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The Value of Preparation

April 13, 2014
Mary Jane Copps

Thanks to David Holt, fellow Thought Leader and Editor in Chief, Soar Media Inc., for inspiring this post.

David shared with me a phone story. He gave a business associate a referral. This is something we all do from time to time. We’ll say something like “My friend Jane Doe might find that interesting. Give her a call and let her know you were talking to me.”

The business associate placed the call, got voicemail, and left a message without ever mentioning the referral. David found this quite surprising.

I wasn’t surprised. I believe this type of phone behaviour is  more and more common. Why?

Because the majority of business people spend less time on the phone than they did five years ago. And a lot less time than they did 10 years ago. Unless your job involves phone sales or customer phone support, you’ve replaced a lot of phone conversations with email. So, when you do need to pick up the phone, you are unprepared.

I know that might sound preposterous. I can hear you saying “Mary Jane, are you really trying to say that I don’t know how to talk on the phone?!”

Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. I know everyone can talk on the phone. I also know that not everyone knows how , that many of you have forgotten much of the skill set.

Talking on the phone, especially for business purposes, and even more so to a total stranger, does contain an element of “performance”. You have to be prepared. Otherwise nerves may get the best of you or you’ll simply forget something important.

For example, in my own world, talking on the phone is something I am doing practically every day, sometimes for hours at a time. It’s the same with workshops or presentations on phone skills. I’m delivering those several times a week. I need very little preparation time for these tasks. But this past week I gave a 30-minute talk on my life as an entrepreneur, distilling all my stories down to seven “lessons”. Not only did it take a long time to choose the seven lessons and decide how to present them, I had to rehearse. I stood in my living room and gave the talk, out loud,  several times prior to the event. If I hadn’t done that, I know I would have forgotten something and that my nerves would have impacted my “performance”.

Being prepared does not take away from our being genuine, it simply means that we have given thought to what we want to say and how we want to say it.

So, if you are spending less and less time on the telephone and are suddenly faced with important calls to make, take a few moments to prepare. Make some notes, in point form or otherwise, and keep them nearby to help you remember what you want to say and how you want to say it. Even sit in your office and rehearse a bit. Will this feel silly? Yes, probably. Will it improve your telephone communication? Yes, definitely.

Enjoy your phonework everyone!

4 COMMENTS

  1. Love the idea of actually rehearsing, Mary Jane. As someone fortunate enough to have seen the recent talk that you refer to, I wouldn’t have guessed that you needed to rehearse. Your talk was so natural and so entertaining. And so, a testament to rehearsal and preparation! Always wise advice. Again a parallel for my voice over business! Being prepared for any script by rehearsing, improves the outcome! Thank you for letting us know that even YOU need to rehearse sometimes!!

    • The Phone Lady says:

      Thank you, Natasha for this lovely comment. I laughed out loud! I likely should rehearse more than I do, but yes, we should all be taking the time necessary to prepare to communicate effectively. mj

  2. Cathy Cornelius says:

    The first thing that popped into my mind reading this is young people today. My son had to return a call for a phone interview and he did not leave a message when he got voice mail. I asked him why and he said he didn’t know what to say! Needless to say the phone interview would likely have not gone well either because he was not prepared.

    • The Phone Lady says:

      Thanks, Cathy, for sharing this story. I know that young people are really struggling with phone communication and yet they need the skill set for their careers. I’m working on a way to get more information out to them and I’ll keep you informed!

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