Want to impress people when it comes to business speaking? Here are some phone skills to make your voice sound better on the phone.
If you're not thinking about how your voice sounds on the phone, you're ignoring one of your best business opportunities.
Think about it: how often do you discuss business on your cell or office phone? How about conference calls? And what about if you're in inside sales?
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For many years now, communication experts have argued about whether visual, vocal, or verbal content is the most important element in listeners' perceptions. In other words: is your body language, vocal qualities, or what you actually say the biggest factor in speaking success?
Whatever the percentages are (and people argue about this), you should bear in mind one important fact: if you're speaking for business, your voice carries more weight than you think it does when it comes to influencing customers and stakeholders.
What's More Important: Body Language or Voice?
We should always keep in mind that the richest environment for persuading someone is in-person conversation. That's because it contains all the elements necessary for deciding whether to trust someone and believe that they're authentic. It's also a clear path for us in determining whether a speaker knows how to achieve presence and charisma.
Why wouldn't this be so, since a person speaking to us in person is tipping off all of our senses: sight, sound, touch (as in shaking hands), and even smell? Taste too comes into play if we're talking with this person in an eating or drinking environment. Of all these senses which are in play if we're in a public speaking setting, vision becomes dominant for us as audience members. That's because what we see in front of us plays into our needs for safety and survival. Also at play are other factors such as trust, likability, confidence, dynamism, attractiveness, and even entertainment.
Is Your Voice Giving People the Wrong Impression?
But what about when all the visual clues are removed? I mean in telephone calls and phone conferences. Suddenly, there's nothing to look at where the speaker is concerned. When this happens, your voice grows greatly in importance. Now, you are basically just a vocal persona, and your vocal skills and qualities have great power in forming someone's perceptions and judgments about you.
Have you had this experience? You speak to someone first on the phone and, quite unwittingly, make decisions about their age, appearance, level of experience, professionalism, friendliness, and other characteristics. Then you see their photo or meet them in person, and your whole mental picture and perception of them gets turned upside down. You might even struggle for a while trying to reconcile the two extremes!
Four Easy Ways to Improve Your Phone Voice
So, you should ask yourself: Is your phone voice helping or hurting you in terms of business? Listen to your outgoing message, as well as messages you've left on the phones of colleagues or family members. Pay attention to your own response to this person's voice (i.e., yours), and start to make some changes where necessary.
Whatever your overall opinion is of your phone voice, here are 4 easy steps you can take to improve others' response to you. And that includes getting them to retain and take to heart what you're telling them.
1. Breathe. The more support you have for your speaking voice, the better it will sound. That includes characteristics such as pleasantness, authority, wisdom, experience, and the sound of leadership. Many business people today breathe shallowly, because phone calls and meetings bring us so close to colleagues and customers. But bear in mind that your breath is the raw material for activating your vocal cords, including issues of projection and power. Get your belly into the act to help release a strong column of air by breathing diaphragmatically.
2. Smile. People involved in sales are sometimes advised to keep a mirror by their phone, and to smile before they pick up the receiver. The reason? The person on the other end can hear your smile. Not only are our thoughts and the body language that shows what we're thinking closely intertwined, but it works in the opposite direction as well. Assume good posture, look pleasant, and learn the rules of effective body language, and your phone manner will benefit!
3. Gesture. Whenever I'm being interviewed by a news outlet or giving a webinar, I use a headphone-and-mic setup. The reason doesn't have anything to do with sound quality. It's so that I can free myself from holding the phone, and move around and gesture! Gestures in speaking exist to strengthen, amplify, support, or explain what you're saying. As with smiling, some of that physical expression comes through in your voice. If you gesture when you make a critical point while speaking on the phone, the people on the other end will understand that what you just said is important.
4. Speak S-L-O-W-L-Y. As a speech coach and actor, I'm always amazed at how fast some people speak on the phone, especially when it comes to leaving their phone number and other vital information. Yes, I'm talking about their OWN NAMES, among other things! Once again, without any helpful visual clues, we as listeners will get all of our information from what your voice is doing. Few things are as annoying as having to play a message back three or four times to try to understand a person's phone number. Why do that to someone you're hoping will be eager to call you back?
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Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in theater-based public speaking training. His company, Boston-based The Genard Method uses performance techniques to help business executives, leadership teams, and professionals embody presence and confidence to achieve true influence. In 2020 for the seventh consecutive year, Gary has been ranked by Global Gurus as one of The World's Top 30 Communication Professionals. He is the author of How to Give a Speech. His second book, Fearless Speaking, was recently named as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time."