How comfortable are you doing presentations?

How about presentations over the phone? Since you’re not looking the audience in the face, phone presentations are even more challenging because body language is removed from the range of cues available to convey your messages and gauge audience reactions.

Having seen some challenging presentations delivered recently via conference call, here are 7 tips for presenting over the phone:

  • Never miss an opportunity to speak in the first person (we vs. you). Take advantage of opportunities to put yourself on the same side as the audience, particularly with controversial topics or unfamiliar audiences.
  • Check in frequently to solicit comments or verbal acknowledgement on the depth, pace, and content of the presentation.
  • Silence is okay – don’t be nervous about it or try to fill it up unnecessarily. Give audience members time to think and absorb the content.
  • If someone wants to cover something out of sequence, go ahead and cover it; don’t say you’ll cover it later and go on. It’s no different than when a customer’s ready to buy – you need to close the sale.
  • Try to interpret the real meanings behind questions. Without visual cues, you have to be more perceptive than normal to understand a question’s origin and the answer being sought. Answer what the person’s really asking, even if it’s not what they asked directly.
  • Don’t over answer questions. Instead, answer briefly, check in verbally to see if you’re on target, and get “permission” to continue the answer if necessary.
  • If you haven’t heard from an audience member on a reasonably sized call, specifically ask for comments and reactions before getting off the phone. Don’t let any participant off the hook without saying something, even if it’s to say, “No comment.”

Try these out and call to let me know how they work!

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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3 Responses to “7 Tips to Improve Conference Call Presentations”

  1. Joan says:

    Excellent tips. Here’s a tactic from a recent experience. A few months ago I delivered (from the US) a phone presentation to Scotland. There were 20 people in the conference room in Scotland and I was alone in the US. One of the clients asked a question I couldn’t truly understand because of the accent (hers, not mine). I knew that if I asked her to repeat it, chances were I still would not understand. So I answered a question she “might” have asked, crossed my fingers and inquired if I had addressed her concerns. I understood her reply, “yes”. So either I nailed it, or she went through the same process I did. By the way, this approach also works well with aging relatives. Joan

  2. Mike Brown says:

    Joan – Thanks again for commenting.

    It’s often works best to take a well-founded shot at interpreting what someone means and then ask clarifying questions to refine your answer.

    Someone who used to work for me would come straight out and say, “I don’t understand what you mean.” It didn’t serve him well, because he was labeled as not understanding the business.

    I tried, although not completely successfully, to get him to ask instead, “Can you say more about that?” Asking that question doesn’t signal how much you do or don’t understand. It simply asks for clarification.

    Thanks again, and keep the comments coming!


  3. Sean Buvala says:

    On the other hand, it’s possible to do too much corporate speak, “Can you say more about that?” never really asks a specific question. Are we still doing and advocating all this “fake it to you make it” facade or land-grab? I know as a presenter that the “can you say more” doesn’t help me to help them. I’d prefer, as a speaker, “I don’t understand the X aspect of your presentation. Can you go more in depth?” Of course, Mike, I think your posts are great and am only throwing a little interaction in here. Your “silence is okay” tip is excellent advice.