How to Leave a Voice Mail Message Everyone Enjoys Hearing

How To Leave a Voice Mail That Gets People to Return Your Calls

By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor   


Today I have for us a reader Q&A about leaving voicemail messages.

Funny, the majority of us have a phone on us more hours of the day than not, but actually we’re harder to talk to than ever. On personal calls, and especially business calls, you’re much more likely to reach voicemail than the actual person you’re hoping to engage in conversation.

The days of “Let’s talk soon!” have evolved into, if not a text, then “I’ll leave you a message!”

Those who know me know I can hold a conversation. I love people, and my desire to share with them carries over to leaving cell phone messages. Sadly, I know better than to leave long messages, and I have no excuse, but I tend to chatter on, and on, and on, enjoying a conversation with, essentially, myself.

Yes, I agree. It’s sad. But writing is a solitary activity, and I’m more of a people person. Even if the other person isn’t on the other end of the phone, it’s still nice to have someone to chat with. : )


The other day, I was leaving a message, and the voicemail system cut me off. It seems I exceeded my 90 seconds of allotted time. No, I didn’t call back. I figured the man got the gist of the message, so I left the ball in his court.

But it appears I’m not alone. Here’s a portion of one reader’s letter; see whether you relate!


The Question

Dear Maralee,

Thanks for all the great advice you share on the Manners Mentor blog! Here is my situation. I hope you can help. Sometimes I’m good at leaving a voicemail that’s to the point, but most of the time I feel like I’m a babbling idiot. I never know how much information to leave. How much is too much? How much isn’t enough, especially in a professional setting? I would love to know your thoughts on this. Best wishes for a wonderful week!

I bet you’re not anything close to a “babbling idiot” when leaving a voicemail, but I understand, and until I put the following practices into everyday use, I too felt like I wasn’t showcasing my best self when leaving messages.

No more fear! You’re so going to be a gracious master of voicemails. Here are the best tips to help you leave a voicemail message that’s friendly, gets the needed information across, and ends before the dreaded “time’s up” beep!


The Answer: The 7 Top Manners of Leaving a Great Voicemail Message

1.) A study by AT&T found that five out of every six phone calls go straight to voicemail. Since you’re always more likely than not to get someone’s voicemail, before calling, script out what you want to say. Maybe even practice it out loud once before you dial.

2.) A gracious phone message is 30-45 seconds when talking to those we don’t know well. As George Washington said (yep, that George Washington), and I’m paraphrasing, “With men of business, be brief.” Be pleasant, and get right to the point. You’ll appear more confident and capable of handling the situation which merited the call.

3.) As you mentally compose your message, keep these savvy skills in mind:

  • First, say your name (and company, if applicable). Then, since most people you call don’t have your phone number already programmed into their phone, say your phone number twice at the beginning of the message.
  • If your name is at all unusual, like perhaps Maralee McKee, spell your name. People will love you for spelling your name and saying your phone number twice! In fact, they will fawn over you. They’ll even tell you that you leave the best voicemail messages of anyone!
  • People hate it when others quickly say their name and/or phone number. No one wants to listen to our message ten times to get simple info. Give it to them the first time, and you’ll earn their respect for your personal and business skills.
  • As you spell your name and give your phone number the first time, talk slowly like you were writing it down yourself. The second time you say your phone number, you can say it at your normal rate of speed. Then, if you want, just for good measure, at the end of your message, say your number one more time at your normal rate of speed: “…my number again is 844.784.1214.”

4.) Keep your voicemail message to two points. If you need to share more information, then say in your voicemail that you’re going to send the person an e-mail message with the rest of the details. “… I’m calling to share that we have finalized the … and lastly, that we know you’d like to meet at 9:00 AM as we discussed. However, is Tuesday or Wednesday better for your team’s schedule? ….”

5.) If you’re calling a home line, and know the family, it’s nice to say a group “Hello” before leaving a message specifically for the person you called. Say something like this: “Hi everyone, it’s Maralee. Hope you’re enjoying Spring Break! Janet, I wanted to see if you and I could meet for lunch one day next week. My schedule is pretty open, and we could pick a restaurant near your office. I know your lunch schedules are tight. I’ll give you a call back at 7:00 tonight. Or I’m around all afternoon, so give me a call!” (Boy, home lines are becoming rare, aren’t they? We gave ours up a couple of months ago.)

6.) Don’t miss the opportunity to leave a specific message. There’s nothing more frustrating than listening to a voicemail that basically says, “Hi, it’s me. Call when you can!” Even if you’re just calling to say hi, make that your phone message. “Hi, Barbara! It’s Maralee! I haven’t heard your voice in too long, and I wanted to touch base and say hi. I’ll give you a call tonight at 8:00 your time. I hope we can chat then. Stay warm in Michigan. I heard about the storms.”

7.) End on a high note! You don’t necessarily need to say “Goodbye” at the end of a voicemail, because you didn’t really talk to anyone. Instead, try something like, “Look forward to chatting with you!”

  • Use the word “with” instead of “to.” It sounds less like the person is going to receive a parental or boss “talking to” and more like two people who are eager to connect with one another on the phone. It’s a subtle difference, yet it’s a gracious one!

These skills help you stay on point with a focus on graciousness and the gold standard of living out the Golden Rule. They’re simple, savvy, and sincere. Plus, they’ll have people eager to hear and return your phone calls!


What’s Next?

Join the Manners Mentor Movement!

We believe in civility, kindness, being welcome mats without ever being a door mat, and we understand that we’re expressing and continually forming our character, and our legacy, with every word we say and action we take.

We surround ourselves with positive people and influences, and we live life with a strength that’s forged by the conviction of our beliefs, not the strong pull of our society towards the lowest common denominator.

We are every man’s equal. We are no man’s superior.

We know that the only way to live a blessed and happy life is to live out the Golden Rule. And we know that manners (from the Latin word for hand…how to handle something) give us mutually agreed upon best practices for putting the Golden Rule into practice in our everyday encounters. They also help us know what to expect from one another and set gracious boundaries.

Manners Mentor exists to spread the word and to update continually the manners we’re using so that they make sense for our modern sensibilities. They’re never stuffy. They’re always simple, savvy, and sincere so that you can be authentically you…at your best! Join the Manners Mentor Movement by subscribing to receive posts in your inbox so that you’ll always be in the loop!

You’ll find the subscribe box below this and every post. Become part of the Manners Mentor Movement!

Until next time….

Blessings and XOXO,

Maralee McKee

Maralee McKee

About Maralee McKee

Maralee McKee is the founder of Manners Mentor. With her best-friend style, sense of humor, and knack for updating etiquette to meet our modern sensibilities, she has been referred to as "Sandra Bullock meets Emily Post!" Maralee shows you how to become the best version of yourself. No fluff. No pretense. Just you at your authentic best! The person you were always meant to be! To learn more about Maralee click on the "Meet Maralee" or "New? Start Here" links at the top of this page.

Do you know the modern glove etiquette? Discover the best practices for wearing gloves and how to thrive wearing them in our modern culture.

Glove Etiquette: The Top 7 Things To Know

  By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor Let's talk about glove etiquette, including dress gloves, winter glov...

What is the proper etiquette for sitting and standing? Discover the manners for when to stand and why.

When to Stand and Why

  By: Maralee McKee With the changing roles of women in the workplace, and workplace etiquette becoming m...

The 5 Manners of Valentine’s Day Everyone Should Know

Valentine's Day stirs emotions. Sometimes great ones, and sometimes not-so-great ones. Here are 5 manners of Valenti...

Buy Manners that Matter for Moms now!