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The Dreaded Phone Call.

May 12, 2013

My j.o.b. involves a decent amount of time spent on the phone. People calling for lost credit cards or to book an event or with questions on what game the bar is playing on what day. Blah blah blah.

I can’t tell you how many people call and they have no idea how to talk on the phone. Which inevitably means I sit there listening to “Um…I think maybe…uhhh…are you…um….” And it is the most obnoxious thing in the entire world, so I am making it a bit of a mission to help improve people’s phone calling etiquette.

So here are a few tips on how to talk on the phone – it sounds simple, but it really makes a big difference in how you present yourself to someone who can’t see you.

1. Always have a pen and piece of paper handy

2. Focus on what you are doing – aka the phone call. – By putting the email you’re typing aside or by taking a moment to stop walking down the street, you will automatically drop half of the “um’s” and “uhh’s” that are indicative of multitasking, which really means you’re not listening.

3. Know what you’re calling for and keep it short – It’s a quick “Who, What, How.” Examples: Hi, I’m X, I am looking for/calling for/inquiring about Y, is it possible to/how can I/do you have…etc. This will eliminate the “I’m sorry,” attitude, as if you’re inconveniencing the other person or you are lowly. If the person is answering the phone, you can generally assume that is, or is part of, their job. The only inconvenience is if you take forever to get to your point.

4. Leaving a message – It’s the same thing as #3. Keep it short. Assume, just like your acting reel, the person on the other end does not want to, nor will they, listen to your entire message.

4b. Leave your phone number twice. Example: “555-888-9999, that’s 555-888-9999.” Because generally, the person on the other end of the phone probably zoned out while they were listening to your message, or can’t write fast enough, OR didn’t have a pen and paper handy.

5. Say it with a smile – a smile can be heard through the phone and will automatically help the other person help you by making you likable. Being gracious and recognizing their assistance really goes a long way.

Role Play Example: Getting to the CD’s Office, and you can’t find the address.

I pick up the phone and call as I’m rushing down the street because now I’m on the verge of running late and I can’t find the stupid office anyhow and my Google Maps is sending me across town but I’m sure that isn’t right. I decide to make the call and  dial.

Receptionist: “Hello?

Me: “Hi, um I’m sorry, I uh…I’m looking for your office. I’m supposed to audition there at…um…2? and I know it’s like 1:40 and I’m um…I’m lost, I think. Can you help me?

R: “Do you need our address?”

M: “Yes, thank you, that would be amazing, if you can. I’m so sorry.”

R: “Sure, it’s 555 Fifth Ave, Suite 5.”

M: “Oh, hold on, I have to put you on speaker and type it into my phone.” (pause) “Can you repeat that?”

R: “555 Fifth Ave, Suite 5.”

M: “Oh my god, thank you so much. I’ll try to get there on time!”

In this example, you’ve given up any sense of being grounded and totally given away that you’re a nervous wreck. Not so good. Now, the receptionist – who inevitably is a casting intern, etc. is “on to you,” and when you walk in, you are already categorized.

And, it’s an easy fix:

I’ve been running around, trying to find this office, and I can’t. I just can’t! So , I’ve stopped into a Starbucks, grabbed a pen and scrap paper from my bag (or napkin) and dialed.

Receptionist: “Hello?”

Me: “Hi, I’m the Productive Actor. I have a meeting at 2pm with John Smith and I am having a little trouble finding your office. Can you please give me your address?”

R: “Sure, we’re at 555 Fifth Avenue, Suite 5.”

Me: “Great, thank you so much.”

R: “No problem.”

Me: “Have a great afternoon!”

You accomplish the same goal: getting the address of the CD’s office, but it is MUCH cleaner and allows you, the actor, to stay in control of your image and project a sense of grounded positivity. Nothing can throw you off. (Even if it’s a case of faking it until you make it!) And, saying thanks one more time once you get there, doesn’t hurt a bit.

The best way is to improve your phone calls is to practice. Start with friends. If you’re about to text someone and you can just as easily call them, do it. It will start getting you more comfortable on the phone and used to actually speaking to another person.

Have you had any super awesome or super heinous phone call experiences? Do you answer a lot of calls at your j.o.b. and have any additional tips?

This can be translated into any scenario, and if you’d like an example of any others, leave it in the comments section and I’ll absolutely get back to you.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 12, 2013 5:23 pm

    So many people have become comfortable, hiding behind texting and emailing these days. I think people are only going to get exponentially worse on the phone, with the emergence of each new app. Phone calling will soon be an art – thanks for the prep, Productive!

  2. The Growing Artist permalink
    May 22, 2013 2:01 am

    Great advice!

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