Is Your Voicemail Sending the Wrong Message?

It’s entirely possible a voicemail message may be your first “live” introduction to an important new contact. Just as you’d want to make the best possible impression when meeting someone face-to-face, you WOW! them on the phone. Your voicemail message has to be a powerful performance as well.

Have you ever listened to a voicemail recording and thought, “ugh, I hate the way my voice sounds on messages!” It’s actually such a common phenomenon that you may even, like a significant number of people, be borderline phobic about leaving voicemail messages.  It’s a signal that you may not own your vocal behavior.

When you talk day to day, you don’t notice verbal tics. You not hear its high pitch or “vocal fry”, or you may not notice a distracting rhythm to your speech. However, there are ways to solve this problem and start leaving voicemail messages that work.

The first step to creating a professional voicemail that leaves the right impression – both incoming and outgoing messages – is to record yourself. You need to learn to perform on the phone in the way you’d perform when trying to impress an audience at a presentation, in the boardroom or during a high-stakes meeting.  If you’re nervous or distracted when leaving a message for someone, you’re going to use fillers like “um” or “uh,” or the pitch of your voice may rise. If you’re uncomfortable when recording your outgoing message it may sound robotic and stiff, or rushed.

Record yourself repeatedly and practice until you’ve deleted those undesirable habits. Not sure what to look for? Here are some qualities you should try to eliminate in your “voicemail voice:”

  • Unnaturally high pitch, usually a problem more for women than men
  • Unnaturally low pitch, which can sound forced or condescending
  • Vocal fry, a creaky vibrato quality that’s hot with celebrities like Kim Kardashian, but sounds awful in business
  • Talking too quietly, which may seem meek
  • Talking too loudly, which may seem aggressive
  • Rushing your words
  • Pauses or fillers that could seem disorganized
  • Airy or nasal quality

Read the rest of this entry »

The WOW! List – Oscars Edition

Photo courtesy ABC

Photo courtesy ABC

The Academy Awards represent an event where it’s not just a good idea to bring your WOW! it’s absolutely required.  Yet every year there are those few who somehow manage to rise above the rest. Here is my list of those celebrities that WOWed the red carpet at the Oscars in 2015:

From the moment I saw Lupita Nyong’o, I said WOW! She flowed down the red carpet in a body hugging yet classy Calvin Klein Collection gown adorned with 6,000 pearls, a look that was both age appropriate and glamorous. Kudos to her stylist Micaela Erlanger for putting together an exquisite look from every perspective including hair, makeup and jewelry. No wonder Jennifer Aniston just signed with Erlanger!

Another favorite of mine tonight was Rita Ora, who brought the kind of WOW! only a rock star can. Ora wore a Marchesa strapless mermaid dress that suited the occasion but still reflected her unique personality. Plus, the gown draped her curves perfectly.

For the men (yes, they WOW! us too!) it was a close competition with Benedict Cumberbatch running second only to my current obsession Common. I absolutely loved his sleek, well-tailored navy velvet tuxedo with a classic white bow tie. He’s one of the only men who can pull off velvet AND a silver brooch. Of course with that body he probably could have brought the WOW! wearing a garbage bag. Read the rest of this entry »

Pride takes down yet another great journalist

As nearly everyone knows by now, Brian Williams, the popular anchor of NBC’s Nightly News program, has been suspended without pay for six months. Williams was caught in a lie, claiming he was in a helicopter shot down by Iraqi fire in 2003. In fact, Williams arrived in a different helicopter an hour later.

I won’t rehash the details here; the New York Times is doing a great job of reporting on the story already.  This latest newsman debacle, reminiscent of Dan Rather’s firing in 2004, has me thinking about the topic of arrogance, and its effect on the media. Believe me, as a former broadcast journalist I remember the thrill of being recognized for the first time. I also know that Brian Williams competes in a media world that is torturously competitive. Yet with 9.1 million viewers, he was winning. And still, ego took over.

Photo courtesy of

I’m not normally a Bible-quoting girl, but Proverbs 16:18 tells us that “Pride goeth before destruction…” and its oft repeated in the more modern quote “Pride goes before a fall.” Brian Williams is our most recent example.

Social media has played a huge part in creating a new paradigm in which journalists not only create the stories, they can become part of the story as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Ditch the Elevator Pitch

elevator-358249_1280If you’re an entrepreneur, you may think an elevator pitch is your best friend. You may not have a lot of time to explain your concept to the media, a VC or anyone for that matter. You’d better be able to condense your business concept into a script that can be recited in a minute or two, right?

What I say is NOT right! Here’s the main problem. Unless you’re speed pitching yourself for a date, fitting a value premise into a tidy little sound bite can really hurt you in the long run.

Somewhere along the line businesspeople decided elevator pitches were necessary for everything. It’s no longer just a case of being able to wow a potential investor in 60 seconds at a cocktail party. Now having an elevator pitch for every idea, product or service is a common practice. Job seekers even develop elevator pitches to sum up their skills and experience. In fact, by focusing so much on how to quickly sum up who you are and what you do, you’re missing out on the greater opportunity – storytelling. Telling a compelling story about your business will win more interest over time than any elevator pitch ever could.

We’re losing sight of the fact that since the dawn of time, people have always loved a good story. In today’s business world we live and die by speed. We obsess over whether our websites will pass the blink test. And, we torture ourselves to sum everything up in an elevator pitch. Here’s my advice: Read the rest of this entry »

Update your business bio

Your business bio speaks volumes, so make it work for you. In my Twin Cities Business column this month I write about your internal and external bio, and how much a business bio contributes to a strong first…and LAST impression. Visit here for the complete article.