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Monthly Archives: December 2012

What Did We Do Before Clocks?

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A Brief History of Life Before Clocks

If you are like most people, you use clocks every single day, without exception. They are our life line to that thing called time, and they allow us to do many things. Firstly, they allow us to keep our jobs, by alerting us to when we need to leave home, and when we need to arrive at work. Secondly, they allow us to keep track of things; how long it took us to run a mile, what time we need to take the cake out of the oven—literally everything! Even Daylight Saving Time relies on clocks; clocks go forward, and clocks go back to keep us on track with the months. It is hard to imagine a place in time and history without clocks, but there was one.

Before Clocks: How Time Keeping Was Always Relevant

Since the early age of man, we have used many things to keep track of the days. Most prominent, before clocks were even a thought, were sun dials. A sun dial was a chart that had a number of carvings on it, in a circle, that could be used to tell the “time” of the day, how close to darkness the day was, what day of the week it was—they were used to tell a number of things. Sun dials were used in a very simple matter. Often they were built on stands, or pedestals. The triangular piece that stood up would act as a hand might on a clock face. As the day wound down, a shadow would pass over the face of the sun dial, created by the darkness of the setting sun. This would in turn shadow certain regions of the sun dial, which would then be used to “tell” the “time.”

Sands of Time: Hourglasses

Another common time piece, before the invention of the clock, was the hourglass; a figure eight shaped glass which would be filled with a measurement of sand. The section where the two halves of the glass met would be exceptionally thin so as to make the sand work its way slowly through the glass. The idea was that you could use the hourglass as a time keeping device. However, the sands that passed through these glass did not necessarily pass through in a predetermined amount of time, and often got stuck, making keeping time with an hourglass very difficult at times, and even very inaccurate to a great degree.

James Lawler is the author of WhenDoTheClocksGoForward.com, all of the dates times and information about when do the clocks go forward from 2012 to 2019 and beyond, including free email reminders for registered visitors.

 

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Apparently The Mayans Had Us All Terrified For Nothing

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5 Marketing Basics You Need for Success
By: Joe Thomas

So here you are at the end of another ho-hum year. Last year about this time, you threw up your hands and yelled, “Thank goodness the world’s ending in December 2012 and I don’t have to figure out how to sell my products or services in 2013″!

Now you’re scrambling.

Hey, we all are. The Internet is more congested than a Wal-Mart during a Black Friday sale.  All of your keywords rank in the top 10 most-searched words on Google (a sure sign of stiff competition).

There’s going to be 35 percent more self-published books hitting Amazon in the coming year.

With all of that competition, what can you do to set yourself apart?

Truth is, unless you have a line on the winning Powerball numbers, you had better have a plan.

People actually do succeed on the Internet. They sell shoes and shirts, software, services, and books. They have the right tools. Without those, you’re going to have a hard time building anything. No audience, no network, no social media following and no sales.

What tools do you need? There are all sorts of specialized tools, but let’s start with a basic checklist

• A fully functional and engaging website:  A professional website is to sales what oxygen is to a human being. Without it, you’re dead. Count on this – no website or bad web site = poor sales or no sales. ‘Nuff said?

• A solid PR foundation:  Getting your message out there needs to be your top priority. You need to BE the news. And once you have publicity, you need to put it to work for you by sharing it on your website and through social media.

• Getting a handle on social media:  You can’t just go out there in the Twittersphere and play the “Follow Friday” game. (If you don’t know what Follow Friday is, you really need to take a crash course on social media.) Don’t make the mistake of posting only BUY MY BOOK/PRODUCT/SERVICE NOW to your social media following. I assure you, they will not be following for long.

• Update your content or lose your audience:  Blog. Then blog again. Then, just when you think you’ve blogged enough – you guessed it, blog some more. Keeping your content fresh and unique gives people a reason to keep coming back. If they don’t buy your product or service today, maybe they will next month. But they won’t if you don’t give them a reason to come back.

• Understand the meaning of the word ‘entertain’:  The Internet used to be a place to read about things. Not anymore. Now, it’s where you go to WATCH things. If your site doesn’t have video, you’re going to lose potential customers. Are you a lawyer, doctor or financial genius? Introduce yourself with video. Are you an author? What’s going to entertain and excite people — the cover of your book or a cinematic book trailer? I’m talking about a real trailer. Not sure what that is? Go to YouTube and watch a trailer for whatever movies are in theaters now.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to compete. By putting the right set of tools in your toolbox, you can put yourself in the best position to succeed.  Whatever you do, don’t spend your time OR your money without a toolbox – you’re not going to like the results if you do.

About Joe Thomas

Joe Thomas is the founder and owner of Left Brain Digital (www.leftbraindigital.com), a web development company. He’s an award-winning web designer/developer with more than 18 years of experience in print and web design and development. Thomas’ work became a major influence in graphic and web design in the “Y2K” era of the Internet’s dot-com explosion.

 

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3 Ways to Improve Business Creativity

Anybody who says that only certain people are creative is wrong. Everybody is creative in their own way and just because someone’s creativity may not be as obvious as someone else’s, it should still be encouraged in a similar way. Creativity is important in many different areas of your life; it can keep a relationship fresh and exciting, it can help with hobbies and interests and it can definitely help in the business world.

Most employers would rank creativity very highly on a list of attributes that their potential employees should have and nearly all business owners would like to say that there work force is full of creative ideas. However, this is not often the case as employees can feel reluctant to express themselves creatively at work for many different reasons.

Now more than ever, business need to find new ways of developing and growing as a company and creative employees are sure to help with this. Here are a few ways you can increase the creativity, and therefore the productivity in your work place.

Encourage Interaction

A lot of business owners and managers will set their work environment up in a way which, in their own view, will get the most out of their employees and therefore promote productivity. However, the thought process behind this can often be misled. Arranging the desks in an office so that nobody is facing each other or separating each individual into their own cubicle may not be the best way to promote good work; especially when thinking about creativity.

Creativity works on a basis by which an idea is conceived and then developed by a process of discussion and manipulation. This cannot happen if your workforce is not encouraged to interact with one another. As long as the conversation remains focussed; ideas will be allowed to develop and flourish in a productive environment.

Have Regular Meetings

It may sound strange to anybody working in a small company but people working in many of the larger corporations are likely to never have met most of the other people that work within the business. Whether it’s just between all the people in a single department or whether it involves many different areas of your company, getting your workforce together for regular meetings can really improve creativity in the work place.

They will be able to find out how things work in different areas of the business and in different branches which in turn may give them some ideas for the area in which they work. It will also give everybody an opportunity to discuss any ideas or concepts that they might have with like-minded people and people that are well informed to be able to give them feedback.

You could even take your employees on regular courses that help to improve their creativity. Creativity can be learned and developed in someone, even if they don’t regard themselves to be a creative person. These courses will help to improve creative thinking and brainstorm facilitation.

Have an ‘Open Door’ Policy

Although this may sound like something you might hear a cheesy boss say in a movie or a sitcom, having an open door for your employees is a great way to encourage the creativity inside them to thrive. If they feel like they cannot approach their manager with any ideas they have, that idea may never have the chance to develop.

If you encourage your workforce to come to you with any ideas or potential advancements they may have for the business then you may be surprised with the results. No idea is bad and even if you don’t like the things that your employees are thinking up, just knowing that they can speak to you about any thought they might have will encourage them to be more creative in the work they do.

This article is written by Chris Mayhew on behalf of Now Go Create. Visit their website today to see how their creativity training can improve brainstorm facilitation and creative thinking for your business.

 

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3 Ways to Get Promoted

promotion_elbow_patches_519365You’re long overdue for a promotion, and you’ve been showing that you deserve one by doing a great job, taking on additional responsibilities, putting in extra hours and learning new skills. You’ve dropped some hints, but the higher-ups aren’t picking up on them.  What can you do to finally get that promotion you deserve?

Make sure there are opportunities for advancement at your company

It is one thing if co-workers are getting promoted over you. But if nobody is getting promoted, your lack of movement may have nothing to do with you. Maybe there are no openings. Maybe people are consolidating their power. Maybe the company is in trouble and upper-level positions are being eliminated.  If the opportunities are simply not there, it won’t matter how much you deserve a promotion.

Be your own PR person

Maybe your boss does not realize what a great job you are doing. Or maybe he or she thinks you are happy in your current role, and is happy to keep you there since you are filling the role so well.

Your boss may be your advocate for advancement, may consciously or subconsciously be preventing you from advancement or may lack the power to help you get ahead. If you feel that higher-ups are unaware of your accomplishments and/or your ambition, you may need to let them know yourself. Depending on the corporate structure, you can seek out mentors and networking opportunities with upper management.

It may turn out that, fairly or unfairly, upper management does not share your view that you have been doing a great job and deserve a promotion. If so, you may be able to get constructive criticism that could lay out what you need to do to eventually get that promotion. But if you find out that you are unlikely to get a promotion, at least you know the score and can use that information in planning your future.

Redefine yourself

If you dress like the other staffers, joke around like the other staffers and grumble about the company like the other staffers, you can’t be surprised if upper management sees you as part of the staff rather than management material.  Let them know by your actions, appearance and demeanor that you are a dependable and drama-free part of the team.  Instead of grumbling that something is above your pay grade, pitch new ideas that show the brass that you can strategize above your pay grade, and perhaps that is where you will eventually wind up.

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Ben Hargrove writes on career coaching sites like MeredithHaberfeld.com

 

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Writing a New Book? Here Are the Tools

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By: Michael Levin, eight time best selling author

Success leaves clues.  If you seek the tools for writing a New York Times self-help best seller, look no further than a new NYT best seller, called, appropriately enough, The Tools.

Phil Stutz and Barry Michels are Los Angeles therapists who have written an outstanding book encapsulating their approach to guiding their patients to successful living.  The book is a tutorial for people who want a better life.  It’s also a tutorial on how to organize and write a great book.  So let’s take a look at the tools Stutz and Michels use that you can put to work in your book.

1. Great title.  A title ought to be what the movie industry calls “high concept” – something you grasp and connect with immediately.  Who wouldn’t want tools?  And then it’s a great title because it makes the reader ask questions:  what tools?  Do I have these tools?  Do I need these tools?  What’s going on here?

2. Solid subtitle.  A subtitle must reveal the promise or “unique selling proposition” of the book clearly and powerfully.  Here, it’s “Transform Your Problems Into Courage, Confidence, and Creativity.”  Well, who wouldn’t want that?

3. Killer blurbs.  The title sells you on reading the subtitle.  The subtitle sells you on flipping the book over in your hands to read the blurbs.  And here you have Marianne Williamson and The New Yorker endorsing the coauthors, along with one other respected author and a top Hollywood client.  That’s the kind of third-party verification that sells books.

4. Chapter one asks a knockout question.  Why can’t therapists solve problems quickly…or at all?  Great question, right?  And then we get just enough of the authors’ backgrounds to know who they are.  They’re therapists profoundly dissatisfied with the limits of traditional therapy.  They tell of the pain they felt when their clients went away without solutions…and so they came up with a new approach.  The Tools.  So you have a problem that we can relate to…authors we can relate to…and the promise of a new solution.

5. Clear organizational plan.  One tool per chapter for the next five chapters, and then a couple of chapters to wrap things up.  Within each of the five chapters describing the tools, a vignette involving a patient, an explanation of the tool, a description of how to use the tool, and other uses for the tool.  Simple and clear.

6. Out-of-the-box “case studies.”  A foul-mouthed road comic.  A young, bitchy, sharply dressed fashion entrepreneur.  A gorgeous yet almost fatally insecure actress/model, afraid that her working class background keeps her from acceptance from the well-to-do West LA soccer moms.  They may be composites as opposed to real people, but they feel so real to the reader.  You get caught up in their stories.  You relate.  Stutz and Michels raise the bar in terms of how to craft case studies.  This is essential for anyone writing a self-help book, because these compelling stories keep us riveted to our seats so we’ll actually learn how the tools work.

Authors have it hard today.  Technology has shredded the average attention span.  Bookstores are a vanishing species.  Infinite entertainment options, or just simply playing with your iPhone, compete for leisure time.  So if you’re going to succeed as an author, put down the toys and pick up the tools…specifically the tools that Stutz and Michel provide in their excellent, and excellently planned and executed, book.

And if you aren’t planning on writing a self-help book, read it anyway.  The tools you’ll gain when you read The Tools will absolutely give you a better life.

New York Times best selling author and Shark Tank survivor Michael Levin runs www.BusinessGhost.com, and is a nationally acknowledged thought leader on the future of book publishing.

 

 

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Quick Guide to Business Plan Writing

If you don’t know exactly what business planning is and you are looking for a way to understand more about the world of business, this quick guide will introduce you to the one thing most wannabe entrepreneurs don’t do right: the business plan document. There are people who think it’s just a piece of paper, others who think it’s the only important part of your business. Well, it’s not like that. A good business plan is necessary but not sufficient to guarantee success in your business. This guide will help you write a good one.

Executive Summary

Simply put, the first section is an overview of the most important parts of your business. This part of the business plan is like the incipit of a book and needs to “hook” the reader and make him/her want to know more. A good b.p. in fact is not only informative but also appealing.

Company Description

This is the section where you talk about the company statement, legal issues and the industry you are going to work in. Information and “sale” mix also in this part of the business plan.

Products & Services

Without them, you are not an entrepreneur and you do not have a company. What are you offering the world? It could be something you can touch or “package”, like a product, or something you do directly or through your employees for your customers, i.e. a service. In the Products & Services section of your business plan you also describe pricing strategy, delivery, research & development, production.

Marketing & Sales

You provide value, but how do people know about it? Your business plan must state clearly who you are going to market to (who’s your ideal customer?), who are your competitors and how you will beat them, daily/monthly promotion activities and everything related to the sales process.

Operations & Management

In this part of the plan you will deal with the operations which are part of your business (the most common are risk assessment, milestones, location) and also define the exact management structures: the team, the organizational chart, key job descriptions and so on.

Financials

The game of business needs money. The most important part of your business plan is the one where you convince that it is financially sustainable in the long-term. What will the cashflow be? What about break-even analysis and financing? Be detailed and honest and understand the whole financial picture of your wannabe company.

Extras

Sometimes, additional features are included, for example:

  • SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of the competitors’ landscape
  • Glossary: Help non experts speak the industry jargon
  • Graphic elements: Make your presentation stand out!

What is the section you find the most difficult to deal with?

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Target Accounting provides expert London business accountants.

 

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Simple Steps to Liven up your Office Desk

If your office desk is uninspiring and bordering on just plain dreary that even a rainy day has more zest and vitality, then permit me to suggest some simple steps to help rejuvenate your workspace.

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Image by Magic Robot.

Personalise your desk with invigorating items:

  • Fun family photos, sports trophies, and “World’s Greatest Mum (or Dad)” mugs can work wonders.
  • Include items that reflect your passions outside of the office.

For example if you build model airplanes or cars put some of them on your desk.

If you have a collection of favourite funny maxims, consider framing them and adding them to your desk.

Putting something funny on your desk can make you smile, or laugh or even both when you need it the most.

  • Consider bringing something you enjoy into work to keep on your desk that is not available at home.

That way it will give you something to look forward to other than work.

Place items on your desk that will act as conversation starters due to their unusual, conspicuous, or humorous nature:

  • Maybe the latest book you are reading.
  • Or a CD you are listening to.
  • Perhaps you could include a fruit bowl.
  • A sweet dish.
  • Or even a selection of different kinds of teas and coffees and a kettle, complimented by a variety of biscuits.

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Keep chill out toys close to hand:

iPods and MP3 players are a perfect example of chill out toys.

Whenever your boss is giving you grief, and your work colleagues are driving you crazy, pop in those ear plugs and tune the whole thing out.

Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” and “That’s Life,” and Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” and “Wonderful World” are my personal recommendations for audio bliss.

Stress balls are also handy, as are sunglasses!

Trust me!

You may feel a little nuts at first, but there are days when the sun is too bright or the office lights glare, and even the computer can be hard to look at.

So try sunglasses, maybe even listen to your iPod or MP3 player while you are at it.

Your boss and work mates will probably think you are walking a thin line between eccentricity and craziness, but there’s a good chance they’ll leave you in peace to get on with your work.

How do you liven up your office desk? I’m always open to inspiration and I’m easily led, so set me free!

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Gavin is an up and coming blogger who specialises in film reviews and anecdotes. He loves plants, interior design and all things to do with business. He recommends Ambius. ;

 
 

The Five Most Famous Rivals in Advertising History

Print and television advertising sometimes has little to do with a company’s product. Popular ad campaigns need to do little more than paint one brand as sexier and younger than another to gain traction among consumers. Every industry has its share of advertising rivals. From small town car dealerships or local sandwich shops to global powerhouse brands, there is no battle too large or too small for a healthy ad war. Read our list below for some of the most epic campaigns in the fight for consumer loyalty.

Pepsi vs Coke

Generally labeled the “cola wars,” this famous rivalry has tried to influence the taste buds of caffeine lovers around the globe. Who knew that a fizzy, syrupy-sweet concoction could spawn such a bitter war? This rivalry was born over one hundred years ago, and it still rages today. One defining moment in this ad war was the 1975 Pepsi ad campaign, “The Pepsi Challenge,” which prompted Coca-Cola to embark on their failed New Coke venture. Pepsi has kept their image young and exciting with a host of celebrity endorsements, and their “Pepsi Generation” slogan. Coke has tended toward more family-friendly and global themes. In 2011, Pepsi famously co-opted Coke’s beloved polar bears for a fun ad of their own.

Audi vs BMW

The battle between these German motor corporations has sparked ad wars that brought Subaru and Bentley into the mix. The highlight of this rivalry is the 2006 “Car of the Year” ads. This battle was tipped off by BMW’s campaign that congratulated Audi for winning the South African Car of the Year 2006. The ad was signed “From the Winner of the Car of the Year 2006.” A veritable tennis match of rival ads followed this playfully antagonistic campaign.

Apple vs Microsoft

Apple entered the world of television advertising with a bang in the form of their famous “1984” commercial. In an attempt to gain ground in the personal computer market, the company launched their successful “I’m a PC” ad campaign in 2008. The spots featured a boring, middle-aged square (as the Microsoft PC) juxtaposed against the hip, fresh face of the Apple brand. Microsoft fought back with a similar commercial featuring one of their own employees, along with a series of “Laptop Hunter” commercials in which consumers were given cash to choose the better computer. Needless to say, they chose Microsoft.

McDonald’s vs Burger King

The battle for America’s burger of choice goes back decades, as these two monoliths have been fighting it out as far back as most consumers can remember. McDonald’s family-themed advertising has most recently been countered by Burger King commercials that feature edgy humor and more adult interests, including pop stars and celebrities like David Beckham and Mary J. Blige. It seems their advertising dollars are not yet giving them the edge, though, since McDonald’s continues to dominate the market.

Ford vs Chevrolet

These American auto-makers wage constant war for the title of consumer favorite in their popular truck lines. A defining incident occurred in a Chevy 2012 Super Bowl ad that featured a Silverado driving through the ruins of the predicted Mayan apocalypse. Ford’s attorneys immediately followed with an angry letter to GM management. However, they were told that there would be no Chevy apology until “the end of the world”.

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Kate Simmons is a fresh graduate and occasional blogger currently working for a company specializing in outdoor banners. She is mostly interested in topics related to advertising, business and education.

 

 

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Managing Your Office: Success Stems from Well-Planned Space

Real estate can be one of the biggest costs to any business and for many companies the thought of expanding can be something that is out of the question. Instead of paying out more for larger premises you may need to make the most of what you already have so a little re-organisation of your floor plan may be needed. One way that you could make use of the space available to you is by partitioning sections to make new rooms to use. Creating partitions however is more than just a case of putting up some new walls and there can be quite a lot to be taken into consideration.

Safety

Often overzealous health and safety restrictions are much maligned in business and commerce and are often at the butt of jokes. The thing is though that some health and safety regulations are genuinely needed otherwise people could genuinely be at risk of sickness of injury and this needs to be accounted for when building a new partition. Blocked passageways could present an obvious risk and the risk of fires breaking out should never be neglected. Most safety aspects are common sense although if you are unsure a list of guides and regulations will be easy to obtain if needed. With health and safety taken into account when building a new partition you can help make sure that people are not hurt and also that you don’t have any problems with litigation.

Comfort

Depending on where you have built your new partition you may need to take peoples’ comfort into account as comfort is importance for happiness and productivity. Office workers sat in a cold warehouse partition will soon begin to complain and it is unlikely that much work would get done. Other factors such as noise could also be something that could affect productivity negatively and sound proofing and acoustics may be needed to create a suitable working environment.  When trying to create a suitable environment within the partition the experts should have plenty of valuable advice that will help you to achieve what you want.

Space is also important for comfort in addition to health and safety so make sure that you are not trying to cram too much into too small a space. When planning your floor space you could use computer software such as CAD that will make it easier for you to see how your design will work. With the help of some handy software you could create a comfortable environment that anybody would be happy to work in.

Something else to be taken into consideration is light and nobody would want to work in a dark and dingy office all day long. While artificial lighting can help to brighten up any space it just is not the same as natural light so try to make sure that windows are available wherever possible. If there are no windows available but you are still near an external wall then you should consider having windows installed as they can help to make the room a much happier place and therefore much more productive.

Security

There are some areas that you would probably not want everybody to have access to so security might also be a consideration. Server rooms in particular may need to be kept behind locked doors so that sensitive information cannot be accessed or maybe you would rather just restrict access to prevent large numbers of people passing through and disturbing the people working there. From simple locks to impenetrable defences you have just what you need to create a space that suitably keeps the contents inside safe from harm and disturbance.

Industrial partitions could help you to make the most of the space that you already have and could help to avoid increasing your real estate expenses.

 

 

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The Seven Sins Of Business Communication

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From spelling mistakes to over complicated and confusing rambling, poor business communication is rife and unprofessional – but easily avoided!

As getting something so pivotal so critically wrong could spell damage and disaster for individuals, departments and on occasion entire firms and companies, the need to recognise and right the wrongs of the written world of work is ever-present. So repent and pay heed to these seven sins, lest you find yourself in business communications hell.

Sin 1. Thou shalt not go on, and on and on

Like the deadly sin of gluttony, demanding too much and consuming entire pages of space with word-hungry demands, email attachments or other information is bad for your professional health. Not only is it an unnecessary drain of time and effort, but it also alienates readers and could cause important information to be skipped, damaging professional relationships in the process.

Whatever you’re saying, when it comes to business writing and communication keep it simple. State requests clearly, courteously and use as little of your recipient’s time as possible. Remember, your contacts are busy as well. You don’t want them dreading your calls or emails. Over-long, unclear reams of text are likely to be instantly ignored and discarded – especially with initial communications, and as you’re cultivating a professional relationship you will most likely have demands made of you too in the future – don’t make a rod for your own back!

Sin 2. Thou shalt not overcomplicate or abbreviate

Though it’s good to take pride in your work, take too much and you’ll start to look pretentious. Vocabulary pride is another deadly sin.

Excessively over exaggerating and declaring your behest through an extravagantly intricate broadcast (or overcomplicating your communications requests) is unnecessary and makes you difficult to understand. Plus it makes you sound as though you’ve eaten a thesaurus.

Equally, using complicated industry-specific jargon, internal references or too many acronyms is frankly, T.MI. (too much information!). References like this should not be used unless you’re absolutely sure your target will understand them. The same goes for using archaic, old-fashioned words. If you are writing an email there’s no need to write differently to modern speech as long as you are polite, business like, and (at least until you have established a working relationship) formal. Sounding as though you’ve stepped out of 1796 won’t impress your colleagues or contacts – it just makes life harder!

Sin 3. Thou shalt not be vague

Efficiency is key in business communications. You want to use up as little time and effort for as maximum a result as possible. To do this, keep communications structured, clear and obvious. Vague or confusing communications occur frequently (as seen above) but can be avoided:

  • Structure your work – Stating your main point (what you would put in a conclusion) first can help to display demands simply. Don’t put too many tasks into one message, and always keep email headers as explanatory and obvious as possible: “Task deadline Monday PM” rather than “Monday” for example.
  • Keep things short. But not too short! – Being brief is great, but it’s possible to go too far! Just sending someone the word ‘Friday’ may be a reminder for him or her to complete a task – but will they know that? Stick to structure and explanation unless you’re absolutely sure.
  • Don’t get carried away – Linking to the sin of over-written messages, veering off on a tangent or padding just overcomplicates the issue and bores the reader.
  • Use an active rather than a passive voice and assert yourself! – Involving yourself in sentences (active voice) rather than leaving them abstract (passive) helps anchor meaning, impact and personalisation to demands. Saying; “The company will review the report,” is not as effective as stating “I will review the report,” – and it gives you well-deserved credit! You should also assert yourself and make demands or deadlines obvious. It may sound demanding, but it helps people judge exact timeframes and prioritise, or request extensions if needed.

Sin 4. Not honouring thy target audience.

Communications rely on messages being understood, so keeping your reader and audience in mind when writing is crucial.

Before you begin, think about who your reader is and why you are contacting them. Is it someone you know, such as a colleague, or an outside partner/ client? Have you already built up a rapport with them? Considering this will help you to judge tone and style. If you’ve met them in person you may be able to be slightly less formal, but should still keep business communications at a professional level – at least until you know them better. After a relationship has been established, simple communications may not need to be so stuffy, though serious requests should remain business-like.

Again, be specific and don’t use overcomplicated terms, industry jargon or numerous acronyms unless you are absolutely sure they will be understood. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own knowledge and industry, so taking that step back to consider outside communications from a your reader’s perspective can prevent you alienating them or making them feel stupid.

Sin 5. Thou shalt not use slang to impress

Just as redundant over-formal languagecan mask messages, too many jokes, anecdotes, humour, sarcasm, or clichés in a business message can prevent you from being taken seriously and can been seen as inappropriate.

Being overly casual, though it may seem more reader-appealing, could offend some recipients as not all jokes are taken the same way, and some may find a lack of professionalism very distasteful. A casual attitude may also detract from the importance of your message. Try instead to balance your writing: not too formal, but not too free!

Sin 6. Showing thy lack of grammatical skill

It’s a basic consideration, but grammar and spelling can impact the way an entire piece is interpreted and judged. Writing in a business situation, the standard of your writing skills will reflect back both on you and the wider company, so it’s important to get it right! Common sins include:

  • Spelling and grammatical errors – These are vary wildly, from simple grammatical errors (your, you’re, there, their, they’re) to spelling mistakes and typos. Always check you’ve used the right word for the situation, and double check the spelling of names especially.
  • Misplaced punctuation – Should you use a colon or a semi-colon? Have you overcapitalised your message? Should you remove some of the twenty exclamation marks you’ve placed in the introduction!? Under the umbrella of punctuation correction, bear in mind that full stops can often be used rather than commas for added simplicity: Thank you for making those changes, however there are a few things I’d like to add,” can be “Thank you for those changes. However there are a few things I would like to add,”
  • Treating the company as a pluralCompanies should be single entities, so when referencing the name, pretend the company is a person: ‘Example Corps. is going to,’ rather than ‘Example Corps. are going to,’
  • Over-thankfulness – As long as you are courteous, you should not have to keep thanking your reader throughout the message – unless you actually have something specific to thank them for. Mix up your sign-offs to show a little personality and rid your messages of a robotic quality – “Have a great weekend, see you soon, good to hear from you, I look forward to hearing from you etc,”

Sin 7. Ignoring thy proofreading tasks

It may be the last stage of business communication, but this sin, the sin of sloth or proofreading laziness, can undo all your hard work and be the most damaging.

Proofreading work before sending can reveal easily missed errors and typos, which may question your competency or attention to detail, and play a pivotal part in getting your business request granted or rejected.

Always double check spelling, grammar and word use, ensuring all names are spelt right and facts are correct. Keep presentation and layout in mind (such as using clear fonts and sizes, and don’t be afraid to ask a colleague for their opinion. A second pair of eyes will always help, especially if you’re sending something important!

Alastair is a freelance writer and has supplied this article on behalf of Communicaid a communications skills consultancy which provides courses for business writing

 

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