Give Yourself What You Need

October 5, 2014
Mary Jane Copps


“When you’re prepared, you’re more confident. When you have a strategy, you’re more comfortable.” Fred Couples

Speaking on the phone has a lot in common with public speaking. And according to a wide variety of studies and surveys, public speaking is the #1 fear of North Americans. So it’s no surprise that the majority of people are uncomfortable, nervous, anxious and in some cases totally afraid of talking on the phone.

Which leads me to ask “Would you get up in front of a room full of people for a presentation or speech and not prepare beforehand?” Very few of you would answer “yes” to this question.

So if you have any level of discomfort around phone calls, give yourself the power of preparation. A myth exists that “anyone can talk on the phone” – and this simply isn’t true. But often, because the myth is so prevalent, people deny themselves the tools they need to pick it up and communicate effectively.

Here’s a thought:  If you have important calls to make and you’re nervous, practice what you want to say – out loud. Don’t start by writing it down because the majority of the time how we write – pacing, words we choose, etc – doesn’t translate well when spoken.

While you practice, use a digital recorder, your phone or voice mail to record yourself and listen to the results. You’ll be able to hear the impact of your tone of voice as well as if you’re rambling or perhaps continually using fillers such as “like” or “uhm”.

Keep practising this way until you’re happy with the result. You can even ask a friend or colleague to practice with you and give you their feedback. This is what it takes to be a great public speaker and it’s no different when it comes to effective phone communication.

Once you’re happy with your spoken conversation, certainly write it out for yourself, but when you go to make the calls, don’t keep the word-for-word version in front of you. Instead use an index card or a coloured piece of paper to write out the key words or phrases. Allow plenty of space between each one. You don’t want to read to the people you are calling, you want to have a conversation with them. The words you have in front of you will help you stay focused and calm; the space around the words will remind you to respond to what you hear, create conversation.

Skilled, effective communicators practice their craft, regardless of whether it’s a speech or a phone call.

P.S. The #2 fear after public speaking is death. Here’s Jerry Seinfeld’s very funny 27-second take on this:

On a personal note: Last week (Thursday October 2) I had the privilege of speaking at the 12th Annual Fundraiser for the Valley Women’s Business Network. Funds raised go to bursaries for graduating women at Nova Scotia Community College, to supporting women business owners in developing countries through Kiva and to supporting Valley businesswomen through workshops and seminars. It was a fabulous evening and I was so delighted to find myself on the marquee of the Al Whittle Theatre. Here’s a photo taken with the Halifax contingent that attended the event (from left to right) Cathy Cornelius, President, Coral Business Communications Inc.; Linda Daley, President, Daley Progress (also a sponsor of the event); and Johanne Primeau, President, Office Extension Strategic and Administrative Services.

VWBN Event in Wolfville October 2014

Enjoy your PhoneWork everyone!

The Phone Lady On The Road

October 7 – Effective Phone Communication Skills with OTC Insurance, Halifax, NS

October 7 – Phone Fear to Phone Fabulous with Northern Opportunities for Business Limited, New Glasgow, NS

October 8 – Phone Power: Best Practices for Customer Service Representatives with Wilsons Security, Halifax, NS

October 14 – Effective Phone Communication Skills with OTC Insurance, Halifax, NS

October 15 – Guest Huddle – Powerful Phone Skills with Royal and Sun Alliance Insurance Company of Canada, Dartmouth

October 21 – Phone Fear to Phone Fabulous with Rural Action Centres, Central Bedeque, PE

October 23 – Telephone Talent: Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Customer Service and Sales, Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce, Charlottetown, PE

October 24 – Essential Phone Skills,University of Prince Edward Island, Business Cooperative Education, Charlottetown, PE

October 28 – Essential Sales Phone Skills, Kohoot Media , Halifax, NS

October 29 – Phone Fear to Phone Fabulous, Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development, Halifax, NS

November 4 – Effective Phone Communication Skills with OTC Insurance, Halifax, NS

November 5 – Public Debate: Phone vs Email at Yuk Yuk’s, Westin Hotel, Halifax NS – Please vote for me! Even if you are unable to attend the Halifax event.

November 17 – Job Search Phone Skills, Team Work Cooperative and the WorkBridge, Halifax, NS

November 25 – Effective Phone Communication Skills with OTC Insurance, Halifax, NS



  1. Glenn Stewardson says:

    Practice is the key. You are bang on with the practice gives the confidence to start the call.
    I find once I start making a few calls the “script” seems smoother and I get on a roll. I start asking who can I call next?
    PS Love Jerry Seinfeld

    • The Phone Lady says:

      This is so true, Glenn. When I take on a new phone project I often procrastinate a bit getting ready, but once I start the calls, it is so invigorating that I want to keep going. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. Natasha Marchewka says:

    I love this entry, Mary Jane, because it is the essence of what you teach – that so many people are afraid of phone conversation, but that practice is the most direct path to success!

    And, how exciting to see “The Phone Lady” on a Marquee! I couldn’t see that clearly when seeing this picture posted on Twitter. Fun!

    • The Phone Lady says:

      Thanks, Natasha. Practice and preparation are the keys to our success in so many areas of our lives. And so glad you enjoyed the marquee photo. I thought it was a hoot! Always appreciate your comments.

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