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4 Tips for Job Interview Success

by Alan De Back

With the start of the new year, many people decide that the time is right for a job change. Because the market is so crowded with job seekers, you need to distinguish yourself from the competition during the interview process. In addition to preparing for possible questions, how will you use all the skills in your communication toolbox? Here are four job interview tips that will give you an edge.

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Why Every Organization Needs a Data Visualization Plan

 

Our friends over at Litcom are doing some interesting work, helping their clients get the most out of their data. If you feel your organization could take advantage of a tool that helps you present decision makers with simple visualizations showing the relationships among data from different systems, please share this blog with your colleagues in Marketing or Information Technology (IT).

 

by guest blogger Steve Litwin from Litcom

It’s no secret that data is one of today’s most valuable business assets, and organizations collect a seemingly infinite amount of it. The challenge, however, is that much of that information remains isolated in individual systems: your sales and marketing data resides in your CRM (customer relationship management system), your ERP (enterprise resource planning system) tracks your supply chain and inventory, your financial system tracks the flow of money and creates statements. With this kind of partitioning, it’s tough to put data to work and find meaningful trends across systems to help management make the best decisions.

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Positive Tone: It’s How You Say It

positive tone

by Leigh Geraghty

When asked about their business writing challenges, many of our workshop participants say they have trouble with the tone of their message. Tone is how you describe the emotional quality of writing. It reflects the writer’s attitude towards the reader, and affects how the reader will respond. Writers tend to put a lot of effort into sounding competent and professional, but aren’t always sure how to create a positive tone.

Three choices for tone

When it comes to tone, you have three choices: positive, negative or neutral.

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Crafting a Helpful Out of Office Message

email auto-responder

by Jody Bruner

Holiday season is about to begin, and we will all soon be enjoying some vacation time. But with the exception of statutory holidays, business carries on, and your business associates need to know if and when you’re available. In our Email Essentials workshop, we teach you how to use your out of office notification effectively to communicate your absence any time you’re away. This helps you manage expectations and helps your clients and colleagues avoid the frustration of expecting a quick response while you’re away. If your autoresponder is clear, complete, and gives your readers the information they need, they will be grateful.

What information should you include in your out of office email? This depends on your role in the company and the industry you’re in. Consider these ideas when you think about what your network needs to know:

  • The dates of your absence, and especially the date of your return. I always appreciate it if the writer spells out the dates (I’ll return Tuesday, January 3rd instead of 01/03/17). Be precise—avoid saying you’ll be gone for two weeks or returning next Monday. Instead, say you’ll return on January 3rd.
  • Who to contact for an urgent matter. An out of office message might offer contact information for someone who can handle an emergency in your absence. This gives a sender with an urgent issue the ability to move forward. If you work in a large company and have a few staff members on your team handling different areas, include a list of relevant names, email addresses and phone numbers.
  • If you’ll be checking your inbox. Let people know if and how frequently you’ll be checking email (once a week, once a day, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, etc.) and when they can expect a response to urgent requests. Of course, this means you have to follow through as promised.
  • The reason for your absence. This isn’t always necessary, but it might be a good idea to let people know if you’re on vacation or on a business trip. If you’re at a conference or taking a course to improve yourself by building skills or knowledge, explaining this in your out of office message only builds your credibility.
  • Make sure your message is complete, concise and correct. Use white space and bullets if needed. I always appreciate being able to quickly scan a message to find the information I’m looking for.

Here are some examples:

Example 1

Vacation Alert!

I will be away until Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017.

I’ll be checking email occasionally and will have limited ability to respond. If this is an urgent matter, please contact Jane Smith at jane.smith@company.com (222 333-4445)

Have a wonderful holiday season.

Sandra Johnson

Example 2

Thanks for your note.

I’m away at a plain language conference from Monday, November 28th to Friday, December 2nd. I will respond to your email when I’m back on Monday, December 5th.

If you’d like to speak to someone right away, please contact Francine Melody at 222 333-4444.

While we’re on the topic of vacation alerts, our office is gearing up to slow down for the holidays. Wavelength offices will be closing on Tuesday, December 27th and opening again on Tuesday, January 3rd.

Have a great holiday season and a happy New Year!

5 Things to Know About Your Non-Technical Audience

presentation to non-technical audience

by Jody Bruner

Technical writers often find themselves needing to make important recommendations to clients or business readers who have little or no technical knowledge. Being able to get through to a non-technical audience is crucial because you need them to quickly make the right decisions for the right reasons. Missing the mark can derail important projects, hinder progress and erode your credibility.

The secret to communicating with your non-technical audience is having a deep understanding of their needs and prior knowledge, and using this knowledge to plan your message strategically. Knowing your audience helps you satisfy their needs without compromising the integrity of your message.

The following questions come from our Writing Technical Reports workshop’s Situational Analysis. It’s a tool for analyzing your purpose, audience and context as you create your message.

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10 Tips for New Grads: How to Succeed at Your First Job

communicating first job

by Jody Bruner

Last post we discussed how high impact writing can help land your dream job. Here, we are going to focus in on newly graduated millennials. While an astonishing 87% of new graduates see themselves as prepared to enter the workforce with the skills they gained from their education, hiring managers don’t agree.

A recently released study from PayScale (an on-demand compensation data and software company) and Future Workplace (an executive development firm) shows that 44% of managers feel writing proficiency is the hard skill most lacking among college graduates, and 39% feel presentation skills is the second most lacking.

Communicating on the job is different from the communicating you did at school. You’re not writing or speaking to show your understanding or that you can argue a position in the same way you did while you were in school. Still, once you are working, you’ll find your day is full of communicating: writing emails, having conversations and thinking critically to move projects forward. Mastering these skills is what we teach.

Here’s some advice to pass on to any new grads you know.

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High Impact Writing and Your Job Search

high impact writing job search

by Alan De Back

Over many years as a career coach, I’ve discovered that the most qualified person does not always land the job. You may have great credentials, but your lack of high impact writing skills could eliminate you from consideration.

How you present yourself in writing is critical to making the first cut. Whether writing a resume or editing your LinkedIn profile, a high impact writing style sends a message of energy, enthusiasm, and professionalism.

What are the most important elements of a high impact writing style?

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When Concise PowerPoint Slides Aren’t Enough

by Nancy Lefneskipowerpoint slides tips

In our presentation skills workshops, we ask participants what they find most frustrating about other people’s presentations. They invariably say, “PowerPoint slides that have way too much information on them.” Yet when we suggest that presenters design concise slides using the 6 x 6 rule (keeping slides to a maximum of six points and six words per point), we sometimes hear that won’t work for them because:

  • they have to send the deck as a pre-read
  • they have to leave it as a takeaway
  • they can only have three slides total
  • they have to send it to people who won’t be at the meeting and who need a full briefing

If you are faced with similar challenges, consider the following strategies:

Give your audience time to absorb your slide

If you have busy slides, give your audience enough time to read them before you start talking. Try reading the slide to yourself twice. That should give your audience enough time to read and process the content.

As much as we like to think we can multi-task, audiences can not effectively listen to a speaker and read slides at the same time. If the presenter is talking while the audience is reading the slides, the audience actually absorbs less information than if they tried to do either task alone.

Create two slide decks

Create one deck of concise slides to project during your presentation and create a second slide deck for a pre-read or takeaway. This second slide deck can have busier slides that include the additional information you intend to add verbally in your presentation.

It might be easiest to create the full version first, then edit it down to key words for the presentation version.

Use the Speaker’s Notes feature

Create one deck of concise slides to project during your presentation and add details the reader needs to know in the notes section. Print your slides as “Notes Pages” for the pre-read or takeaway. To add notes, select “Notes” on the task bar at the bottom of the slide window.
If you are forced to use a busy deck that contains detailed charts and graphs, we recommend you summarize the key message from each slide in the speaker notes section. If you don’t and you leave it up to the reader to analyze the data, table or graph, they may come up with a different conclusion than you intended.

Focus your audience’s attention

If you are forced to project a chart or graph with a lot of information during your presentation, help your audience get the key message quickly. Before you show them the slide, tell them what they are going to see and what the key message is. For example, BEFORE you show them the slide, say something like, “Now that we’ve looked at the sales targets, let’s look at our sales results. We are above target in all areas except X and Y.” THEN show them the slide and tell them what column they will find X and Y in. Your audience’s attention will go directly to where you need it to go.

Remember, when you are designing slides, every choice has a consequence. Choose the strategy that is most likely to help your audience and help you reach your presentation objective.

How to Stay Limber While You Write

Business woman do stretch with laptop in front isolated over white background.by Lesley Nevills

If you find your muscles are tight and sore when you spend hours sitting and writing, try these tips for staying limber and releasing unwanted tension. You’ll be more creative and have an easier time writing when you can relax.

1. Breathe deeply

When we are tense and stressed we often hold our breath or breathe very shallowly. Remember to periodically take a slow deep breath and exhale fully. If I could only share one piece of advice learned from years of teaching and doing yoga, it would be to practice deep breathing.

2. Stand up and move 

Remember to move around at least once every hour. Even if you stand and roll your shoulders a few times, you will help release stress and any built up tension. You can set a reminder on your phone or computer to help you get into the habit.

3. Learn to recognize where you hold your stress

Take a moment to notice any part of your body that may be tense right now. Check your jaw, feet, neck, eyes, forehead, shoulders, back, hips, legs and stomach. Move that part slowly and notice what you feel. Then just let it relax and let that tension go. Keep it relaxed while taking several deep breaths in and out, slowly.

4. Do simple seated stretches

A quick and easy stretch can be very effective to ease muscle tension periodically. You can do a number of great stretches without leaving your desk. You will feel energized and invigorated so you can continue writing.

5. Let your mouth relax

We don’t realize how much tension we hold in our jaw and neck until we consciously relax this area. By softening your mouth, tongue and jaw, you can relieve unconscious tension. Part your lips slightly, swallow and relax your tongue.

6. Release shoulder tension

Here is a technique to try: Take a deep breath in and while you do raise your shoulders up towards your ears. As you exhale rapidly, drop your shoulders down. If you want even more release, make some noise while you do this exercise. Sigh, humph or say ah!

Do you know any other strategies? Please share if you do.

Four Tips for a Successful Sales Meeting

by Leigh Geraghty

If you ever have to sell a product or service to internal or external prospects, you will find yourself at sales meetings or having to give presentations. I’ve learned that to be successful at selling, you need to “shut up and listen.” An effective sales meeting or presentation should be a dialogue or conversation, and in the spirit of dialogue, you should talk less than half of the time. You need to get your prospects talking, listen to what they have to say, and then respond in a way that shows you were listening.

Here are four strategies that have served me well in my career selling to both internal and external prospects:

1. Ask questions

Prepare key questions in advance. Salespeople often launch into a presentation without making sure they understand what their prospect cares about. Instead, open by asking questions to learn about your prospect and their needs. For example:

  • What happened that led to this situation?
  • What specific examples can you share that demonstrate your concerns?
  • What must we consider in the solution we provide?

Then, continue to ask questions throughout your presentation to confirm your assumptions, check for understanding and assess how your prospect feels about your product or service.

2. Pause frequently

Encourage your prospect to ask questions throughout. Their questions will tell you a lot about their interests.

Welcome interruptions. Pay attention to your prospect’s body language. If they appear to have something to say, pause and give them a chance to speak.

3. Listen more than you talk

Pay attention to what your prospect is saying, and jot down key words and phrases. Incorporate their language. Tailor your talk to focus on their needs, concerns and interests. For example, talk about how your product or service will solve their specific challenges.

By listening more than talking, you will follow the 80-20 rule and ensure that 20% of your presentation is about you, and 80% is about your prospect, their situation and their needs.

4. Keep it brief and focused

Don’t ramble. Deliver each key point briefly and succinctly. Then give your prospect a chance to comment and ask questions. Respond to questions and check for understanding. Once you are confident that they understand a point, move on.

Become comfortable listening more and speaking less, and you’ll feel more confident that you are proposing the best solutions. Your prospects will reward you with more trust, more sales and greater success.

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