Is Your Phone Time Ready For Prime Time?

I recently conducted some phone interviews and needed to record the dialogue to then translate into scripts for learning videos. Of course, the main objective of the recording was to capture the interviewee’s responses to my questions accurately. However, I also had the “opportunity” (ugh!) to listen to MY voice and notice how I showed up in the conversation.

Yes, it was painful to listen to myself and pick apart all the things I’d like to do differently. However, that little glimpse into what I’m putting out there was quite eye-opening.

I could hear all the little filler words I use, my southern accent, and noticed the pace of my speech. I also reflected on some of the good things I did, like a pause to give the other person time to think when I asked questions, asked appropriate probing questions based on what they said, and confirmed my understanding of what was said.

While a bit tortuous in the moment, the upside is enhanced self-awareness.

So what am I doing with this new-found awareness of how I’m conducting business conversations by phone? Three things:

  1. Take more time to plan for the conversation – Going beyond an agenda of topics to discuss and objectives of the conversation. Think through specific questions to ask, their possible responses, and potential responses to what is said. This enables me to be more articulate and is also helpful in managing the use of filler words.
  2. Be more mindful of how to begin the conversation – For impromptu calls, always confirm that this moment is a good time for them to talk and adjust accordingly. Consider whether or not to spend some time building rapport before diving into business. If you don’t know the other person well, this can go a long way in building the relationship. Check in on how their day is going and if you learn they are pressed for time; you will want to get right into the purpose of the call. Whichever approach you take, ALWAYS be respectful of their time and end the called according to what is scheduled.
  3. Slow down – I can get wrapped up in the conversation and may talk over the other person. This is primarily an issue for me when on the phone as I can’t see the other person to know if they are thinking about something and sometimes there is a delay on the phone line. It’s also a good reminder to verbally communicate if I’m pausing, so they know what’s happening on my end. Things like,”I’m taking some notes,” or “I need a minute to think about that.”

I typically spend much more time interacting with my clients by phone than in person, so for me, taking a listen, at how I show up on the phone was quite helpful. Even if you don’t have the opportunity to record some conversations, it’s worth reflecting on my three tips from lessons learned and consider how to apply them yourself.

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at