Brooks C. Mendell, Ph.D.

    Author of: Loving Trees is Not Enough:

                      Communication Skills for Natural Resource Professionals

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Book Excerpt

From Chap. 3 on Negotiation...
Telephone negotiations, like telephone interviews, tend to be shorter and may produce additional misunderstandings. Risk comes with speed. Without the benefit of body language and eye contact, both parties have difficulty perceiving inclinations or commitment.

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Number 2, February 2007



Tips for Using Voicemail at Work


Used wisely, voicemail benefits us.  It can be used to inform, delegate, and confirm.  Unfortunately, voicemail can also be used to avoid, obfuscate, and confuse.  Like a hammer, voicemail makes our jobs harder if used inappropriately.  Consider these tips to leverage the power of voicemail for you, your clients, and your colleagues.

To record a professional voicemail greeting:

1. Record it yourself. Do not use the default or ask Ed McMahon to record the greeting for you. This is not a game show.

2. Include your name and firm name in the greeting.  That way people know they have reached the correct person.

3. When traveling, record an alternate message and forward your line directly to voicemail. Then callers don't have to wait through unnecessary ringing before leaving you a message.

Once your voicemail is set up, check messages daily with pen and paper at hand to take notes. Return messages within 24 hours. If it will take longer than 24 hours, call the person and advise. Callers should consider you responsive and know that you check your voicemail regularly.

When leaving voicemail messages for others:

1. Immediately identify yourself.  “This is Brooks Mendell from Forisk Consulting.”  Spell your name if the person does not know you.

2. Leave your call back number next.  Even if you know the person has your number, they may not have it handy. Use full phone numbers with area code.

3. Keep messages short and to the point. “The reason I am calling is…”  Cover one topic in one message. Specify what you want the recipient to do or to know.  If your message requires additional details, ask them to call you back or say you will send the supporting information by email.  Do not describe a problem or situation and cause the person to have to keep replaying the message.  If you want them to call you back, let them know when you will be available. Voicemails should be no longer than 30 seconds.

4. Say your phone number again slowly. This provides another chance for the person to jot down the number without replaying the message.

Voicemail creates problems when we fail to anticipate and plan ahead.  Assume you may have to leave a message.  Think about the key point and write down a few key words prior to making the call.  Also, be careful what you say. Your recorded voice message can be forwarded to others. Think about what you say and what tone you use.  Then, make sure to hang up the phone.  If you fail to hang up, the voicemail on the other end keeps recording…. 

In sum, have a purpose for each message.  Are you sharing information, delegating a task, or confirming something happened?  Make the message short, clear, and to the point. Everyone will benefit.


The Loving Trees Newsletter.  Copyright © 2007 Brooks C Mendell.  All rights reserved. We welcome sharing this newsletter in whole or in part if properly cited and attributed.