Speaking From Experience

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How many times have you reluctantly checked your voicemail, pen and paper ready, only to have to replay the message three times to understand who was calling and what they were calling for? The answer is probably too many times to count. Deciphering voicemails can be frustrating if you are on the receiving end of many. Often times these messages set the tone for one’s reputation and professional relationship. There is no denying that technology has changed the way we communicate in the workplace but that does not excuse improper telephonic communication etiquette. You may have never thought that there were “rules” to leaving voicemails, but I am here to inform you that there are “unspoken rules” to leaving an effective voice memo. What you say and how you say it sends a clear message about your executive presence especially in a 30 second voicemail that can be replayed several times. The following tips will assure that you are sending the right message in your voicemails:

  1. Speak slowly. Leaving messages for a boss, client, or anyone who is of importance can be nerve-wracking. It is to be expected that your heart may be racing but unbeknownst to you, you may be speaking at a rapid rate. When you speak quickly and shakily, it sends a clear message about your executive presence, and it is not a reputable one. If you feel that you are speaking slightly slower than your normal speaking voice, chances are you are speaking at the perfect rate for the voicemail recipient to listen effectively. A confident tone and slower speaking rate immediately tells your listener that you and your message are of importance.
  2. Less is more. Voicemail is intended to be used as a vocal Post-it note, so to speak. If you can’t fit your intended voice message on a Post-it, it’s too much! Voicemail is not the place for long narratives; rather, a direct, informative message to initiate further conversation. If you do babble and overshare via voicemail it is possible to “over talk” yourself out of an opportunity. You may stress the recipient out or confuse them so much so that what you are requesting, a quick and simple task, finds itself at the bottom of the recipient’s “to-do” list. If you leave a clear and concise voice message it tells the recipient that your thoughts are organized and you respect them and their time.
  3. Volume counts. The volume level of your voice also gives off a certain impression. Speaking too quietly not only challenges the recipient to hear your message but it may also give off the impression of a lack of confidence on your behalf. On the contrary, speaking too loudly is abrasive and may give the recipient the impression you are being aggressive and/or demanding. Also, beware of background noise. If you work from home, are there family members and/or pets chatting loudly? If you are in the office, are there coworkers and/or electronics competing to be heard? Note that calling on “speaker phone,” especially from the car, often times cuts out your conversation and should be avoided.
  4. Smile. Never eat or drink while making a phone call this including chewing gum. Hearing smacking in your ear is never pleasant. Never chew on your writing utensil despite how good it may taste. I also like to challenge people to try to smile while they speak to others. You can hear a smile over the phone and it does change the tone of the conversation versus a blank face or worse, a frown. Smile the next time you are on the phone, notice your tone and the recipients, and observe your professional presence improve.

You may be thinking, Kay, after all that, you didn’t tell us what a voice message should say! Here is an example of what an effective, professional voice message should include:

  1. Address who you are calling formally if you don’t know them well, informally if you do.
  2. Identify your first and last name, job title (if applicable) and organization.
  3. State your phone number in the beginning and ending of the message (slowly).
  4. State your purpose for the phone call, clearly.
  5. Call to action. Give the recipient direction on how to respond to your message.

“Hi John Smith, this is Kay Hunter at Kay Hunter Image, at 714-665-8866. I’m calling to confirm your Personal Brand Assessment and Color Analysis appointment on Tuesday, March 17th. If you have any questions, please call me. Again, my office number is 714-665-8866. I look forward to seeing you on Tuesday. Have a wonderful day!”

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