This is the first in a series I’ll be posting. The goal: equip you to be a superhero.

You probably don’t think of it this way, but voicemail is a production. It’s a little radio show. It’s meant to convey information, and you must keep the audience (of one) in mind. Here are some thoughts on hacking voicemail into something useful that will improve the effectiveness of your messages.

Jot it Down First- It sounds stupid to write notes for a voicemail, but how many times have you heard a whole lot of “um” and “uhhh” and filler words while listening to voicemail. Jot down your points, and put your most important points first. And do a precis- Before you go in deep, give the main topic(s) you’ll cover as a quick bullet. THEN, you can go in.

Start With Identification- First, identify who you’ve called. “Hi, Rich. This is Chris Brogan.” Why? Because it tells the person you called that you know WHO you called. It also gives them time to get a pen, to calibrate. Second, give YOUR name clearly, and if the person doesn’t know you very well, give them your phone number slowly for callback. Right off the bat. Why? Because some people don’t listen to the whole message (I rarely do, especially if it lingers).

Be a Journalist and Lead StrongLike I said about the precis, give your lead bullet point(s) first. “Hi, Rich. This is Chris Brogan. I’m calling to talk about the Videoblogging strategy for our team. Frankly, we need to change out the talent.” That’s a strong lead. It says what I’m calling for, and what action I want to take. THEN, I can give the supporting info. If your message is simpler, like setting up a meeting, perfect. Be brief. “Hi, Rich. This is Chris Brogan. Call me back at 631.612.8945. I’m making sure we’re good for 1PM on Tuesday for our conference call. I’ll be calling you.”

Finish Strong- When you close your voicemail, end with a “call to action.” Unless your voicemail is just a report on something (“Wow, Rich. That meeting stunk. Natalie wanted all our numbers, and we had nothing!”), end with whatever action you need next. And try for something more than “call me back.” If you can, make it something the person can do. “Rich, could you give me your best guess on one or two replacements for Kari. We need an on-screen talent that really drives the team relationship. Call me before Thursday, and we’ll get that on the agenda.”

Your Take- What are the tips I missed? Help me tidy up this post and make it useful to your fellow lifehack readers. And if you want, leave me a voicemail about it.

Chris Brogan is co-Founder of PodCamp (next one’s in Stockholm in June), and he blogs at [chrisbrogan.com]. If you use Twitter, add him.

Love this article? Share it with your friends on Facebook