3 Elements of Effective Business Email

Have you ever received an e-mail message saying something like this:

“I need the first quarter sales reports”

or have you sent such a message? There’s no greeting, no thank you, no signature, nothing to make the message look professional.

There are many people who use e-mail a some sort of instant-messaging system. They think they can dispense with basic communication principles by using a couple of smilies and an “lol”.

Like any form of communication, the business e-mail you send tells the recipient a great deal about you. The old “first impression” adage applies to email just a much as a face-to-face meeting. If you are inconsiderate in your email, that’s what people will remember about you. If you approach e-mail with professional business attutude, that’s how the reader will see you.

Every email you send should contain three basic elements:

  • A Greeting – Even if it’s as simple as “Hi”, you start off your message with a positive tone. Mobile e-mail users might use a shorter greeting to save key strokes, while desktop users have opportunity to add a name to the greeting.
  • Courtesy – If you require something from the recipient, ask politely. Learn the word please. Ask for the information; don’t demand.
  • A Signature – Always end with a “Thank You” or “Sincerely”, then your name and business name. This is quite simple. Every e-mail client —whether desktop or mobile— has the option to set an automatic signature. Take a moment to configure that setting and every message you send will have a closing without having to type anything extra.

You don’t know what benefit may come from your next e-mail message. Make sure it is conveying the best impression of you.

Enhanced by Zemanta

3 V’s of Confident Communication

Communication is more than talking. It’s a two-way process of sending and receiving messages: verbally and nonverbally. Communication is vital to personal success. Now matter how much you know about communicating,

Communication

Communication (Photo credit: P Shanks)

there always seems more to be learned.

At its most basic, your message has three main components: visual, vocal and verbal. To improve your communication style, choose one skill to practise daily and after a while it will become natural.

Visual

1. Eye contact – increasing eye contact makes listeners feel you are interested in them and genuine about the subject you are comminicating.

Practice

    : In your next 5 conversations, notice where you look and how long (should be 5-15 seconds) or ask someone to evaluate or video tape you.

2. Facial expressions, gestures and body movements – make up over half of the message you are communicating.

Practise

    : Notice in your next conversation how much impact different body movements have on the person you are communcating with. Example: Try standing with your arms crossed, leaning back against a wall with a frown on your face. Does this get any different response than standing with your arms bent and your body leaning slightly forward smiling or nodding as the person is talking?

3. Active Listening – show genuine interest in the person talking and listen in the way you would expect them to listen to you. Watch for signs that indicate a change in mood or their loss of interest.

Practise

    : Paraphrase what someone has said to you to be sure you understand the meaning. Ask questions to get further details.

Vocal

1. Tone of voice – make it match your message. If you are talking about a sport you are passionate about, a monotone voice would not be appropriate. Add enthusiasm and emphasis to parts of your conversation.

Practise

    : record your voice and evaluate where more emphasis or feeling may be added.

Verbal

1. Word choices – words only carry 7% of the message, but choose them carefully as sometimes they have different meanings. Example: Betty never thought much of it when she told her husband, “I’m at Sandy’s, we’re having hot dogs for dinner,” until her husband showed up at Sandy’s with hot dogs in hand. She realized he had interpreted what she said differently than what she intended. Use words that are specific to the points you are trying to make.

Practise

    : make list of words used that could be interpretted more than 1 way.

2. Use “I” messages – take ownership and send clear messages about how you feel about something. “I” messages are a description of what you say, do and hear. Avoid accusatory remarks like “you never listen” or “you’re so messy”. Instead, express how the situation makes you feel.

Practise

      : Consciously make an effort to start sentences with “I”.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tips for leaving a good out-of-office message

Whether it’s time to get away from the office on vacation or business takes us on the road, the influx of email or phones messages rarely stops.

A little bit of preparation before you leave will ensure less to worry about on return. A good out-of-office message is a must. A well-prepared message can go a long way to decrease the backlog of messages waiting for you when you get back to work.

A good out of office message has three parts:

  1. Dates of your absence. Let the contact know when you are out of the office. It helps them decide what their next step is going to be; whether to wait for your return or to direct their request elsewhere.
  2. Reason for absence. I like to let my contacts know whether I am on a business trip or vacation. A business trip means I am connected to the office in some way and might be able to respond to a message. If I’m on vacation, I’m out of contact range.
  3. Who to contact in your absence. I try and leave contact information for alternate contacts when I am out of the office; a minimum of one up to as many as are needed.

Just because you leave an out-of-office message, it doesn’t mean that you have communicated to the sender. There are three things you should keep in mind when composing the message. It should be:

  • Complete: give all the detail necessary. Don’t say, “I’m out of the office” or “I’m gone for two weeks.” Make it precise. “I am away from the office starting July 1 and will be back July 15. The same applies to your alternate contacts. Let the sender know who to contact and how to get a hold of them.
  • Concise: keep it as short as possible while still making it complete. Use short, bulleted phrases. People don’t want to be able to read a novel during your out-of-office reply.
  • Clear: make sure it’s easy to understand. Don’t use abbreviations, job titles or internal jargon that will not be understood by everyone sending you a message.

Rather that coming back to a packed e-mail in-box and a full voice-mail box, spend a few minutes crafting a useful out-of-office message and people will be able to redirect or park tasks appropriately.