When clients and prospects call you and you’re not available to answer your phone, your voice mail represents you. In a sense, your voice mail becomes you—because the message and the way you say it go well beyond merely giving information. Not only does the caller get an audible impression of you, he or she even forms a visual impression.

Consider these steps for assuring that your recorded voice mail gives callers a highly positive impression.

Record your message in your own voice. True, you can hire companies that provide top quality voices, either male or female as you request. However, your callers want to hear you, not a hired spokesperson. Subtly, they could wonder why you would want to outsource such a simple task. Also, note that they would be picturing and evaluating the designated voice—and not you.

Speak rapidly, to reflect energy and to capture and hold attention. Our ability to listen and comprehend the spoken word exceeds by far the average speaking rate. Go too slow, and you’ll create a “listening gap.”

As for vocal tone, vary your pitch without coming across as artificial. A monotone recording might not be heard all the way through.

Keep your message brief. In our fast-paced society, few people want to hear how to order your book, six reasons to hire you, or your entire elevator speech. You will annoy them when your message exceeds sixty seconds.

Be careful with humor. Others might not share your zany approach, or could consider you unprofessional. Example: A consultant thought that having his granddaughter record that “My grandfather can’t come to the phone now, but he will be glad to call you if you leave your number” was catchy. A novel idea, we’ll grant. However, callers could consider this approach a bit too cutesy and flippant. Plus, a generation gap could come into play. A thirty-five year old caller has trouble relating to a grandfather’s pride.

Avoid distracting noises—a barking dog, loud music, coughing, sneezing, computer beeps, a neighbor mowing the lawn, or another phone ringing.

Whenever you change your voice message, call your number to see how it sounds. You might decide to re-record to correct a flaw you spotted. Or you could find that your cell phone connection disappeared for a couple of seconds. Conduct this review even though you exercised the option to re-listen to a recording draft. Calling from a phone gives you a more realistic test.

Be sure to replace an outdated message. When you return to your office after an absence you mentioned on your message days ago, update your recording. An obsolete message strikes callers as clumsy and unprofessional.

Talk like you are having a conversation with the caller. The more personal you sound, the more likely you are to attract clients. No need to try for a broadcaster’s sonorous tones and clipped diction.

Follow these guidelines, and you'll be on your way to having callers want to hear more from you, preferably in a face to face conversation.

Author's Bio: 

Bill Lampton, Ph.D., President of Championship Communication, helps companies identify their communication problems and find solutions. He helps leaders learn to speak with "poise, power and persuasion." Also, he helps you produce top quality videos that strengthen your marketing. His client list includes Gillette, Procter & Gamble, Duracell, British Columbia Legal Management Association, and the Ritz-Carlton Cancun. Call him at 678-316-4300. Visit his Web site: http://www.championshipcommunication.com