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Though leaving a voicemail is a simple thing, nerves, stress, and miscommunication can result in you leaving a less-than-professional message. Here are some tips for leaving courteous and business-like voicemails that will get returned.

1. Think it through first

It is always a good rule to think through what you want to talk about before you make a call. Run through the points you want to address with the person you are calling, and mentally note the most important item to mention if you end up reaching their voicemail. Be concise so that your voicemail states your purpose for calling and doesn’t waste anyone’s time.

2. Introduce yourself

Begin every voicemail introducing yourself so that the person or business knows who is calling right away. You should state your full name and company name.

Avoid saying “Hey it’s me”.  You may believe that the person the message is for will recognise your voice, but why leave it up to chance?  State your full name every time.  And, if you are leaving an initial message for business purposes, we recommend that you state your name twice.

Make sure you know how to say the name of the person you are calling. If you don’t know how to pronounce a name, ask someone who might know, or Google the pronunciation. You don’t want to start your relationship by insulting them before you have even spoken in person.

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3. Speak slowly

If you speak too fast, the person on the other end might not understand your message. They may need to rewind your voicemail over and over to catch everything.  We recommend talking slightly slower than you usually do. If you are a speedy talker, slow it right down.

This is incredibly important to remember when you are saying your name, contact number, or email address. Keep in mind that people write slower than they talk. No one wants to listen to a voicemail message ten times; they simply might decide not to return the call.

4. Speak clearly

Think about how you speak to someone who is elderly – you slow down and clearly enunciate your words. Do the same when you leave voicemails.

Bad phone connections happen all the time. Try your best to mitigate any issues that might prevent the person you are calling from getting all the details they need to call you back.

5. Mention your availability

Clearly state if you would like to receive a callback, or if you will retry your call. If you wish to be called back, state when you are available to take the call. If you are the one calling back, let them know when to expect your call. Just make sure that you follow up and try again exactly when you said you would.

6. Keep it short and sweet

This is not a university lecture. It’s more of an Oscars reward speech. Short, sweet, and to the point.

Make sure you touch on the most important reason for your call. If your voicemail is over 30 seconds long, it is far too long. Work on trimming the insubstantial information our of your voicemails. You are asking for a call back to discuss all the details in depth, and your voicemail messages should reflect this.

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7. Make sure your details are clear

Just like any professional business communication, make sure the last items you leave are your name and contact details. Repeat both at least twice during your voicemail.

With regards to your telephone number, pauses in your speech will give your listener a chance to catch up and not miss any details. For example, say your telephone number this way “1-2-3-pause-4-5-6-pause-7-8-pause-9-10″.

If you need to leave an email address, spell it out. You may need to make sure to clarify letters like “D-for-Delta.” If your name is long and complicated, it is doubly important to spell it out. If you can’t remember army call signs, then a more common word like “D-for-Dog” is perfectly acceptable.

8. End the voicemail professionally

End your call by saying “I look forward to hearing from you” or “Can’t wait to talk with you.” Both are warmer than a more generic “Have a nice day.” Don’t feel the need to summarise your message one last time. If they need to, they can replay your message.

9. Disconnected mid message

If you think your voicemail got disconnected before you finished, here is an easy solution. Simply call back, stating first that you believe your previous call was cut off. Finish the rest of your message, keeping it short and to the point. Always restate your name and telephone number on any second call.

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10. Practice makes perfect

As with most things, practice takes away your nerves. Use your mobile phone to call your home phone and leave several messages. Then listen to them all.

Note what you did well, and what didn’t work. If you are calling friends, end your message by letting them know you are working on your voicemail skills and would love their feedback. Alternatively, watch YouTube videos of communication experts leaving voicemails to see how they do it.

Tips to remember

  • Smile while you are talking. You will be able to hear the smile in your voice, which creates a positive impression.
  • Make sure there are no background noises in your message – like tv, radio, or traffic.
  • If you are calling about a confidential matter, don’t leave all the details on the voicemail. You never know who may have access to the voicemail or may overhear it.
  • Listen to all voicemail prompts and follow instructions carefully as every phone system is different.

When good voicemail is important

Every time! But even more so in certain situations. If you are applying for a job or returning an interview call, this may be the first impression you are making. If you are in customer service, clarity cannot be overemphasised. On any sales call, you need to come across as well informed and prepared – a good voicemail will convey that.

The ability to leave an excellent voicemail message is not a thing of the past. It is still important, especially in a work environment. Use these tips to stay on point. Soon you will wonder why you ever hesitated to leave voicemails, and any anxiety you may have will be a thing of the past.

No matter who you are leaving a voicemail for, or the situation, make sure it is a good one.

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