Humor Lesson from Bob Hope

Today is the birthday of the late Bob Hope, who died a few years ago at the age of 100.  Bob Hope said, “I don’t feel old – I don’t feel anything until noon. Then it’s time for my nap.”

Hope was the master of the one-liner and he was funny.  He understood that humor requires speed.  The best jokes come quickly with little build-up.

I once took a class in stand-up comedy from Atlanta comedian Jeff Justice. He taught us that great jokes have a very short buildup and a quick punch.

He made the point that the audience shouldn’t have to invest too much time in the joke.  A quick buildup and payoff works best.

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How Do You Make Eye Contact Over the Telephone?

In a workshop the other day, a participant asked “How do you make eye contact over the telephone?”

I love that question.

Of course, you can’t make eye contact over the telephone. But in today’s “conference call” business environment, connecting with your listeners in a personal way can be a challenge.

The most important key to connecting on conference calls is energy.  You need to make sure that you’re projecting energy into the telephone.  The technology can mute your enthusiasm and make you sound flat.

We tell people to gesture and smile as they speak.  In fact, many people put mirrors on their desks to ensure that they’re energized.

I’ve said it before and I suppose I will again. “People can hear your smile.”

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Want to Sound Better on Conference Calls? Get a “Sales Mirror.”

If you want to come across better on conference calls, you might considering buying a “sales mirror” for you desk. These are the mirrors that call center employees often put on their desks to ensure that they’re smiling when they’re talking to customers.

The idea is that the smile on your face is reflected in your voice. 

 Here’s an advertisement for a “PC Mirror” that you can attach to your computer.  The ad claims that these mirrors increase sales among call center employees from six to 16 percent.

I can’t vouch for the accuracy of their study. But I do believe that on conference calls people can hear your smile.

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Four Steps To Engaging Conference Calls

“When I’m leading a conference call, I know that there are people reading their email, working on memos and not paying attention. Are there any tricks to making people paying pay closer attention?”

Yes. Be more engaging.

It’s not the listener’s fault that your calls feel like a waste of time.

When people ask how to make people pay attention on conference calls, they’re usually asking it with some sense of exasperation. They feel like business world has somehow contracted Attention Deficit Disorder.  Technology has somehow turned the business world into a bunch of boorish children who can’t sit still and pay attention.

But if people aren’t paying attention on your conference calls, it’s your fault.  It’s your job to keep them engaged.

You keep them engaged in four ways.

  1. Start the call by stating a simple benefit for paying attention.  “During this call, I’d like to discuss how we can keep our customers despite the current price increase.” Make sure that the payoff for paying attention is clear. 
  2. Lay out a short and focused agenda. “During this call, I want to discuss three things:  why we’re losing customers, what we can do about it, and what is our timeline for fixing the problem.” If you give people a strong sense of what to expect, they will be more engaged because they know that the call won’t go on forever.
  3. Ask people questions and let them respond. Interactive is always better.  Conference call participants have a right to contribute. One-sided presentations multiply the chance of people tuning out.
  4. Be excited. Put a mirror on your desk. Do you look engaging as you speak? That facial animation will show up in your voice and keep people engaged. Your listeners can hear your smile.

Next time you have a conference call, remember that it’s the call leader’s job to keep everyone engaged.  And if they’re not paying attention, it’s not the fault of the listeners.

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