Archive for communication

Effective Email

Posted in Office Management, Virtual Assistance with tags , on December 15, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Email is a fundamdental part of our daily lives and it is important to communicate effectively via this medium without being misunderstood or misconstrued.

How to communicate powerfully by email

There are a few simple rules to ensure that your emails are read in the first place and stay useful to the recipient.

Subject Lines are Headlines

The headline in a newspaper does two things: It grabs your attention and informs you what the article is about so you can decide whether you want to read further. Email subject lines need to do the same thing.

Use the subject line to inform the receiver of EXACTLY what the email is about in a few well-chosen words. You might include a call to action such as “Please respond by 7 November”, and if your message is one of a regular series of mails, such as a weekly project report, include the date in the subject line too.

Because everyone gets emails they do not want (spam), appropriate use of the subject line increases the chances your email will be read and not deleted without so much as a glance.

Of course, just as it would be ridiculous to publish a newspaper without headlines, never leave the subject line blank.

Make One Point per Email

The beauty of email, compared with letters, is that it doesn’t cost any more to send several mails than it does to send one.

So, if you need to communicate with someone about several matters, write a separate email on each subject. That way your correspondent can reply to each one in the appropriate time-frame. One topic might only require a short reply that he or she can make straight away. Another topic might require more research. By writing separate emails, you get clearer answers.

However, as with traditional business letters, the email should be clear and concise, with the purpose of the email detailed in the very first paragraph. Sentences should be kept short and to the point.

The body of the email should contain all pertinent information and should be direct and informative.

Specify the Response You Want

Make sure to include any action you desire, such as a phone call or follow-up appointment. Then, make sure you include your contact information, including your name, title, and phone numbers. Do this even with internal messages: The easier you make it for someone else to respond, the more likely they are to do so.

Be a Good Correspondent

If you regularly correspond using email, make sure to clean out your email inbox at least once each day. This is a simple act of courtesy and will also serve to encourage senders to return your emails in a timely manner.

If a lengthy response is required to an email, but you don’t have the time to pull together the information required now, send a holding reply saying that you have received the message, and indicating when you will respond fully.

Always set your Out of Office agent when you are going to be away from your email for a day or more, whether on leave or because you’re at meetings.

Internal Email

Internal email should be checked regularly throughout the working day and returned in a much quicker manner as it often involves timely projects, immediate updates, meeting notes, and so on.

Nonetheless, internal emails, just like other emails, should not be informal. Remember, these are written forms of communication that can be printed out and viewed by others than those originally intended for. Always use your spell checker, and avoid slang.


Good presentation tips

Posted in Management / Leadership with tags , , , , on August 28, 2010 by virtualcitypa

There are four aspects of a good presentation that we should all be aware of: 1) The purpose of the presentation is chrystal clear 2) The message is concise 3) Well prepared 4) Vivid message delivery

Understand what you want to achieve.

Before you start working on your talk or presentation, it’s vital that you really understand what you want to say, who you want to tell and why they might want to hear it. To do this, ask yourself: Who? What? How? When? Where? Why?

When it comes to wording your message, less is more. You’re giving your audience headlines. They don’t need to and are usually not expecting to become experts on the subject as a result of hearing your talk.

If you’re using slides, limit the content of each one to a few bullet points, or one statement or a very simple diagram

Be prepared

Preparation is underrated. In fact, it is one of the most important factors in determining your communication successes.

Of course, not all communications can be scheduled. In this case, preparation may mean having a good, thorough understanding of the office goings-on, enabling you to communicate with the knowledge you need to be effective, both through verbal and written communications.

Unforgettable delivery

Your delivery of your speech or presentation will make or break it, no matter how well you’ve prepared and crafted your clear, concise message. Some useful tips for keeping your presentation vivid include:

  • Use examples to bring your points to life
  • Keep your body language up-beat – don’t stay stuck behind a rostrum
  • Don’t talk to fast. Less is more here too. Pauses are effective.
  • Use a variety of tones of voice
  • Use visual aids.

We thank for this insight to effective presentations

Remember more – differentiate yourself

Posted in Management / Leadership with tags , , on June 18, 2010 by virtualcitypa

We are all guilty of going to networking events and meetings where you are introduced to new people and “bang” – you’ve forgotten their name… It’s a classic situation – yet with so much to memorise it really is possible to improve how much you can remember.

The key idea is that by coding information using vivid mental images, you can reliably code both information and the structure of information. And because the images are vivid, they are easy to recall when you need them.

You can do the following things to make things more memorable:

  • Use positive, pleasant images. Your brain often blocks out unpleasant ones
  • Use vivid, colorful, sense-laden images – these are easier to remember than drab ones
  • Use all your senses to code information or dress up an image. Remember that your mnemonic * can contain sounds, smells, tastes, touch, movements and feelings as well as pictures.
  • Give your image three dimensions, movement and space to make it more vivid. You can use movement either to maintain the flow of association, or to help you to remember actions.
  • Exaggerate the size of important parts of the image
  • Use humour! Funny or peculiar things are easier to remember than normal ones.
  • Similarly, rude rhymes are very difficult to forget!
  • Symbols (red traffic lights, pointing fingers, road signs, etc.) can code quite complex messages quickly and effectively

* ‘Mnemonic’ is another word for memory tool. Mnemonics are techniques for remembering information that is otherwise quite difficult to recall: A very simple example is the ’30 days hath September’ rhyme for remembering the number of days in each calendar month.

The idea behind using mnemonics is to encode difficult-to-remember information in a way that is much easier to remember.

The full article goes into further depth at

30 seconds to make an impact

Posted in Business start up, Sales with tags , , on January 14, 2010 by virtualcitypa

“What do you do?” is a question that can put even the most seasoned business brain under pressure. Craig Fisher, founder of business consultancy The Sales Expert, explains how to put together a concise and compelling elevator pitch.

In today’s mobile business climate you never know when an opportunity is going to present itself. You will probably only have one chance to paint the best picture of your business to a prospective client or partner.

Your elevator pitch helps you to articulate the essence of your business in the fewest possible amount of words. What do you do? Who do you do it for? What does this mean to them?

These are the questions that you need to answer in the time it takes to take a lift from the ground to the top floor. Don’t alienate your target with a deluge of facts and figures; your objective here is not to close. It is to lay the foundations for the opportunity to do so.

Without an elevator pitch your explanation of your business is likely to become a drawn out response filled with needless detail. Effective elevator pitches, particularly in busy surroundings, get straight to the point. Don’t give your target time to get distracted. A short, precise presentation is perfect for those ad hoc opportunities.

Your pitch should be no more than 30 to 40 seconds in length. When structuring it consider the following outline, adding short details relevant to your business:

1. We work with…
2. Who have a problem with…
3. What we do is…
4. Which means that…
5. So that you can…

The first two sections are pretty straightforward. It is likely that your company may have more than one offering; however, limit yourself to your flagship product and in the third section focus on the collective purpose behind all your services.

The final two sections are dedicated to the benefits, both long- and short-term. These are vital to any proposal but should also be succinctly expressed during an elevator pitch. It is important that your prospect does not have to do too much thinking. The sooner they see the value of your business the more likely you are to progress with the sales process.

The delivery is as important as the content within your elevator pitch. Clear and confident communication is a must, so get as much practice as you can. Always refresh and rehearse your pitch until it screams value and conviction.

Avoiding spam filters

Posted in Business start up, Sales with tags , , , , , on September 25, 2009 by virtualcitypa

When you launch an email marketing campaign you are competing against a great number of other emails for attention in the mailbox. As well as legitimate emails you also compete with a huge number of spam email promotions. In fact, studies have shown that around 65 per cent of all emails sent are spam emails.

It’s no surprise then that everybody is fed up with spam and now businesses and individuals are doing something about it. In a lot of cases, they are setting up spam filters to get rid of the junk.

Spam filters can be used straight out of the box or set up to prescribed tolerances.  As a result, an email that gets through one spam filter may not get through another.  
Here are some helpful design tips to consider when you are putting your email campaign together that will help stop your communication being junked by spam filters:

•    A professionally designed email with the correct HTML code throughout will ensure your email looks its best in all browsers and you will avoid high spam scores for bad coding.

•    Make sure your email doesn’t have any missing or redundant code.

•    Don’t miss out the email title.

•    Spell everything correctly.

•    Ensure your email is not created solely as images.

This is a well know tool that spammers use to get past content filters.  Try to get a good mix of HTML text and images in your emails for the best results.

•    Always send a plain text version with your HTML email to ensure that if the recipient cannot use HTML or is opening it on a PDA or phone, they will still be able to view it.

•    Always try to ensure the plain text version matches the HTML version as closely as possible.

•    NEVER USE CAPITALS when you don’t have too. It’s even worse when whole lines are in capitals.

•    Avoid using italics and very large fonts.

•    Avoid using non standard colours.

•    Avoid forms in the email itself.

The text that makes up your email copy is also very important. Some words on their own or in conjunction with others can cause serious spam implications. Below are examples of words and phrases to avoid:

•    Dear Friend – either personalise properly or use Sir/Madam.

•    Free – Free offer, Free trial, Free application, Free sample, Free access, Free anything can cause spam problems, especially when used in capitals.

•    No obligation.

•    No risk, low risk, risk free.

•    “Click here” or “click below”.

•    Order now.

•    No catch.

•    Money back guarantee.

•    Click to be removed.

•    Have you been turned down?

•    Never mention spam or spam legislation in your emails.

Finally, we recommend running your email through a spam checker that will tell you if your email will be considered spam or not.  You should also set up test accounts at commonly used email sites such as Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL to see if your email comes through into the inbox or the spam box.

Effective Communication

Posted in Management / Leadership with tags , , on July 24, 2009 by virtualcitypa

Good communication skills are essential in buiness and everyday life.  To work successfully with your VA, communication will be critical to the success of your working relationship and this is an area we look to improve on every day.

Being an effective communicator takes real skill. Communication skills have to be developed, honed and added to on an on-going basis. They are the heart of interpersonal skills and the greater your awareness of how it all works, the more effective your communication will be.

To be effective in business, you have to communicate well. To be a good manager, you have to communicate exceptionally well.

Communication Core Skills – The Essentials

    * Communication is Individual
    * What can get in the way of Effective Communication
    * Conflict Resolution
    * Improving Communication Skills

Communication is Individual

We’re Not All The Same
When you look at communication, presentation skills are not all there is to it. Far from it. Everyone communicates differently and sees the world differently. The greatest skill you can have in order to instantly and significantly improve you communications skills is to understand the other person’s point view and how they see the world. Then you can adjust your own communication to take that into account.

Change Yourself to Change Others
Alongside this has to be the knowledge that the only person you can be sure of changing in any communication is you. Therefore, the most effective way to be in charge of what happens in any communication dynamic is changing what you do. When you can do this you are well on the way to promoting better relationships.

You are the Only One of You
There’s never one right way to communicate. Authentic effective communication always happens when we reply on those things we know to be true about or for ourselves. Remember your personal style probably says more for you that all the words you use can.

What’s Already Working?
Most people tend to look at what’s wrong with themselves and other people rather than focusing on what already works. Remember, something (more than one thing, of course) has to be working well for you to have got this far already!

What can get in the way of Effective Communication

We all make Too Many Assumptions
Be aware of the assumptions you make, especially making something up and then acting as though what you made up was true. Notice if you alter your behaviour with certain people because of the assumptions you make about them. Also be aware of the assumptions you think other people make about you.

Assumptions aren’t necessarily ‘bad’. Sometimes it’s important to let people keep their assumptions (or some of them at least!) about you.

One effective way to deal with assumptions is to say to the other person, ‘I’ve assumed such and such. ‘Is that true?’ or ‘I’m making an assumption here about… Do you agree?’

Good communication in the workplace is often sabotaged by too many unconfirmed assumptions.

Patterns/Reverting to Type
We are pattern-making beings, which is good. However, sometimes we get so used to behaving and responding in certain ways that it’s hard to see that there’s any other way of doing things. When the pressure is on or we are under stress, even our best intentions may go out the window as we revert to type.

Habits, patterns, routine ways of thinking and behaving are difficult to change. Noticing your patterns at least gets you aware of them! One way to practise this is to see how many communication habits and patterns have crept into your workplace. Try not to judge them. You can always decide if you want to change them or not.

Needing to Be Right
This is one area we all know about – the need to be right and in turn for the other person to be wrong. One skill that does need practise is to let go of needing to be right. Think of it as presenting information or a point of view rather than having to bludgeon someone else with your arguments.

If you want to promote effective relationships, this is one of the greatest communication key skills you can have is to be able to change what you want from a communication. You may have started out wanting the other person to agree with you, but by giving that up you can change your want to letting them know you understand their point of view.

Conflict Resolution

One of the purposes of conflict is to arrive at a resolution, so if you avoid conflict, the problem usually (though not always) gets worse. The earlier you can identify that there is a problem and intervene, the better it will be. Good communication skills require you to be able to resolve conflict.

Find something (anything will do) in the other person’s argument which you can genuinely agree with. This is a great way to take the wind out of someone’s sails and ensure you don’t get drawn into an insoluble argument. People usually won’t listen until they feel heard.

Bridge Building
Really listen to what the other person is saying – they usually give a lot of information without realising it. Building bridges by making an offer can help enormously, as can changing what you want.

‘I’ not ‘You’
Use ‘I’ statements, not ‘You’ statements to avoid blaming. This also means that you take responsibility for how you feel, rather than making the other person responsible for making things all right for you.

Improving Communication Skills
You can change the direction of a communication if you change your attitude. There is no one attitude that’s the ‘right’ one to have, though being direct and clear certainly helps.

Effective Listening and Responding
You can have tremendous influence on a communication as the listener and the responder. When we get little or no response from the listener, we often project our assumptions onto them about what they are thinking (and usually we assume they aren’t thinking good things about us!).

Be Positive
Use affirmation and encouragement to get the best out of people. Notice when others do things well (even if it’s part of their daily routine). This shows you’re being attentive; most people respond well when they know that others are aware of what they do.

Quite simply, the workplace can be a far better place to be if you consciously sprinkle your communication with positive feedback.

The Importance of Basic Communication Skills
What’s most important is that you don’t leave the business of communication to chance. Raise your awareness, develop your skills and you’ll be a role model for effective communication.