After listening to too many bad voicemails recently, here are a few suggestions when leaving a voicemail:

  • Start with both names, yours and that of the person you’re calling. How many times have you got a voicemail saying, “Hi, just letting you know everything’s okay. Call me, okay?” Who is it? You have to infer from the voice. Not only is it nice to leave both names, it grounds the conversation in a particular person and gets my attention, so I’m able to tune in to the main point of the message without also trying to guess who’s talking.
  • Continue the conversation. Many voicemails are simply “Hi, this is Joan, please call me back.” That’s not very helpful, is it? When you call someone, it’s almost always to ask a question or provide an answer, right? Please do so.
  • Leave your phone number. I may have it…or I may not. If I do have it, it may be in an address book that I can’t get to at the moment. Always leave your phone number, except with very close friends.
  • Keep it brief. Since I started using these guidelines, I can’t recall leaving a voicemail more than 1.5 minutes long. If you have a lot of information to provide, a voicemail’s a poor place to put it. Leave a voicemail saying that you’ll drop the person an email with all the details.

At least, that’s what I think.

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