On tv and in the movies, phone conversations always go like this: -Hi, it’s me…
Last week on 30 Rock, there was a great running joke poking fun at the incompleteness of those Hollywood conversations. Liz Lemmon calls the adoption agency and says, “Hi, it’s Liz” and the woman who answers (played by Megan Mullally–Karen from Will & Grace) sarcastically replies “I only deal with one person a year so, no, don’t give me your last name.”
This is a great reminder that in any kind of professional communication, it is important to:
1-identify yourself (first name, last name, title and affiliation)
2-let people know how you got their name. Sometimes this is the “dropping a name” tactic, but often it is just providing a logical starting point: “I got your name from your department website where you are listed as the director of…,” “Carol and the front desk gave me your contact information.”
This lets the recipient feel a compassionate and human connection with you, but also provides them with the information they need if you have contacted them in error.
If I’m not the correct person to contact, I want to be able to call the webmaster or Carol at the front desk and say “please refer people with that kind of question to Joe.”
If the recipient is the wrong person and you don’t provide the background information on why you chose him to contact, your message will likely go right into the trash.
In real life, everyone is so busy and so overwhelmed with correspondence that they wish they lived a world where every phone conversation was one exchange long and ended with a perfunctory click, but that is only in Hollywood.