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Welcome to the Bonus Chapter!


BONUS:  Thank you for buying the Silver Anniversary Edition of How To Work a Room.  Although not technically a “room”, being able and willing to have a phone conversation solves problems and connects us to clients, colleagues and even cousins!

Chapter Seven  

Face- To- Face: How To Reclaim The Personal Touch in a Digital World.



PHONENOMENON:  How The Telephone Can Make You Stand Out

by  Susan RoAne  

The simple truth is that the telephone, whether it’s a landline, cell phone or Skype call, is an intrinsic part of the fabric of business and personal life. Thus, we must mind our phone manners, and our manner of using the phone. Though there are people in our business and personal lives who prefer to communicate digitally, the ability, willingness and interest to communicate by telephone continues to be a valuable personal and professional skill. When Intel instituted its “zero email Friday’s” in favor of “get up and talk to the person in the next cubicle,” the directive also emphasized using the phone to enhance communication.

Using the telephone to stay in touch, to follow up and to be connected is becoming rare. In this brave new digital world, there are people who avoid the use of the phone. Some claim it takes up too much time. Others avoid the phone because they may be shy or are uncomfortable with messages that can’t be edited. In order to reclaim and retain your personal touch, I would encourage you to include the phone as part of your “staying in touch” options for conducting business communication.

The Attitude Platitude

Although today a growing number of people have no landline phones, I have always believed that my attachment to the source of nourishment in life was a telephone cord, not the umbilical cord!  Research continues to show that people who have relaxed phone conversations with friends are happier and healthier. And, that’s good news.

Today’s economy and lifestyle require us to be effective, efficient and connected, and at the same time we must also communicate and build rapport. Telephone conversations help us meet those requirements, when a face- to face meeting or get together is not possible.

Our advanced technology has changed and enhanced what was once a basic avenue of communication. People can now call from their cars, while walking down a street, in an elevator, from the bathroom (please don’t do that), and from the bleachers at a baseball game. Some phones are built into cars. Some phones allow us to talk to ballrooms full of people. There are smart phones, and, Lord, have mercy, videophones (FaceTime et al). It isn’t enough that the phone could be intrusive, now we have to look good if we’re interrupted! This is a frightening thought, although not a new one. The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry had an AT&T picture phone exhibit over forty years ago.

There was a time that comic book hero Dick Tracy’s ability to talk to his watch was a comic book fantasy. And, Maxwell Smart (Agent 88, Don Adams) making spy calls on the phone in his shoe in the 70s was goofy fun. It still is; but now it’s possible.

News With Cues

When a face- to -face meeting is impossible, the next best option is a phone conversation. It’s also two-way and you get to hear tone, inflection and intent. Some people choose to avoid using the phone in favor of emails, facebook and linkedin messages, text messaging and instant messages, but these modes of messaging are cue-less. There’s no question that each of these technologies contributes to communication and helps us stay connected. But there’s something to be said also for speaking with a person rather than at them. Something unplanned, and also wonderful, could happen because the conversation moves organically from subject to subject.

The Revolt Against The Revolution

The telephone revolutionized communication and, now, over 100 years later, has precipitated a new revolt. Because of telemarketing, the phone, a once highly valued invention, is now being viewed with suspicion when it rings. Many of us pay for caller ID so we know when to avoid the call. Yet the telephone remains a tool that keeps us connected to clients, colleagues, family and friends. Although we send cards, tweets, emails, text messages and write notes (an endangered species of communication), when face to face conversations are impossible, the phone is the best interactive technological tool. Again, it affords us the opportunity to “learn by hearing” another’s conversational style, to intuit the emotions and to respond appropriately. We “reach out and touch someone.”

Managing Moments And Minutia

The beauty of the telephone is that it’s a two-way (or more) means of communication. But for some of us, the interactive nature of the phone is its biggest liability. In an era where work goes on 24/7, “managing moments” is valued as a time-saving tip for ultimate career success, and participating in an actual conversation is considered time-consuming or uncomfortable. Why? There are half a dozen possible reasons:

  1. Some people find they’re too busy to take time on the phone. After all, someone may take sixty-two seconds sharing a response!

  2. Some people don’t consider themselves “good on the phone,” so they choose not to struggle.

  3. Some people fear rejection.

  4. Some people are more comfortable with written methods of communicating where they can edit and plan their words.

  5. People stay away from phones because they’re shy.

  6. Last, but not least, the phone call can be intrusive – both at work and at home. Many people are respectful of that possibility. They would rather use email to set a “time to talk” that is mutually convenient.

Growing up in my house, if the phone rang after 10:00 p.m., my parents assumed it could only be bad news, and it usually was.

There are times when sending emails or text messages makes more sense. They deliver a bit of information concisely (“the meeting was changed to 2:30 p.m.,” “the order is confirmed,” “are you in town next week?”) and in a timely manner. While other people are managing their moments by avoiding the phone, dare to be different.

 Hot Tip: Be memorable. Pick up the phone; spend a moment making small talk. Invest a minute or two in having conversation that builds a connection.

RoAne’s Reminders

  • The telephone is a two-way interactive communication tool that assists us in staying connected to our network, solving problems and increasing our resources.

  • We must mind our phone manners when we place a call, leave a message, receive a call, and return it, as well as when we use email and voicemail.

  • Clarity of tone, message and information, as well as brevity, are important.

  • Respect the rights of others and turn your cell phone off in a play, restaurant, ballet, party or memorial service.

  • Be prepared. Make sure there’s a smile on your face that is reflected in your voice.

  • Be sure your phone tone, voice and inflections reflect your words. “I like your ideas for our fundraiser,” must sound enthusiastic, not deadpan.

  • Don’t let your need to be constantly available and in touch show you’re out of touch with etiquette and lacking in common courtesy.

    Being able to pick up the phone and have a productive and pleasant conversation is a skill to embrace.

Susan RoAne, an in-demand speaker, is the Author of Face To Face: How To Reclaim The Personal Touch in a Digital World. She has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times, Washington Post and on CNN, NPR, CBS and the BBC Radio Worldwide. Her clients include the US Navy and US Air Force, Kraft, UnitedHealth Group, Bank of America, Ernst and Young among many others audiences both in corporate and association America.  She can be found at  and at


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