“Allison,” my supervisor said, “can you please call this list of organizations, and see if they’d like to be involved in our event? See if you can schedule a time for us to meet with them next week.”
“Of course!” I’d reply. But I dreaded the terrifying task. I would go over and over in my mind what I might say to these unsuspecting strangers. What if I forgot what company they were with, or why I was calling? What if they were rude? My young hands shaking, I’d reach for the receiver and dial, holding my breath, staring at a script I’d made for myself for just about any scenario. And then – I’d get a voicemail. Oh no! I had not prepared for this! What should I say? What information should I give? What if the machine cuts me off? Beeeeeep. Show time.
These mini panic attacks over simple phone calls were common to me when I first began my internships, despite my college experience as a telephone interviewer. And so, it’s bittersweet for me now to see my interns, who may have even less experience, try to mask their terror when I ask them to make calls.
Is it just me, or does no one know how to use a telephone anymore? Sure, we can use a cell phone to text, email, play games, find information, and so on – but can we still use it to actually call someone? Is my generation so used to zapping information back and forth at the speed of satellite that we are unable have real conversations?
In this information age I am finding myself at a loss. As a PR professional, I pride myself on my ability to communicate both efficiently and politely; however, I am finding myself questioning those skills.
Holding telephone conversations is becoming a lost art, and it is a skill that young professionals must develop in order to be in the communications business. Check out these phone strategy tips, courtesy of Regina M. Robo.
- Treat the call as if it were a meeting – have a purpose, and an agenda.
- Decide what you’ll do if someone answers other than the person you’re calling. Would you prefer to leave a message, go to voice mail, or call back later?
- If you’re on a scheduled call, be at your desk at the appointed time.
- Learn the names of the people who answer the phones at the numbers you call most frequently. Speak pleasantly to them, and if you talk to them very frequently, send them a card or gift on their birthday or over the holidays.
What do you think? Do you know anyone who is afraid of the phone? What bad or awkward habits have you experienced during phone conversations? What advice do you have for young communicators?