Melissa Haley—Whether making or receiving telephone calls, there are certain common sense rules apply or should apply. There is nothing more unprofessional than hearing children, televisions, or other non-business noise in the background.

When preparing to make a telephone call, a quiet place should be found. Know what will be said before placing the call. Know the purpose of the call and be able to communicate that purpose clearly and quickly.

When receiving a telephone call, go to a quiet place before answering, or turn off any background noise that may be distracting to the caller. Answer with a smile, as it will be conveyed to the caller in your tone of voice.

When leaving a voice message, speak slowly and repeat important information at the beginning and end of your message. It also helps to say the name of the person before stating important information. It has been found that people listen more intently when they hear their name. Always leave your phone number if you expect a call back. Not everyone has caller ID. Even if you think the person already has your phone number, you should state it again in your message. When speaking, slow down. It doesn’t help the person receiving your message if they can’t understand it or have to replay the message several times to get the correct information.

If you have a lot of information to provide, leave just your name and number and request a call back to discuss the details. Do not try to cram too much information into a voice message. A good message tells the receiver who called, how to reach the caller and the subject of the call (why you called him/her). It may also include when the call was made and/or what time a call back is expected. It is brief. Save the specific details for when the return call is received.