The First Impression

May 5, 2013
Mary Jane Copps


All of us need to give more thought to our outbound voicemail message. Why? Because for our clients, customers, donors and prospects our voicemail is our receptionist. It is vital that this “receptionist” welcome our callers and contain our desire to be of service.

In a workshop this past week I was asked “How can we make sure we create the best message for our voicemail?” It was the first time I’d been asked this question and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Below are a few guidelines to consider, and you can add your own suggestions in the comment section.

1. Use the notion of a real-person receptionist as your guideline. If you had someone answering your phone for you, how would you instruct them to greet each caller? What information would they provide?

2. Change your message daily to let your callers know you are working today, you want to connect with them today, you are thinking about them and their needs today.

3. If it’s impossible for you to create a daily message, consider a weekly one. This will at least prevent people from hearing the same message over and over and over and over and over …. .

4. Record your message the night before. In the morning we can often sound dry and scratchy. Also, it’s not difficult to fall behind schedule in the morning, causing us to create a message at top speed.

5. Breath deeply before you start to record and make sure you smile. This will allow your voice to sound calm and happy.

6. Keep the message brief. You don’t have to include every detail of your day. You want to let your audience know about your availability and when they can expect a return call.

7. Allow the message to work for you as well. For example, by telling callers “I’m in a workshop throughout the day today but will return all calls tomorrow” I can focus on my workshop participants while still delivering service to my callers.

8. When you need to provide an alternate contact phone number – perhaps to another member of your team, or to your cellphone, make sure you say the number at the same speed it takes you to write it down, and then repeat it so your caller can verify they’ve written it down correctly.

9. Use a landline to create your message. Cellphones are prone to producing echoes, static and even unintentional silence.

Enjoy your phonework!



May 21 to May 26

The Phone Lady in Ottawa attending meetings and delivering workshops. 


May 30 – Halifax – Grow Your Business 

10 am until noon

This monthly prospecting practice, in conjunction with The Hub Halifax – 1673 Barrington Street, brings together like-minded entrepreneurs who want to perfect their telephone skills. To register click here  Call me at 902-404-3290 or email me for more details.


June 5 – Halifax – Phone Fear to Phone Fabulous  – Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development (CEED)

Whether it’s leveraging supplies, coordinating marketing initiatives or following up on a sales lead, the telephone is often the fastest, cheapest and most effective tool at hand to get the job done.  Why is it then that it is also one of the most avoided tools in business?  Not feeling confident in your ability to effectively communicate by phone can very quickly create a negative impact on your business’ bottom line.  Avoid this impact and overcome your phone fear by empowering yourself with the knowledge that you need to turn your telephone into one of your company’s key competitive advantages. Learn more details and register here:


June 7 – Halifax – Powerful Conversations – Editors Association of Canada

Discover your unique “phone personality” and learn how to be a more effective communicator on the telephone. This workshop will sharpen your existing skills and teach you new ways to use the phone to build relationships and get things done. More details available here:


June 28 – Halifax – Telephone Etiquette – Teamwork Cooperative/The WorkBridge

This workshop is designed for those looking for employment or wanting to improve their current skills: 1 to 4 pm.





  1. Great advice as usual, Mary Jane! I love calling your office and hearing the daily updated voice message as it offers real time information, something we are all accustomed to but never provided in a voicemail. (This is something I do with auto-response, since I’m in and out of the studio a lot. I can give my clients a good indication of when I’ll be back to address them.)
    As a voice talent myself, I would definitely support your recommendations, especially smiling before you record, as well as, writing the “script” thoughtfully, personally, yet professionally. And, if you don’t think your own voice is professional enough, you might consider hiring someone to record it for you!
    In any case, voicemail is worth taking a moment to polish as one would with any other marketing effort!
    Thanks for all the GREAT advice as usual!

    • The Phone Lady says:

      Thanks, Natasha for these comments. And yes, of course, people can use voice talent, like yourself, to improve the experience their clients have with company voicemail. And I’ll add that today I listened to a voicemail that was done so quickly – it leaves the impression that the person doesn’t want to talk to you, won’t ever have time to return your call. It is so important to speak in a calm, measured way.

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