Tips in this vein were going around Twitter a few days ago and as I just sorted through a very annoying voice mail message, I figured this would make a good little quickie post.

If you are calling someone and leaving a message, it’s because you either want them to call you back or you have information you have to give them. It should, therefore, be logical that you want to make your message as clear as possible so that the listener can either get the info you needed to provide them with or call you back. Sadly, a large percentage of voice messages have to be listened to again and again in order to get the info from them.
Why not make it a little easier for the people on the other end of the answering machine?

Here are 5 simple guidelines to follow to make sure that you are leaving the clearest, most useful messages you can be:

  1. Identify yourself. I don’t care if you are my very best friend, everyone sounds different when recorded. Take a moment to give the caller your name and connection, even if it feels silly. The more info you give the person to remind them of who you are, the better in tune to the rest of the message they will be since they won’t being trying to figure out who you are during the details.
    Bad: “Hey call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx to talk about that stuff.” <– I’m not calling that guy back.
    Better: “Hi, this is Hillary DePiano from Priced Nostalgia. We met on Twitter. I am giving you call to discuss the Trading Assistant services you were interested in.” <– I’m not calling her back either but that’s only because she’d me and that would be weird.
  2. Speak slowly and clearly. No matter how slowly you think you talk, slow it down a little more. We all get a little performance anxiety when leaving a message and tend to speed up so no matter how slow you think you are going, slow it way down so the listener can follow what you are saying easily without having to listen to the message several times. Think smooth jazz radio DJ slow.
  3. Always leave your phone number at least twice. I have gotten into such a habit of doing this I do it in person too which I am pretty sure annoys the snot out of people. When you reference a phone number in a message, only then am I reaching for a pen to write your number down. If you blow through the number quickly, I’m going to have to go back and listen to your message again to write down the number and I will hate you. First, warn that you are about to give a number. Give me enough time to grab a pen. Then slowly go through the number once and then twice. First time I’m writing it down. Second time I’m double checking what I wrote/getting numbers I missed. This is my usual spiel.  “I want to give you my cell phone number, this way, if you need to reach me you have it.” <– this is the stalling, warning you to get a pen. “If you need to reach me, my number is 555-5555. That number again is [said much slower this time] 555-5555.”
  4. Plan what you are going to say ahead of time. I’m not saying you need to write out a script but jotting a few notes down or at least planning out what you are going to say can be a huge lifesaver. Then, instead of my having to listen to a 15 minute message with only 5 minutes of real info and 10 of rambling, I just get the efficient 5 minutes of pre-thought out speaking. I hate going through voice mail enough as it is. Don’t make me sit through lots of “uh…uh” and “umm…”s, OK?
  5. Step into a quiet or less distracting area to leave your message. That message you left me while you were in the train station had so much background noise, I couldn’t understand over half of what you said. I was also too busy trying to figure out what song was on the radio in the background of your second message to focus on what you were saying. Oh and what were you typing when you send me that other message, the Great American Novel? It takes seconds to leave a voicemail. Step into a quiet location and give it up on the multitasking. It is a sign of respect for the listeners time.

What drives you batty when it comes to voicemail? Leave your tips below.