Martin Cohn

Article Summary:

Advice on leaving an effective, professional voice mail message.

Leaving a Voice Mail Message

Given everyone’s busy schedule, leaving voice mail messages is an unavoidable business practice. However, voice mail is a tool. Despite its widespread use among companies, government agencies and private residences, callers often are not prepared to leave a coherent, concise message. Many times the beep impels callers to prattle and digress.

Here are some suggestions I got from Diane Diresta, a professional speaker, coach and author of Knockout Presentation: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch, and Pizzazz, to make your voice mail more effective.

1. Plan your message.
Think about what you want to say before you leave the message.

2. Get to the point.
Stream of consciousness doesn’t work.

3. Be brief.
Aim for a 15- to 30-second message.

4. Speak slowly.
The recipient needs to process the information and write it down.

5. Enunciate clearly.
Bear in mind that a telephone distorts certain sounds.

6. Be “up” in your voice.
A monotone lacks enthusiasm. Smile as you leave your message.

7. Modulate your volume.
Too loud is irritating. Too soft can’t be heard. Don’t cradle the phone between your neck and shoulders.

8. Monitor your time.
Avoid sarcasm and irritation if you want your call returned.

9. Avoid telephone tag.
Give the recipient options as to when you can be reached.

10. End with the telephone number.
Say your number two times slowly.

When used properly, voice mail can improve communications dramatically. Be sure you use it to improve communications, and not to avoid communications. You should answer your phone whenever you are available. After all, if callers are constantly answered by voice mail, they will suspect that you are avoiding your calls.

Martin Cohn has over 30 years of experience in all facets of marketing communications. With an extensive background in public and community relations, Martin has developed successful public relations and marketing communications programs for many established firms, and has also helped launch a nationally based coalition of environmental companies. Martin has a substantial background in politics, serving as spokesperson for a lieutenant governor’s race, two congressional races, a presidential campaign, and a mayoral race. For more information, visit

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