Tweak Your Biz » Growth » Creating Great Body Language Over The Phone

Creating Great Body Language Over The Phone



In my last Bloggertone article I talked about what makes a good conference call, and gave some tips from my experience over the last 8 years.

In this post I want to stay on the subject of communicating over the phone, however I want to focus a little more on the topic of body language.

Professor Albert Mehrabian, a pioneer behind the understanding of communications, since the 1960s, is responsible for the widely quoted statistic which says that in any form of communication only 7% of the message are the words that are spoken. The other 93% of the message is made up of the tone of voice and facial expression/body language.

Taking this research into account you can see just how incredibly difficult it is to be an effective communicator over the phone. This really comes into play when the content being discussed is highly emotive. However in today’s modern business world we can’t avoid using the phone, and we need to develop skills to compensate for the absence of body language.

Below are some of my hints/tips for creating great body language while on the phone.

  1. Vary the pace, tone and pitch to fit the content. Talk slower and calmer if the message is serious. Talk a little faster, more enthusiastically and lighter when the message is more upbeat.
  2. Respond vocally to comments and questions. Reflective listening with prompts like “a-ha”, “hmm”, “yes” or “I see”, will let the people who are speaking know that you are listening.
  3. Use a head-set with a microphone. This will free your hands and body, giving you more room to express yourself.
  4. Stand up when speaking on the phone. If you don’t need to be at your computer screen, get up and walk around. You’ll sound more enthusiastic, and it’s a great way to transmit body language via your voice. If you must sit down, then sit up straight and remain attentive.
  5. The most important tool you have when on the phone is your voice. Consider vocal exercises to improve the quality and range of your voice. A voice with good vocal range is much easier to listen to, than one which is dull and mono-tone.
  6. Focus on your breathing. It’s good practice to learn some breathing exercises that you can use prior to the start of a call where you will do a lot of speaking. This is really helpful before a really important call, where you might be a bit nervous.

I hope you find these tips useful. Are you using them today? If so perhaps you can share examples of where they have helped you. Do you have any additional tips that you’d like to share? Please let us know by leaving a comment.

The views expressed on this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer, Oracle.

Image credited to http://www.flickr.com/photos/mythoto/



The Author:

I live in Kilkenny, Ireland, and I'm married with one daughter. I was born in Derry, and came to Kilkenny via Manchester, England, and Dublin. My passion is all things Social Media, and for the last 2 years I have been working as a Social Media Evangelist for Oracle, where I have worked for the last 8 years. This role entails, promoting the use of Social Media internally for improved communication and collaboration. My other interests include sports, especially football (soccer), reading, video games, movies/tv, music and walking. http://frankbradley.tumblr.com/

Add Your Comment

  • http://twitter.com/fredchannel Fred

    Cool post Frank. Pretty original. While reading it, I realise that I do a lot of that. I guess because I’m use a headset great part of my day. Standing up really helps! Thanks for sharing man

  • http://www.btbtraining.com/blog Niall Devitt

    I think the standing up when on the phone is a great tip, I always do that! Another tip is to count 1, 2, 3 after someone finishes speaking, it ensures that you are not interrupting which is easier to mistakenly do over the phone.

  • Thackett16

    Thanks Frank, great post. Another tip I’ve come across is that idea that you should smile while making important calls as it makes the voice more relaxed.

  • http://blog.myprojecttracker.com Barney Austen

    Hi Frank. Some great tips from you as always. The one about standing up stands out. I learned years ago that this was also a great technique when dealing with a difficult call. You stand up and look down as if you are looking down on the person – it really works!

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh

    Having a mirror on the desk helps too as you can catch yourself frowning or getting impatient… things that creep into your tone of voice that you may not always be aware of.

    and…saying the person’s name is one way to get them to STOP talking. Most folks pause when you call their name.

  • http://www.michaelgholmes.com Mike Holmes

    These are the same things I was told when I was a life insurance salesman and had to call prospects to make an appointment. I never used them at first…but then I didn’t make much appointments at first either :(

    I startted to use them (hating all the time) and gradually my conversion rate started to increase. Another thing I did was to actually tape record how I sounded. I hated this the most…because I didn’t like the way I sounded on the phone…and had to make some DRASTIC changes.

    I’m saying this say that I can vouch for these tips you’re giving ;)

  • Eva

    Going to try some of this!

    I’m also logging out of email during conf calls now!

  • http://www.seefincoaching.com/blog Elaine Rogers

    Just to mirror the comment below about smiling. It’s a tip used for customer service training, if you smile when the phone rings, it portrays through your voice and tone. Standing up equally effective, and with great headsets available, we can walk around a little “to express ourselves” without interference from outside / shuffling / crinkly clothes.
    NEVER eat gum, and don’t try to sneak in breakfast or long slurps of red wine!

    great post again, well done!
    And perhaps reschedule a call if you have a sore throat!

  • http://twitter.com/peteh Peter Harvey

    The “7% of the message are the words that are spoken” is widely quoted but misunderstood. Albert Mehrabian was interviewed on BBC Radio 4′s “More or Less” (14th August 2009) and talked about his frustration with people’s misinterpretation of his work, check out:http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00lyvz9There is useful discussion of this here too:http://www.creativityworks.net/mehrabian-nights-an-informative-tale-about-miscommunication/As regards your points – yes! Words and especially tone are affected by your body language, even when on the phone.

  • Ksommerville

    I agree with you 100%. Many people get lazy and slouch on the phone because they know they can’t be seen. But as the others have said, you can hear people chew gum, sip wine, smoke a cigarette and even frown on the phone so its not as transparent as we would like to believe!! Also how we say things can mean different things depending on how we say them… So when I am giving training, I tell my delegates to think about it as if “they are going on stage”. It’s their cue to be alert, make the effort to stand up/sit up straight, smile, speak up, interact and give the best performance they possibly can!!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Fred. I think many of us already follow this hints on a subconscious level already. Hopefully some people reading this post have picked up new hints and tips.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment. Yes smiling is a good tip.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Barney. I find myself standing for calls more now than sitting. Even if I’m on a webconference I’ll take my laptop to the kitchen and put it on the breakfast bar, so that I can stand while working at the computer.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Ivan. The mirror is a great tip. I’ve taken a note to use your tip about saying the person’s name, when dealing with overly talkative people in the future.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Mike. I think if something that is going to develop us makes us a little uncomfortable then that is not a bad thing, as your experience testifies.

    I like the tip about recording our voice. Probably one of the best ways to make an improvement.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Eva. Yes get off that email. My advice is, check it only twice a day.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment Elaine. I can vouch for rescheduling if you’ve a sore throat. A few months ago, I did this and ended up not being able to take another call for 3 days as my voice broke.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks very much Peter for your excellent comment and for setting the record straight regarding Albert Mehrabian. I’ve learned something new today!!!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, thinking about it as a performance is exactly spot on. A few years ago I got similar advice. I attended a communications course in which one of the trainers was an actor. He taught us a series of warm up exercises to prepare ourselves physically and mentally before a presentation. I’ve since applied these as part of my preparation for presenting over the phone.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the tip Niall. I think I need to practice your 1,2,3 tip in real life as well as over the phone. Great advice.

  • http://www.seefincoaching.com/blog Elaine Rogers

    Is your voice only breaking this year Frank? Better late than never I suppose.

    I meant with the sore throat, perhaps not to have early morning interviews/conferences when feeling a little rough after the night before ;)

    BTW My husband watched the conf call video 3 times, he could vouch for everything that happened during the call, he said he had a child screaming into the phone the other day, wanting daddy to make their breakfast :)

  • http://www.tweakyourbiz.com Niall Devitt

    Sounds interesting! looking forward to it :)

  • http://www.tweakyourbiz.com Niall Devitt

    All very fair points, Alex and thanks for your comment. Another area I think we need to work on with young people is to encourage and educate them around entrepreneurship, I’m not sure what it’s like in the UK but we’re failing badly here in relation. 

  • Conor Hughes

    Really interesting alright!  I’m amazed that our politicians have not come up with something like this before, or am I????

    Well done to all involved.
    Conor