Top Tips for Phone Messages By Patti Wood MA, CSP Professional Speaker

Top Tips for Phone Messages
By Patti Wood MA, CSP Professional Speaker
Though for some generations the phone has gone the way of the covered wagon, video tape and disco dancing, you still need to know phone etiquette to live with the rest of the world.
Here are important tips for voice mail and phone interactions. 
Stan was looking for a job and had a great interview with a Fortune 100 company that he felt had gone really well. He got a voice message on his cell from the manager he had interviewed with. But it sounded odd. There was a long silence, then a stuttered awkward message that sounded like he was upset. Stan wasn’t sure what the manager thought about him during the interview. When he told his friend Karl about the odd message, Karl laughed and said, "Well at least your prospective boss didn’t call your cell." "You still have that message on it that says, “Yo! What's up?" That sounds like you’re from the Jersey shore.” Horrified, Stan realized that’s the number he had given the manager. Stan changed his voice mail message and found out later he didn’t get the job.   

           Have a professional message on your work, home and cell phone voicemail. Create your message and leave it on your phone and people are still forming an impression of that message years later. Speak clearly; don’t talk too fast. Give sufficient amount of information and no more. Avoid music, slang, and funny voices.

           When you call leave professional messages on other peoples voicemail. And follow up. Prepare your message before you call. Make it short but complete. Leave your full name, your phone number, repeating it slowly and your email address. Always say why you called. If you have more than one point to discuss, start the message with, “I am calling about two issues.” 

      Fewer people listen to their voice mail messages so if you leave a voicemail follow up with email or text. A half hour before an important conference call from the west coast to discuss a big project my dog slipped out the side door as we brought in supplies. I grabbed my cell phone and ran up and down the hills of my neighborhood shouting “Come here Bo.”  The cell phone rang and I answered breathless and voice strained.  It was my client and her bosses calling early!  I explained what was going on, but found out that my first impression had worried my client’s boss. He told her, “She sounded nervous about the project and I wonder if she can handle it. “ I didn’t get the contract.

       Remember, cell phones can catch you casual.  Be careful of answering your cell phone on the fly. If your business colleagues call you on your cell, don’t answer your cell phone if you can’t answer clearly and calmly. Be aware that if you are in the car, your mind is distracted. Realize that if you answer the phone while you are in the bathroom, the echo of the tile is distinctly noticeable and that sound could potentially be very embarrassing.

       Return calls promptly. Time is strong nonverbal communicator

       Imagine you’re talking in person face-to-face. You lose up to 80% of your expressiveness with physical, non-verbal cues. Be present and focused on the call so that your emotions come through in your paralanguage. Otherwise your first impression may be a robot voice. Your energy level and vocal variation typically goes down on a phone call. You need to bring up your energy level to sound like you really are there and aren’t distracted driving or checking your emails while you are on the call. If you can, stand up to keep your energy high. If you are being interviewed over the phone, dress up for the interview to remind yourself to stay professional. If you are particularly nervous about a call forget the coaching to stand up. You will be calmer and more centered sitting down in place where you feel comfortable and safe. Don’t sit starring at a screen of any kind. Reading print on a screen makes your voice become monotone and the focus on the words may hinder your focus on the other person or people on the call. The most important thing you can do is connect.          

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Check out Patti's website for her new book "SNAP, Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" at Also check out Patti's YouTube channel at