Communicating Like a Pro

urlThese days, everyone is all about efficiency. Our professional and personal lives move much faster than they did fifty or even twenty years ago. Computers connect us to clients and customers from around the world instantly, and we start biting our nails when it takes more than a few hours to receive a response to an e-mail. This efficiency has deeply impacted our communication in and outside of the office.  While it is important to keep up with the modern methods of communicating, it is crucial that as professionals, we continue respecting the workplace environment as one of cordiality and accuracy.

In September 2015, SVAM hosted a Lunch-N-Learn on Professional Communication with General Dynamics in Marion, Virginia. We gathered some tips from the speaker Melissa Hite, Assistant Professor of Business at Mountain Empire Community College, and further researched ways to keep you on your toes and out of trouble when it comes to workplace interactions.

Here’s the scoop:

  • You should always ask someone how he/she prefers to be communicated with-Sometimes this can be a happy surprise. Didn’t think that the Baby Boomer at work would be open to a quick text that you are picking up the coffee for the Monday meeting? It turns out she’s been texting for ages! The point is this-ask people how they would like to be reached and always try to meet their communication needs as long as it is appropriate for the circumstances. The positive impact here is two-fold, people appreciate being listened to, and you can save yourself a lot of potential headaches by finding out ahead of time that Julie from accounting never checks her voicemail, but has her e-mail up 24/7.
  • E-mail etiquette 101– We all know the struggle that is having your e-mail box overflowing by 10 a.m. every day. We can all do our part to curtail this problem by practicing circumscription when sending our e-mails. Basically, we should only send e-mails on a need-to-know basis. Melissa Hite, suggests the following:
    • Your e-mail should be addressed to the person who needs to act (whether that means complete a project, attend an event, etc. )
    • Cc’s are for those who need to know but don’t necessarily need to do anything.
    • Bcc’s are reserved for instances where you need to cover your bases and let someone know you’ve acted without letting other recipients know.
  • Emojis/Emoticons are reserved for personal interactions. Yes, you may know your manager well, but it is not appropriate to send the :p face to him. Of course you may practice your own discretion when it comes to emoticons, but as a general rule, they’re a no-no in the office. This is a great way to avoid simple misunderstandings or to have co-workers think of you as unprofessional.
  • ALL CAPS MEANS YOU ARE YELLING!!!!! Never use all caps in a professional e-mail. Reserve bold text for highlighting important information such as dates, times, locations and other factual information. If you need to use an exclamation point (which should be rarely) use ONE! You wouldn’t yell at your co-workers in person, don’t do it in writing.
  • Spelling, grammar, typos…This one is pretty self-explanatory, double check your writing!
  • Think before you click. Did you get fired up at the morning memo? The worst thing to do is to type a quick, sassy response and send it out into the cyber-sphere. The only thing worse than being hot-headed when someone says something to you in person, is being hot-headed in writing, where your rude slip-up is preserved for professional posterity.

A lot of these rules might be different for your company. That is one great thing about the modern world, our workplaces vary greatly, and the accepted communications styles at each may differ accordingly. The important thing is to remember that respect is still the key when it comes to professional communications.

Posted by:

Marika Miller

Resources:

Melissa Hite. Writing the Right Way, Lunch-N-Learn. September 29, 2015.

Digging deeper:

Business & Professional Communication: Principles and Skills for Leadership (2nd Edition). Steven A. Beebe and Timothy P. Mottet.

How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age. Dale Carnegie and Associates.

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The Toastmasters Journey

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If you go to www.toastmasters.org one of the first things you will see is the slogan, “Every Toastmaster’s journey starts with a single speech.” Upon first glance at Toastmasters, an individual might think this is a club simply to enhance your public speaking skills. An image that may come to mind is that of a room full of people with notepads and pens in hand, ready to document your every slip-up. This thought pattern couldn’t be further from the true Toastmasters experience.

General Dynamics in Marion, Virginia hosted a Best Practices Event for the Southwest Virginia Alliance for Manufacturing to showcase the benefits of having a company hosted Toastmasters Club. The meeting was also an Open House for General Dynamics employees to visit the Speaking Dynamically Toastmasters Club and learn more about what being a member would be like.

General Dynamics offers their Toastmasters club as an employee benefit. The company pays an employee’s membership dues and participation is on a volunteer basis. The atmosphere of this particular club was very inviting. Participants interacted before the meeting as if they were lifelong friends. During the meeting, humor found its way through the very professionally structured hour. Tracy Peery, Senior Human Resources Specialist, spoke about how the club provides a way for people within the company, who may never have otherwise crossed paths, to meet and get to know one another.

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Many of the benefits of being a member of a Toastmasters Club aren’t obvious at first glance. A person may think the club is only about learning to speak publicly. While speaking publicly is certainly a major benefit, it is only one of the great things that can be taken from club participation. Developing leaders is a major aspect of Toastmasters. According to their website, “By regularly giving speeches, gaining feedback, leading teams and guiding others to achieve their goals in a supportive atmosphere, leaders emerge from the Toastmasters program. Every Toastmasters journey begins with a single speech. During their journey, they learn to tell their stories. They listen and answer. They plan and lead. They give feedback—and accept it. Through our community of learners, they find their path to leadership.”

Tracy stated that it is entirely up to the club member to determine how involved he or she may want to be. The program has two tracks: communication and leadership. The two tracks are not mutually exclusive; a participant can engage in both at the same time, if desired. Club members can volunteer to take on necessary roles for the meetings such as General Evaluator, Speech Evaluator, Timer, Grammarian, and more. These roles provide club members with an opportunity to be on the other side of giving a speech, thus developing their own public speaking and leadership skills.

Toastmasters club members become a part of a supportive group of people who share a common desire: to improve communication and leadership skills through practice, peer feedback, and objective evaluation. The friendly, yet structured environment provides tools for professional development that couldn’t be found elsewhere. If you’re looking for a venue to develop yourself or your employees, Toastmasters just might be the perfect place to do that.

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Posted by:

Lennie Gail Mitcham

Companies who may be interested in chartering their own club can go here for some more information: http://www.toastmasters.org/Membership/How-to-Start-a-New-Club.

 

Resource: www.toastmasters.org