Pitching by phone isn’t easy. Listeners are easily distracted, confused or bored so your words and voice have to work extra hard. Here are ten tips to help you pitch and present on the phone more effectively.
1. Make up the missing 55%
In face-to-face communication, 55% of the message is derived from body language – including gestures, facial expressions, posture and dress/clothing/physical appearance. When you present on the phone, you must make up that lost 55% by using your words and voice extremely effectively.
2. Forget the detail
Spend as long as you can planning what you’re going to say. Focus more on the objective and message than the detail (that can be covered with Q&As) and be prepared to deviate slightly from your planned content if necessary.
3. Don’t busk it
If, during the telephone the conversation, you need to deviate significantly from your planned content, suggest you get back to people at a later date. If you try to busk it, you could end up going down routes you’re not prepared for.
4. Don’t rush it
Even if your listeners are familiar with the subject you’re pitching, they won’t know exactly what you’re going to say. You, on the other hand, will be (should be!) extremely familiar. So, take time to set the scene, explain what you’re going to be talking about, and keep checking you haven’t rushed ahead before people have ‘got it’.
5. Speak at 120 words per minute
Speak slowly (around 120 words per minute – we usually speak at between 180 and 300 words per minute) and pause every 10-15 seconds to give people time to take in what you’ve said. (Think Barack Obama.)
6. Shut up!
Even if you speak slowly, pausing slightly every 10-15 seconds, you need to stop talking completely every 1-2 minutes to check that everyone is still listening, engaged and clear on what you’re saying. Find your own way of doing this (so you sound natural) but comments such as “does anyone have any questions”, “is this making sense”, “do you need me to go over that again” and “can everyone follow me okay” work well.
7. Check in regularly
Unlike face-to-face communication, when you can see someone ‘drift off’ or lose interest, being on the phone means you don’t always know what people are doing. Few of us pay total attention and may be reading something else, texting, answering emails, looking at social media or not even in the room. See tip above about checking in every few minutes – but be careful not to sound patronising.
8. Use signposts
Keep your pitch/presentation engaging by using ‘signposts’. Tell people what’s coming up later. (Think TV and film trailers.) Say things like “I’m going to be showing you some surprising figures later” or “you might be surprised to learn who responded best to the event” or “I’ll be giving you more detail on this later but for now, let’s look at the top line results”. And summarise your key points at the end.
9. Vary pitch and volume
As well as speaking slowly, try to vary the pitch and volume of your voice. Lower the pitch and volume when explaining complicated details; this will force people to concentrate. Raise the pitch and volume of your voice (to express emotion) when saying something was or will be a success.
10. Enunciate well
Do a vocal warm-up five minutes beforehand. This will not only help you enunciate better, it will help get your ‘brain and mouth in gear’, and it will help settle nerves. Being excited and/or anxious makes us breathe faster, which is not good for clear speech. Also, we think much faster than we speak, which can make us trip over words.
Want more information on pitching, presenting or making better use of your voice in business? Consider ‘Selling in stories to the media’.