This morning while I was doing some research for an upcoming article, I had a few questions about the information I was finding. I clicked on the "Contact Us" button on the site, and up came the PR contact for the company. I got his name, address, phone, fax and e-mail.
As I picked up the phone to call him, I rehearsed what I would say in my head...
"Hi, I'm a writer for CareerBuilder.com..." no, that doesn't sound right. "Hey, I'm looking for some more information on..." no, not that either.
I hung up. As I clicked on the contact's e-mail address and I quickly typed out my request, I thought about my actions. Why couldn't I just pick up the phone and call the guy? It's not like I was in 6th grade and calling my crush or anything.
And then it occurred to me - I sort of forgot how.
When it comes to the phone, the only people I really talk to are my friends and family - at work, e-mail is my choice of communication. In a time where technology rules, this isn't surprising, so I thought that if I'm having a problem, other's might be too.
Here's a quick lesson in telephone etiquette from Marjorie Brody, author of "Professional Impressions: Etiquette for Everyone, Every Day."
When the telephone rings...
Answer all calls within three rings, Brody advises. When you pick up, smile (she says it will come through in your voice) and identify yourself. For example, "Victoria Smith speaking" or "This is Victoria Smith."
Screening your calls
Everyone is busy - there's nothing wrong with having your assistant screen your calls, or screening them yourself - as long as everyone is getting screened, and not just certain people.
If you use voice mail to answer your calls, Brody suggests keeping your outgoing message up-to-date with the time you expect to return or be available.
The sooner, the better, Brody says. Always return a phone call within 24 hours. Even if the call isn't about something you can help with, let the caller know so he or she can look elsewhere for help.
Scheduling a conversation
Scheduling a phone call is the same as scheduling a meeting, Brody says. You wouldn't ignore a meeting or appointment you made, so don't "stand up" someone who is waiting to speak with you.
Holding a conversation
Keep your full attention on the person you're talking to , no matter what else is going on around you, Brody says. Concentrate on listening - not on checking your e-mail, not doodling on a notepad - listening.
When you are the caller
Before calling, get organized. Know what you want to say and accomplish, Brody says. (This was my problem earlier!) Identify yourself immediately.
Oh, and never make any comments in your work area until after you've hung up, Brody says.
Even then, make sure it's on the hook - you don't want the other person to hear anything you say if they're still on the line.
Plain and simple, unless you're on a conference call, using speakerphone is rude - don't do it, Brody says.
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You want your voice mails to be professional, Brody says. Keep the message brief; speak slowly and enunciate; and give your name and number at the beginning and end of the message.