‘Techies’ need to communicate, too

Posted By Laurie Richards on July 9, 2015 in Customer Service · Leadership & Management

“Techies” often have the reputation of not being very friendly or acting as if they are better/smarter than you.

“Two reputations that are not deserved,” insists Jodie Vesey, who works with us at Laurie Richards & Associates. “You could say that ‘techies’ are the most misunderstood people in business. If anything, this is miscommunication at its worst.”

According to Vesey, many times the miscommunication is initiated when the techie tries to explain a project or program in his or her “language.” Individuals may be intimidated by the knowledge of the techie if they are in a less technical field.

“Remember that your area of expertise can be quite technical, and not everyone has your extensive knowledge,” she says. “Be mindful not to talk over the heads of other people. You will lose their interest quickly.”

One way for a techie to start to change their style is to step out of their comfort zone at a business social function – or even by the water cooler or lunch room. “If it’s a larger function with a lot of new people, make it your goal to introduce yourself to two people you normally do not talk to or know,” suggests Vesey. “Be prepared for small talk and have a couple of generic questions that you can ask people when you get caught during an awkward pause.”

Vesey continues, “A great way to get people talking is to ask them questions about themselves.” Some good topics include asking the person where they grew up, what type of television programs that they like to watch, or if they have read any good books lately. If the person has children or grandchildren, they can talk for hours about them!

“Initiate the conversation and then be prepared to answer these same questions about yourself,” says Vesey.

When you are having face-to-face conversations, remember the high importance of eye contact, says Vesey. If this is difficult for you, then you will need to consciously practice until you are comfortable with giving people eye contact. “This may sound ridiculous, but practice looking yourself in the eyes in the mirror,” she says.

Another simple thing to do is smile. “People do business with people they like and who they perceive as friendly,” notes Vesey. “Smiling also puts other people at ease, and makes you much more approachable.”

Techies should also be aware that telephone skills are important, as well.

“When you are on the phone, do not do other activities at the same time,” emphasizes Vesey. “Do not go through emails, eat or drink. You will not be giving the caller your full attention, and they will know it. This will be a poor reflection on your part.”

Vesey points out that when you leave voice messages, be sure to say your name, your company name and give your call back number slowly and clearly. It is very irritating when someone must play back your message a number of times to retrieve the information. Do not assume that people know who you are or remember your number.

Another irritant occurs during a business meeting when a cell phone goes off. “Your cell phone should never be heard during a business meeting, meal or presentation,” declares Vesey. “Put it on vibrate or turn it off.”

Just because you are a techie doesn’t mean you cannot communicate. Like anything else, though, to improve upon something you need to work at it.


Making Sure Your Emails See the Light of Day

Posted By Laurie Richards on July 8, 2015 in Customer Service

While there are many tips on e-mail writing, what is often overlooked in the larger scheme of things is the fact that thousands of e-mails everyday are not even read. Barely glanced at. Indeed, not even opened. So how do you make sure that your e-mails are seeing the light of day?

Before the advent of e-mail, many workers – and even managers – were able to get away with putting only the most important things in writing. Today, people at all levels of an organization communicate through writing, especially on the Internet. Some more effectively than others.

This much writing causes two problems:

First, most of us are better at saying it in person and on the phone than in writing. We talk all day. We have more practice at it. And, yes, practice makes perfect (or at least better).

Second, we’re all inundated with more than we could ever possibly read. That means your reader may not read your stuff!

What to do? Here are five reader friendly tips to make sure that your writing gets read.

  1. Make your subject line interesting. “Health Insurance” e-mails go in the “later” pile. “Friday deadline for health insurance” gets read. Take a second look at your subject line. Would you read an e-mail with that subject line? Will your reader read it?
  2. Think “Executive Summary.” Give your reader the bottom-line before getting into your rationale and what leads you to your decision. If they want more information, they’ll ask for it. If necessary, include a resource, websites, and other resource information that your reader can consider for more details.
  3. Make responding easy – and if a response is required, make that clear. Using phrasing such as “Unless I hear differently from you by Friday, I’ll move forward with Option B,” make it less likely that you’ll miss deadlines. Ask the reader to respond by writing “I vote yes” or another appropriate phrase in the subject line. It makes it easy for the reader- and for you!
  4. Make it visual. The average reader spends less than four seconds on your one-page document. Using bold subheads including Recommendation: and Summary: and Next Steps: ensures the reader will get the most critical information.
  5. Use short paragraphs and bullet points. It’s faster and easier for your reader when type is surrounded by white space. Paragraphs should be no longer than five lines. Double-space between paragraphs and bullet points.

With more and more companies relying on e-mail messaging, it is imperative that your message is clear and concise – and is read!


The wrong impression can cost you an important business deal

Posted By Laurie Richards on July 5, 2015 in Customer Service · Leadership & Management · Motivation

Many of us go into business meetings misled about the important role meetings play in keeping one in the loop. Believe it or not, important things do happen at meetings – the most important of these is that people learn about each other. Judgments and impressions are made and opportunities to impress abound, according to Jodie Vesey, an etiquette expert who works with us at Laurie Richards & Associates.

One misstep, warns Vesey, and an important business deal could go down the drain.

“I’ve seen too many business relationships fall apart in meetings,” says Vesey. “People sometimes take a meeting for granted and then they wonder why they didn’t finish the deal.”

Vesey notes that there are ways to avoid missteps. Here then, are some tips from her on how to best take advantage of these opportunities.

  • Arrive at the meeting on time or even a little bit early. Arriving late impresses no one and, in fact, is an insult to those who made it on time. If the meeting starts at 10 a.m., be there no later than 10 a.m.
  • Enter the meeting room with a friendly confidence and looking your professional best. Shake hands with your colleagues and introduce yourself to those attendees that you do not know.
  • Be fully prepared. Have the agenda, pertinent papers and a pen in front of you. This will keep you from having to fish around while everyone waits for you. Avoid running back and forth to your desk to retrieve something that should have been in front of you in the first place. Not being prepared will give others the impression that you are a disorganized person.
  • Your briefcase does not go on the table or on a spare chair. It belongs on the floor. The same holds true for purses.
  • The types of business accessories you use speak volumes about your level of professionalism. Carry a leather briefcase and notebook. No plastic, canvas or something that looks like it belongs on the space shuttle. Own a quality writing instrument, preferably one that does not have the name of a hotel on the side of it. (Unless, of course, you work for a hotel!) These small details are what will set you apart from the ordinary.
  • Do not look bored, even if you are. Right about the time you tune out, something of importance will be said and you will miss out. Avoid playing – no paper clip people, rubber band instruments, or doodle masterpieces. If you keep both feet on the floor and lean forward, you will look and feel more attentive. Leaning back with your leg on you knee is altogether too casual. If you start to feel sleepy, get up and throw a piece of paper away in the garbage can. This will get the blood flowing and give you a quick boost.
  • Speak up, but keep it brief and to the point. We all know how painful it is to sit through someone’s aimless ramblings. Do not interrupt, no matter how much you disagree with what is being said. If you disagree with someone, never publicly criticize that person. You will lose respect and the person you are attacking will gain office sympathy. Think before you speak and try to use positive language as often as possible.

If you make the effort to pull all of these tips together at future business meetings, you will create a stronger professional image for yourself. You will also gather more information than ever before, and soon, you will be looking forward to meetings as an opportunity to let yourself shine!


Put the ‘Power’ Into PowerPoint Presentations

Posted By Laurie Richards on June 7, 2015 in Customer Service · Leadership & Management

It’s PowerPoint presentation time! The room darkens, the screen lights up, the speaker talks in a monotone voice … and the audience does everything it can to not fall asleep.

We’ve all been at those kinds of meetings. You just want to scream at the speaker to make it interesting, to liven things up.”

A PowerPoint presentation can – and should – be “powerful.”

The material is only as good as the presentation. The last thing you want to do at an important business meeting is to lose your audience.

For starters be sure to develop your presentation for maximum impact and style:

  • Customize your presentation – not just for your organization – but for your specific audience.
  • Tailor slides you’ve already created for maximum impact.
  • Find typos and other errors before your audience does.
  • Make the most of PowerPoint shortcuts and wizards.
  • Learn what colors work – and which don’t – to deliver your message.
  • Select typefaces that help your audience stay engaged.
  • Create high-impact handouts with PowerPoint.

Graphics can make or break the presentation.

Kick your presentation up a notch with graphics that work. Use charts and animation to simplify complex topics that help people ‘get it.’ You should intersperse animation, color, graphics and sound for just the right punch, and perhaps most important, make even the most complicated chart or graph easy to understand. Make it as easy as possible for the audience to understand your points. And to make it easier for the speaker, you should create your own cheat sheets to eliminate worries that you’ll lose your place or say the wrong thing.

In summation, here a few final tips to remember for presenting your PowerPoint presentation with power:

  • Get people to respond – and remember your presentation. And don’t rely on the PowerPoint presentation alone to make your points. It is up to you, the speaker, to bring it all together.
  • Avoid sleep-inducing PowerPoint overload.
  • Discover accessories, gadgets, and add-ons to create a more professional-looking presentation.
  • Add smooth transitions to keep your audience engaged.
  • Troubleshoot technical difficulties on-site.
  • Be more than informative – be persuasive, engaging, entertaining, and effective.
  • Learn how to move – and how to not move – when working with PowerPoint.
  • Look at ease during your high-tech presentation.