“Did He say ‘Blessed are the Cheese Makers’?” (How Can You Be Brilliant If I Don’t Understand What You’re Saying?)

(If you know that quote came from, you rock!)

The other day, I was conducting a phone interview on the air with a young lady about things job seekers could do to help them stand out in the eyes and minds of potential employers. The information she provided was timely and her list of accomplishments and qualifications to provide this information was impressive. In the span of the twenty minute interview, she dispensed extremely valuable hints that could have helped dozens of people in their job search.

Sadly, no one is going to remember anything she said. What they are going to remember is that she sounded like sh*t.

No, she wasn’t sick and no it wasn’t poor delivery, it was the actual sound of her call that was horrible. The quality of her audio was hollow, scratchy, “echo-ey” and at times, impossible to understand.

The problem is that she insisted on using her speakerphone on the desk in her office.

I do take partial blame for this unfortunate incident. Under other circumstances, I would have asked that she reconsider using the receiver. But when you are doing a live radio program and you have no producer or support staff, interviews come fast and furious and you go with what’s in front of you.

I understand her position and the convenience of the speakerphone. Sitting there for a long period of time with a phone stuck to your face is a sweaty drag and some people like to have their hands free when they’re speaking. What you need to understand is that the quality of your client’s words in an interview is wasted if the quality of the audio isn’t the best it can possibly be.

I could give you this long drawn out explanation about acoustics and how sound bouncing off walls and glass and objects in the room picked up by a condenser mic in the base of a desk phone is not conducive to premium audio quality, but that really isn’t important. Let’s just say, it’s not your best alternative.

Personally, I have always felt that speakerphones sound cold and impersonal. It could be a great conversation, your client could be bubbly and vivacious but speakerphones give off an air of “I have other things to do while I talk to you.” As you know, we now live in a society where “I” am THE most important person in the world and if your client doesn’t get that then “I” won’t listen to them. Again, that’s just my P.O.V.

The good news is that there is a simple solution. The better news is that it can be bought for as little as ten dollars. Do yourself, your client and all of us a favor and have your client invest in a headset. There are literally hundreds to choose from and it will take a little work to pick the best one for you, but believe me when I tell you it is time well spent.

Go to a Best Buy or similar store, find someone with half a clue and explain to them your situation. They’ll ask you some simple questions and point you in a direction. Then it just comes down to personal preference. It really is that simple.

I know there are going to be times when you’ll be involved in an interview with two or more people in the same room. I suggest going ‘old school’ and just have them pick up extensions of the same phone line. Better still, ask yourself “Do we really need to have on all six experts or can we deliver our information with two or three?” Just try to make the speakerphone the last resort.

More and more, I tell clients to use Skype to conduct interviews. Skype is a great alternative because it’s free (Skype to Skype), easy to learn, easy to add other callers and its digital quality, much better than standard phone lines. But for the love of God Almighty, don’t use the microphone built in to your laptop, they’re ten times worse than the mic built in to your desk phone. Buy the headset. Like standard phone headsets, there are hundreds to choose from for your computer. Find an experienced ‘gamer’ and ask them about headsets and they’ll give you WAY too much valuable information.

Finally, when you’re getting ready to do a phone interview, take a quick look at your surroundings. Double check to make sure that there isn’t anything around you that could possibly become an audio distraction. Things as simple as tile floors can create a ton of extra noise. I know to most of you that’s a ‘duh’ statement but you’d be amazed at the number of interviews I’ve done over the past thirty years where people have failed to take that consideration.

Oh wait, I have one last helpful hint: Teach your client not to exhale directly onto the microphone. That is not a pretty sound.

I know your client is brilliant and I know that every person within the sound of their voice would benefit wildly from the wisdom. Let’s just do whatever we can to make sure those within the sound of their voice can actually understand the sound of their voice.

I’d love to hear your feedback.

Good luck and Be Brilliant!


Skip Mahaffey in an award-winning broadcaster, Media Coach/Consultant and Author of Adventures With My Father: Childhood Recollections of Divorce, Dysfunction and the Summer of Love. Skip is available for consultation by calling 813-388-1035 or email: skip@skipshow.com

This entry was posted in Skip. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>