Browsing Date

August 2013

4 Ways to Be a Better Public Speaker

By August 30, 2013 No Comments

You have a huge presentation coming up and you’re more than a little bit nervous. How will you make it a speech to remember? Lisa Braithwaite, public speaking coach and author of free e-book 101 Tips to Improve Your Public Speaking, offers a few pieces of advice.

Interact with the audience

The best speakers are those people who can create a relationship with their crowd. Braithwaite recommends asking questions and telling stories that are relatable and relevant to the topic at hand.

“We all grew up hearing bedtime stories; it is how we learned about the world,” she says. “We still learn that way. People enjoy hearing stories that they can apply to their own lives.”

Speak with confidence

An audience is more likely to pay attention if you act confidently. This can be difficult if you suffer from stage fright, but as Braithwaite explains, practice makes perfect.

“Find little ways to practice public speaking,” she suggests. “Go to a networking event where you will be required to stand up and give a 30 second introduction. Or do a reading at your church. Or get involved in a committee at your child’s school. Try to get used to being the center of attention.”

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Don’t wait until a few days before your speech to consider its content. Instead, Braithwaite advises public speakers send out an online survey to audience members a few weeks in advance of the event.

“A survey will help you find out what they need, want and care about and tailor your presentation to them,” she says, adding that she likes to use SurveyMonkey to send out her surveys.

Another preparation tip: If you can, always visit the space where you will be presenting ahead of time. It will help you visualize the upcoming event and make you more comfortable, day-of.

Embrace stage fright

Does your heart start to beat quickly and palms begin to sweat just before you go on stage? If so, don’t worry. Almost everyone feels this way, says Braithwaite. The best way to deal with stage fright is to embrace it as part of the process. Accept that you will feel that way, but also know that those feels are easy to manage.

“The best way to manage stage fright is by realizing that an adrenaline rush is actually a good thing,” she says. “Take athletes as an example. Many Olympic athletes feel that if they aren’t at least a little nervous ahead of their event, they won’t do very well. That proves true in business, too.” 

public speaking


8 Rules of Business Email Etiquette

By August 29, 2013 No Comments

email-integration-2Most of us send dozens of emails per day, some of them for personal reasons, others for professional purposes. As Rachel Wagner, certified corporate etiquette consultant, trainer and speaker, explains, there are a few important rules to live by, especially when sending a business email.

Rule #1: Always be professional

“A business email should reflect the same style as a business letter with a greeting and a closing,” she says.

Even if the message is part of a long email string, it is good to keep a professional tone, regardless of how casual the other exchanges may be.

Rule #2: Make it brief

No one likes to read a novel of an email. To keep your reader’s attention, make your email short and to the point.

“Keep your paragraphs between two and four sentences and focus on putting your points in bullets or numbering them,” Wagner suggests. “This will make things much easier to read on a screen on smart phone.”

Rule #3: Be careful when replying

Most of us feel that we get too much email in the span of a workday. Lessen the pain for others by being selective with the “reply to all” button. Only use it when necessary, Wagner recommends. Send the email to the person it is intended for, not the whole office.

Rule #4: Re-read before sending

It can be incredibly easy to send an email quickly only to go back later and realize that your grammar was incorrect or that you misspelled a few words. Avoid these mistakes by taking a few minutes to re-read your email before sending it out, she advises.

Rule #5: Respond in a timely manner

“Try to respond in no more than 24 hours—its common courtesy,” Wagner says. “If you can’t respond fully, just write a short note saying that you are working on the request and will get back to them at a specified time.”

Rule #6: Don’t forget to attach documents

If you plan to attach a document, do it as soon as you refer to the document in the email. So often people forget to attach even when they indicate an attachment, Wagner says. It pays to attach right away so you don’t have to send a second email.

Rule #7: Avoid angry emailing

“We’ve all gotten emails that have made us bristle,” she says. “I recommend writing a response and then sitting on it for several hours, even overnight before sending. Put it in your draft box, re-read it and make sure it doesn’t sound too abrasive before sending.”

Rule #8: Know when not to send an email

When dealing with sensitive, even confidential information, consider alternatives to email such as in-person meetings and phone calls.

“Not everything should be done over email,” Wagner says. “Remember that email is not private, it can be sent to other people. So if you have a lengthy message to send or something you think may be misconstrued in writing, try an alternative mode of communication to get your point across.” 


How to Read a Customer Service Resume

By August 28, 2013 No Comments

It is sometimes difficult to discover if an applicant is the right person for the job by looking at their resume. Obviously, this document shows the person in the best possible way and there may even be some small “puffing” or exaggerations listed on it. Here are items you need to look for:

  • resumeName: Make sure that the person uses their full name including a middle initial. This is helpful when doing web research including social media especially if the applicant has a very common name.
  • Objective: Is it specific enough and does it include the job they are applying for? Objectives like “to contribute to a growing company in anyway” is not the work of a focused person.
  • Most recent experience: Many unemployed people start their own company when they are out of a job for a long period of time. Ask if they are the owner of that company even if it does not list them as CEO.
  • Titles: Applicants have a tendency to inflate their titles to “coordinator” or “manager”. Did the Customer Service Manager really manage anyone? Was a Senior Customer Service Specialist more experienced than others on their team?
  • Accomplishments: Are they really qualified for this job? Watch for words like "led", "directed", and "created". Were they just “on the team” that did this or did they really lead the effort? For example, if the person lists that they created a social media customer service strategy, maybe they just played around on Twitter and Facebook. Watch when they quote percentages in this area. Exceeding a goal by 100% may mean something or it may just be window dressing.
  • Time gaps: Are there gaps in their resume for period of times where they did not work? Many times applicants leave out jobs on their resume where they were fired or it ended in an ugly way.
  • Education: Did they graduate with a degree or just take course work? If a school is listed with no degree, they did not graduate. Similarly, is the degree relevant to the job they are applying for?
  • Skills: Many skills listed include anything they can name or their training was so long ago, it is no longer relevant. During the interview process, test for specific customer service skills needed to be successful in this specific job.
  • References available upon request. Get these references at the first interview and ensure they are from past managers not peers.

What do you look for when reviewing customer service resumes?


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 5 Best Practices for Reviewing Employees

By August 27, 2013 No Comments

employee_reviewIf you’re like most small business owners, you dread the annual process of employee reviews. But really, you should welcome this time to talk to employees about what they’re doing right (and wrong). Done correctly, employee reviews can be a valuable tool that not only help your workers do their jobs better, but also help them feel more motivated and connected to your company.

Here are some best practices for performing employee reviews:

Set a schedule. Traditionally, reviews are done once a year, but these days, many businesses are doing reviews as often as quarterly. Frequent reviews make a lot of sense for two reasons: Business is changing more rapidly, meaning an employee’s role and duties may change more often than once a year; and Millennial employees, who make up a growing share of the work force, typically require frequent feedback to be most effective.

Create standards for employee performance. Develop a review form you will use during the process. (You can find sample review forms by searching online and adjust them to your needs.) Make sure your standards are measurable—for instance, a customer service employee might be ranked on how many calls or contacts they handle, what percentage of issues are resolved on the first contact, and how the employee is rated by customer feedback.

Get input. Anyone who directly supervises the employee should have input into the review process. You can also consider doing “360-degree” reviews. This means getting feedback from everyone who interacts with the employee, including not only supervisors but also co-workers, vendors and customers.

Get feedback from the employee. Before their reviews, have your employees complete part of their review forms allowing them to rate their own performances and share any goals for the coming review period (such as learning a new skill). This will give you an idea of how realistic they are about their own performances.

During the review, be specific about any problems that need to be resolved. If there is a major issue, develop a plan for how the employee can improve and put it in writing. Have the person sign the document and make sure he or she clearly understands the steps for improving, the time frame and what the result will be if he or she doesn’t meet the new goals (whether another warning, suspension or termination). If you are promoting employees, or if they’re getting bonuses or raises, let them know the details and when the changes take effect. Have them sign the review form and keep it in their records.  



The 7 Scariest Business Statistics

By August 26, 2013 No Comments

Running a small company can be a pretty scary business. The odds of succeeding are certainly not in the owner’s favor. Here are 7 scary statistics and what you can do to beat the odds.

  • 55% go out of business. Depending on the industry, only 45% of start ups are in business after 4 years. In the information services business, the survival rate is only 37%How to beat the odds: Focus on customers who have the pain your company solves. Stay in an industry where you have relevant experience. Watch your cash flow monthly.
  • 78% of all small businesses have no employees. Most companies in the US are just single people and can’t afford to hire additional employees. How to beat the odds: Build a company, not a job. Hire people that can to do tasks that can leverage your valuable time.
  • For every month that a company does not communicate with their customers, they lose 10% of their influence. Most companies only talk to customers when they want to sell them something. How to beat the odds: Set up a systematic marketing plan that automatically sends information of value to customers to reinforce your brand.
  • The average company loses 50% of its customers every 5 years… the cost of replacing them can be 6-7 times more expensive. Most companies are too busy trying to get new customers to come in the front door that they let existing ones leave out the back door. How to beat the odds: Provide amazing service so customers have no reason to leave.
  • Executives waste 7.8 hours each week in meetings. Small business owners have far too many meetings that are not useful to the company. How to beat the odds: Never enter a meeting without an agenda, a time limit and action items. Not sitting down will also keep the meeting shorter.
  • 91% of the customers say they’d give referrals — but no one ever asks. The  company never asks satisfied customer for their help in finding people like them. How to beat the odds: Annually, ask satisfied customers for at least one referral. It can also be put in a service contract as part of the fee!
  • Average compensation for an owner is $82,257. While this may not seem that low, remember that their average debt is almost 50% higher than the ordinary consumer. How to beat the odds: Watch gross margins and fixed expenses. Don’t forget to pay yourself along with other employees.

What is the scariest business statistic you know?