How to Leave Voicemail

Are your voicemail messages annoying?

Lisa B. Marshall
5-minute read

Greet And State Your Name

As a matter of politeness you should greet the person. “Hey Krystie” or “Hi Marc.” Greet your listener as if you are you talking to them in person. Next, say your full name slowly and clearly. Introduce yourself the same way you would have had they picked up the phone. “This is Lisa B. Marshall” or “This is Mrs. Velasquez, Ariana’s mom.” If it’s a difficult name, consider spelling your name.

Even if you think they know your voice, it's still important to explicitly state who you are. “Hey Krystie, this is Lisa Marshall.” There are so many reasons they may be unsure of who you are just based your voice--don’t make them guess.

At times you may also need to briefly set the context. “Hey, MaryAnne, this is Lisa Marshall; I'm the keynote speaker for Tuesday's event…” This again, makes it immediately clear who is leaving the message.

Record and Review Your Key Points

Next, leave your message, including a reason to call you back, if necessary. "I was calling to confirm that I’ll arrive one hour early, at 8:00 AM on Tuesday. Can you confirm that the room will be open and available?"

If for some reason you felt like you were babbling or tripping over your words, try pressing # (or *) That will often give you the option of listening to your message and deleting it, if you need to. But don’t count on it—I made THAT mistake one time!

Actually, even if you were satisfied with your message, it’s a good idea to occasionally listen back to your messages. You might be surprised that you sound sleepy or annoyed even though you weren’t! It’s also a good opportunity to check for your use of filler words, such as um, ah, like, or so. (If you need help with that, I did an episode on that.) As with all communication, it’s important that your voice is always perceived as energetic, pleasant, and professional.

Include Your Contact Information

Finally, all voicemail messages should include how to reach you. That means you need to leave your phone number or email, again, even if you think they have the information. Make a habit of speaking very s-l-o-w–l-y when delivering the contact information. By the way, you can give the contact information at the beginning or at the end or even both--just be sure to include it every time. Don’t assume they have caller ID and instead make it easy for people to call you back at the right number.

Be Sure You Want To Leave A Message

Before I end, I did want to mention that, at times, just like email, you may not want to leave a message. Keep in mind that voicemail, like email, is a permanent public record.  When strong emotions or high stakes are involved, it’s better to wait to talk directly.

Also, if you’re trying to build a new relationship, it may also be better to wait to connect. However, for networking, my colleague, Marc A. Wolfe, tells me he’s had great success sending short video messages. He likes to use Oovoo.com because the receiver doesn’t need any special software to view the video. He had some other interesting ideas related to voicemail, so I recorded a conversation as a bonus. The link is in the show notes.

Voicemail Summary

So, in summary, when it comes to voicemail, don’t just blurt out the first thing that comes to your mind. The overall idea is that a voicemail should communicate a message-- a message that’s as concise and precise as possible and that represents your part of a real conversation. You should be communicating information or questions in a clearly organized way and delivered with an energetic and professional voice. Don’t forget to greet your listener and most importantly, include your name and contact information in every voicemail.

This is Lisa B. Marshall. Passionate about communication; your success is my business.

Did you know that it is better for your credit score to have your debt spread across several credit cards than to max out one? This is just one of the tips in the new Quick and dirty Tips audiobook, Money Girl’s 10 Steps for a Debt Free Life by Laura Adams. You can get it now on iTunes or Audible.com.

If you have a question, send email to publicspeaker@quickanddirtytips.com. For information about keynote speeches or workshops, visit lisabmarshall.com.

Related Resources

Google Voice (Great System for Voice Mail)

How To Build a Powerful Online Presence - Bonus Interview with Marc A. Wolfe

More Voicemail Tips

Businesswoman on Phone image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.