1. Speak slowly when leaving a message - and leave your phone number twice. The recipient shouldn't have to replay your message again and again.
2. Spell your name - so the recipient gets it right the first time.
3. Don't just leave your name and number - leave a message. You're much more likely to get a return call if the recipient knows what's up.
4. Make it quick. Take more than 60 seconds, and risk losing your audience.
5. Give your message a headline to help the recipient distinguish which calls are top priority.
6. Enunciate. The audio quality of voice mail varies dramatically. Speak up and state your business clearly.
7. Be specific about what you want. There's a good chance someone can leave the information you need on your voice mail - thus eliminating an unnecessary round of phone tag.
8. Avoid "thank-you" messages - they only add to voice-mail overload, and therefore are never welcome.
9. Keep your voice-mail greeting short. If you must have a long greeting, tell the caller how to skip it in the future.
10. Don't leave repeat messages. Your second call is no more likely to be returned than your first. Try sending an email instead.
A version of this article appeared in the October 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.