winded message a second time just to get the number I am already thinking unfavorably about the caller.

• Speak clearly and slowly.

• Don't sell anything with your message.

• Leave them guessing. For example, if you have an idea you want to discuss with someone do not leave all the details in your voice message. Try simply saying, "Hi, Gayle. I have a great idea I want to discuss with you. Give me a call." You save Gayle time by not having to listen to a long message and you establish some intrigue so that she will call you back.

• Sound like a winner. If you speak with confidence and enthusiasm, you will get more calls returned, because people like talking with winners.

• Be clear. This means speaking clearly and also being clear with the content of your message. This is related strongly to sounding like a winner.


When doing even simple voice-narration, such as recording your out-going voicemail message, it is important to read from a script. Many people try to "wing it" and sound unprofessional even on simple and short things.

It is a straight-forward matter to write down what you want to say. Practice it a bit out loud, make adjustments, and then do the narration.

It is important to note that a script that looks fine on paper does not always sound as good when spoken out loud. Make a point of saying the entire script out loud and make adjustments as necessary to keep it sounding natural. Your prerecorded message has to sound like you rehearsed it but must be spoken with enthusiasm and tempo not read monotone-fashion which would be boring.

When recording your message, speak crisply. Play it back for yourself and listen critically to it, the way you did to the first recording you made in part 1 of this mini-course. Are you gulping air? Do you sound too nasal?

Finally, remember that you often read much faster than you speak out loud. Something that looks long on paper will be even longer once spoken. Time yourself if you are unsure to get the length right.

In the final part I will share with you technology tool ideas for expanding the reach of your message and how your Internet visitors can benefit from hearing your voice.

Gary is President of Presentations That Talk ( The core product of Presentations That Talk is the PTT Presenter. The PTT Presenter allows users to easily make voice-narrated streaming media presentations. This allows a company to present their products and services, using the Internet, with presentation marketing which adds impact and helps to influence the viewer.

Gary is also a public speaker, educator, and mentor/coach to others wishing to improve their speaking ability.

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