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Home > Haunter's Lbrary > Marketing, Revenue & Ticket Sales > Voicemail: Creating Your Own Haunt Hotline

Voicemail: Creating Your Own Haunt Hotline
By Sandy Kimball

Dates are set, advertising is in place, plans have been approved, and permits are in hand. Everything is on track for your event to be open on time to huge crowds. Soon the phone will start ringing off the wall with potential customers wanting to know when, where and how much, but who is going to provide daily answers to the same questions? Employing a fulltime staff person to answer the phone all day and night would eat into profits. There must be a better way. The answer is voice mail. A voice mail system on your attraction's main phone line is a cost effective way to answer all of the questions about your event without breaking the budget.

Most major phone companies have in-house voice mail systems that can be activated on your phone number quickly and at a reasonable cost. The system will have multiple "boxes" with set recording times. Take note of the length of record time for each box, and be sure to keep a list of the phone company's contact name and number so that when problems arise they can be addressed quickly. Set your passwords and keep a record of them in a secure place. Share this information only with those of your crew that really need it. Different boxes will have different passwords to access the messages.

Before recording your message, write down a "script" with the basic info for the event. The welcome message should include the event's name, dates of operation, times, location with address, discount and ticket prices, and web site address. Design your message around the theme of your event and include parts of the storyline to give callers a feel for your attraction right from the start. Sketch a flow chart and plan the departments that will require dedicated message boxes. Be sure to create a separate box for each "main" person in charge of your event, one for general staff, and one for applicants/volunteers interested in working the event.

The themed haunting experience starts as soon as someone calls your event on the phone. Choose some music to play in the background of your recording; something spooky or frightening (and professional), which will get them excited about coming before they arrive. Incorporate your event's story line throughout the recording to create excitement about your event.

Pick a calm, quite time and place to make your recording. You are not going to get it perfect on the first try, so take your time and enjoy. Do a few practice runs, timing the messages to make sure they will fit within the time allowed in your boxes. Do not rush through your messages. Speak clearly and at a comfortable pace, and use inflection in your voice to make the information interesting. Place a CD or cassette tape player with on/off and volume control near the phone; you may want to have someone else operate the soundtrack to let you concentrate on the messages. Start the recording with louder music and then fade the soundtrack down as you start reading the information so they can understand you completely. Fade the music back up at the end of the information until the end of the allotted time.

For your Main message, use the following as a guideline: "Greetings, and thank you for calling (event's name), located at (street address). If you would like to leave a message for one of our crew, please push (box number you assigned). If you would like information on (event's name) please push (box number). Interested in working with us? Push (box number) and leave your contact information. If you would like to leave a message for our Event Coordinator, start your message after the tone." Remember to refer them to the event's web site for additional information.

The Event box message should include all the information that the public will need to get to your event, e.g. "(Event's name) is located at (address) in (city). We will be here to scare you starting (dates) from (times). Event prices are (prices) and discounts are available (dates or locations of coupons). To get here take (general driving directions)." Be sure to announce any special event nights or celebrity appearances.

The Volunteer or Applicants box message should have information about auditions, open positions and any age requirements. Ask them to leave their name, area code and phone number so you can call them back, and remind them to speak slowly! Many people speak clearly until they get to the phone number, then race through making it difficult to take down. Keep a list or database of all the applicants and keep track of who has been called back, the status of their application, and level or department of interest.

The Crew box message should offer the following information: "Thank you for contacting the (event's name) staff line. Messages left here will be checked (daily, hourly, whatever your decide, but be sure to do it) and be passed on to the person at the end of their shift." Note: This line could also be where your staff leaves messages about being late or unable to come in.

Once you set up the recordings for each box, make sure to have someone check and empty each box daily. The boxes will fill up quickly during the season, mostly with crank calls, but some will be serious business opportunities and should be returned promptly. Check the staff messages starting at least 1 hour before the house opens to keep track of staff who are not coming in. This gives you time call in replacements.

Once the voice mail system is in place, it is easy to change the recordings to fit pre-season/post-season dates and times, and to keep callers informed as to what is currently going on with your Haunt.

A professional, well-thought-out voice mail system is a great, cost effective way to convey information to and from your staff and patrons. It keeps overhead low by relieving an employee from answering the same question 1,000 times, and gets messages to the right people quickly and efficiently.


Sandy Kimball has been a Haunter since 1991, and joined Gyro's World of Terror in '94. She covers a variety of jobs such as FX make up, volunteer support and onsite office manager. Recently Sandy has opened "Illusion Wear Capes," an online retail site for capes and custom costumes. Take a look at http://kimballsm.home.att.net

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