Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Adieu 2017...

 
 
 
 

 
And thank you for the lessons learnt and for the opportunities given.


 
 


This year began with renewed hopes that things would get better. Having survived 2016, I was optimistic that there would be interesting, albeit unforeseen opportunities to be celebrated. So l was quietly optimistic.

 
 
As the year prodded on, I settled into the predictable paces of my personal and professional lives.
 
 
And that was fine.
 
 
I continued to blog, even accepting, with calm resignation, the familiar anxiety that materialized towards the end of each month when another blog post would be due, and when I would have no idea about what to write. I nonetheless persevered.
 
 
I bided my time and believed that my discipline in posting high quality posts would pay off.
 

 
It did.
 

 
It only took some five-and-a-half years, thousands of hours of reading/researching, and painstakingly churning out 78 posts, to get recognition for this blog.
 


 
 
But the journey was worth it.
 


 
Recognition for the Rethinking Business Communications Blog in 2017
 
Recognition came when Anuj Agarwal, the founder of Feedspot  emailed me in September, informing me that my blog had been selected as one of the top 30 communication blogs on the web. He congratulated me and provided more information.
 
 
 
A sceptic by default, I was immediately suspicious of the email After all, I hadn't submitted my blog on any site  for consideration of a ranking, neither was I aware of such an organisation.
 
 
Nevertheless, my curiosity was piqued so I clicked on the link provided. I browsed through the list, and when I recognised some highly respected communication blogs in the top spots, this blog's ranking became a big deal. I also realised that Feedspot was a legitimate RSS feed reader that was known in the field.
 
 
It became a bigger deal for me when I read that the selection criteria included Google reputation, Google search ranking and the quality of the articles.
 

 
Next came the realisation that the Rethinking Business Communications Blog was the only African blog to appear on that list.
 
 
I was stunned.
 
 
 

I was so elated and honoured that I shared the information in my networks.
 



 
Then just when I thought that the news couldn't get better, the prestigious Lagos Business School was informed of the award. They wrote a brief piece and posted it on their website. They also highlighted the award and my profile in their LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. Their support on social media was truly touching.



For more information about this award and the recognition it brought, check out the awards and recognition page.




The award—now conspicuously displayed on the homepage of this blog—serves as a reminder to me that hard work, discipline and passion pay off. It has also given this blog credibility, and this has gained me a new clientele.



Note that it took over five years for this blog's value in the field of business communication to be appreciated by independent evaluators. That notwithstanding, my commitment to providing consistent value to all readers, has been and will remain, unwavering.



I am truly grateful that the door of opportunity has been opened for me, and I believe that there would be more recognition for this blog in 2018.



So continue to watch this space.







Top Picks for 2017


In March every year when I celebrate the blog's anniversary, I list all the articles of the preceding year up until that point.



However, for all who may have missed some useful articles this year, below are my recommendations for the 2017 posts you should read. The tips they contain would be relevant to your careers.



1)  Career Advancement: Be the ‘Purple Cow’ 

Note how insights from Seth Godin’s bestselling book, ‘Purple Cow’, could help you advance your career by using the practical advice given.




2) An Open Letter To Management - From Working Mothers 


I am a working mother, so this post is somewhat personal.

Learn what makes these professional women tick for a more productive workplace.






3) Your Business Writing Skills - Where Do You Stand?

If this is the only article that you read this year about improving your business writing, then you would have covered all your bases.


In this article, I give away useful nuggets that are often only revealed in seminars or training sessions that I am paid to facilitate. This post thus provides undisputed value.






Conclusion



As I bid you adieu 2017, I remain appreciative of everything you taught me this year.



Indeed, I’m grateful for family, friends and good health.




To my blog readers and well-wishers: thank you for the support and loyalty.










I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a fun-filled, enjoyable New Year!


Adieu 2017!              





If you enjoyed this post, don't rush off just yet. Please remember to:



Ø Share this article in your social networks by clicking on the icons at the top or below.


Ø  Sign up for updates in the blog's right sidebar so that you are immediately notified via email when a new blog post is published. Don’t miss any more articles!





Need help with improving your communication skills?


Hire me for:


v  Communication training sessions for  your staff and executives;

v   Writing assignments (content creation, executive speeches, etc.);

v   Speeches and keynote presentations at your corporate events.




Let me help you get results.



Contact me:


A) Send an email to: Lucilleossai@gmail.com.

B) Call for a free consultation:

Nigeria:            0704 631 0592.
International:  +234 704 631 0592.

 




-------------------------------------------------


N.B:   First image is courtesy of Stuart Miles, via freedigitalphotos.net. Second image is courtesy of Jesadaphorn, via freedigitalphotos.net. Blog award is courtesy of Feedspot. Animation is courtesy of gifgifs.com.
 

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

The Case For Clarity In Business Communication







Knowing how to say what you mean, and mean what you say, should be as effortless as breathing.



In reality however, the process is as tiresome as watching paint dry.



Then there is the written word - knowing what to write, and how to tweak your written communication to meet your recipient's expectations should be straightforward. After all, Ernest Hemingway once quipped that writing was easy: all you had to do was to sit down at a typewriter, (substitute 'typewriter' for computer, laptop, tablet, IPhone etc.), and bleed.



To complicate matters, interesting research revealed that since 2000, the human attention span of 12 seconds has dropped to eight seconds, (less than that of a goldfish, at nine seconds). Whatever opinion you have about the study, know that the stakes are higher in this digital age. You would need to simultaneously hold the attention of your audiences, and communicate with clarity if you want results.


Therefore, before you proceed to craft that speech, organise that presentation, or  pen that document to inform/persuade your audience, note the statement below:



Communication is only effective when it either achieves a purpose, or brings you closer to completing a goal.



This means that the rationale for the communication should be at the forefront of your plans. With a defined objective, it becomes easier to achieve clarity in your overall communication.




Note also that the three beacons of effective communication---simplicity, brevity and clarity---are invaluable guides that will help you to fulfill your intentions.


Of the three beacons, clarity is often relegated to the fringe because it is mistaken for simplicity. Yet, without clarity, your communication will fail to prompt action.



So, what is the case for clarity in business communication?


Without clarity, you would 'die' a hundred times when delivering that address because from the nonverbal cues, you would know that you have lost your audience.



Or, you would 'bleed' in front of your desktop/laptop etc. when you realise that your written piece failed to convince your recipient, and consequently, that you are required to re-write the content.


In defence of this underrated beacon, below are the reasons you must seek to provide clarity in all your business communications:




1) Without clarity, you will not convince people








Imagine this scenario:



You have been invited to give a ten-minute address at the United Nations about how education in STEM-related fields (i.e. in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is instrumental to driving innovation in the 21st century.



Below is a breakdown of how your once-in-a-lifetime speech at the renowned international institution is regrettably structured:



First two minutes:

You gush on about how important the opportunity is for you and how grateful you are to have been selected for such an honour. You also briefly explain the selection process.



Next five minutes:

You narrate your inspiring overcoming-all-odds story. In particular, you emotionally share the accounts of your difficult childhood and early adolescent years. You however highlight how you overcame challenges. You also explain that by hard work and good fortune, you received a full scholarship for advanced studies in computer science and artificial intelligence, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the U.S.


Final three minutes:

You enumerate your most impressive professional feats and declare that you could attest to the many opportunities a STEM-related career brings.

You end by thanking your audience for their attention; and then you sit down - pleased as punch.



In that contented state, you do not notice the incredulous expressions on the faces of the distinguished audience members. Indeed, they are perplexed about your speech because it is unclear, from your background story or professional accomplishments, how STEM-related careers could drive innovation on a global scale, thereby translating to positive outcomes for all. (This is the United Nations, after all).



So, despite your eloquence and engaging body language, your communication fails to achieve its goal to inspire and convince people.



Do not be that person.




2) Without clarity, you will not drive people to take action






You are faced with another scenario:



You are a business owner and through a referral, you have secured a meeting with an influential U.S-based investor who is visiting your country. After a short, but successful pitch, the investor requests that you email him a brief note about the joint venture partnership you propose. He warns you that the email must be clear and concise, given that he receives hundreds each week and can only attend to a few.



Excited that you have proceeded to the next stage, you send the email below:


Dear Mr. Jones,


It was a pleasure pitching my idea to you two days ago.


As mentioned during our company's presentation, Venxot Ltd. has been a leader in the manufacture of bespoke African leather footwear for 20 years.


With an average annual turnover of $36 million, we operate in Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. Attached for your perusal are our audited accounts for 2017, as well as  our brochure.


Should you require further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Thank you for your consideration.



Sincerely,
Benjamin Smith
President
Venxot Limited
Mobile: +234 070 000 0000
Email:   ben.smith@venxot.com.



Now at first glance, the email does not look disastrous; it is written in a simple manner and in Standard English. It is also concise.



But that is where the good points end.



Two major flaws are evident in the piece:



I) Important details are missing


You did not mention the date or location of the pitch. Providing these details will help jog his memory given that he travels frequently.


Another concern is that you did not explain what your pitch was about. Your potential important, (and busy) investor, may have listened to other presentations since the time you delivered yours. There is also a possibility that your competitors might have pitched to Mr. Jones. So, how would he differentiate your business interests from the pack?


He would not be able to do so.


This means that your business will be considered irrelevant.




II) A clear call-to-action is absent


Not anywhere in the email did you clearly state what you wanted Mr. Jones to do.


Not once.


After reading your email, Mr. Jones will also be puzzled about what your business interests are.


Put yourself in the investor's shoes. Are you likely to respond and request for clarity, when other options are available to choose from? Is it not Mr. Smith's responsibility to communicate in a simple, concise and clear manner?


Furthermore, there is the perception that if you, as Mr. Smith, could not send a clear email about your business interests, how could you be trusted to handle an investor's finances?


Mr. Jones will thus be inclined to discard your email, unless you immediately email an apology for the gaffe and provide the relevant information.


Again, do not be that person.





Conclusion









Yes, it might be nerve-racking to speak with clarity at important functions. Nevertheless, by remembering the goal for your communication in your preparation, you would deliver speeches/addresses/presentations  that will inspire and convince people.



Similarly, for effective business writing, you must cultivate certain habits and stay the course. That notwithstanding, by using strong calls-to-action, you would successfully coax your recipients into action.



Be determined. Aim to boost clarity in your business communications, and you would soon be known as a professional who consistently delivers results. 




Over to you:


What other tips can you give for achieving clarity in your business communications?



Share your experiences in the comments below.


If you enjoyed this post, don't rush off just yet. Please remember to:


Ø  Share this article in your social networks by clicking on the icons at the top or below.


Ø  Sign up for updates in the blog's right sidebar so that you are immediately notified via email when a new blog post is published. Don’t miss any more articles!




Need help with improving your communication skills?

Hire me for:

v  Communication training sessions for  your staff and executives;




v Writing assignments (content creation, executive speeches, etc.);




v Speeches and keynote presentations at your corporate events.





Let me help you get results.




Contact me:

A) Send an email to: Lucilleossai@gmail.com.

B) Call for a free consultation: 

Nigeria:           0704 631 0592
International: +234 704 631 0592  



----------------------------


N.B: First image is courtesy of Master Isolated Images, via freedigitalphotos.net. Second and third images are courtesy of Stuart Miles, via freedigitalphotos.net. Last image is courtesy of Aechan, via freedigitalphotos.net.


Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Your Business Writing Skills- Where Do You Stand?





Facing an audience of male and female executives, some of whom worked in multinational oil companies and in other reputable organisations, I mouthed with some flourish:



"Nothing will kill your career faster than incompetent or ineffective business writing skills".



Having amended the original slogan from The Language Lab, I used it as my opening remark for the business writing sessions that I recently facilitated for a seminar.



As the audience visibly pondered on the veracity of my claim, I slowly repeated the sentence.


I explained that not only did I completely agree with the statement, I also believed that because business writing was so instrumental to our careers, we'd be required to write convincingly to  influence people at some point in our professional journey.



So whether you go on to conquer new professional feats, or fail miserably, will depend on your (in)ability to express your views to sway your audience to take the desired action.





And it wouldn't matter what role you have, or the sector in which you work.




Here's the thing about business writing:



It's difficult to write really well in the business context; so if you can hone this skill, you immediately differentiate yourself from the pack.



Below are some insights from my sessions:



1) To write well, you must take into account the other types of  communication





You can't write well without having a good understanding of the context that will shape your writing.



And this often means that you'd need to consider verbal and nonverbal cues, whenever appropriate. 



For example, if you're required to write a letter rebuking an undesirable behaviour, knowing what was verbally uttered and the nonverbal cues that accompanied the action, will guide you on how to word the letter.




Business writing shouldn’t  thus be done in a vacuum.




Moreover, in sensitive matters, a good deal of emotional intelligence is required to maintain a delicate balance between professionalism and empathy.




For example, in a case involving a tragedy, it might mean the difference in impact between the two options sent by your employer:





A) "Please accept our condolences on the loss of your loved one. Regretfully, because of time constraints, we must insist on your decision by 4pm".






B) "Please accept our condolences on the tragic loss of your loved one. We can appreciate that this painful circumstance is emotionally draining for you. Therefore, we would wait for a convenient time to be informed of your decision".



Despite your grief, you're likely to consider the second option more favourably; you’d also be inclined to promptly respond to that subtle request.



Comparatively, your reactions to the first statement may range from disbelief to disgust. You might even become emotional detached from your employer and reassess your continued tenure in the organisation.



Choosing the appropriate words, style and delivery in business writing may take time to master but with practice, you can write persuasively, even in delicate matters.




2) You need to replace bad habits with effective alternatives








We've been guilty of the following:


- Bad grammar, (made worse because we didn't know we were using bad grammar). Included here is the laziness to verify constructions that are suspect.



- Poor or nonexistent habit of reading good content.



- Persistent unwillingness to write. We either get people to write for us or we avoid writing altogether.



The habits above over time further weakened our writing. Then when placed in competitive environments, our ineffective writing skills lost us business opportunities or cost us promotions.



So while we're all educated and can write passably, we often struggle with writing effectively in the business context.



The solutions are simple but must be consistently applied. To change those bad habits, you should:



A) Brush up on grammar


Do some grammatical exercises online and brush up on the standard rules. The University of Bristol has an online section where you could do exercises, as well as read simple explanations about different topics on grammar. Do as many exercises as possible, beginning with exercises on punctuation marks, subject-verb agreement, and common confusions.


Another online resource, the Purdue Online Writing Lab is also useful for testing your understanding of grammatical norms.


Nonetheless, note that (re)learning good grammar in isolation is no more effective than memorising the dictionary and not putting that knowledge into practice.


Consider good grammar as a solid foundation. You must build upon that foundation by writing regularly to hone your business writing skills.



B) Read well-written content






You'd  never  improve your  business  writing skills  if you  don't regularly read good materials. I have stressed this point in several articles on this blog. Learn from  good authors by reading their work. 


Read every day. It doesn't matter what you read as long as it's written in foolproof English. Take your pick from short stories, novels, articles, magazines and influential business sources.





There's a reason that those who write them are celebrated.


Learn from them. 



C) Understand the three 'rules' of effective business writing 



I) Consider your audience


Your audience will determine the style you use and the vocabulary you choose.

Don't write anything until you address the allure of value for the recipient. To be a persuasive writer, you should consider the what's-in-it-for-me angle.



II) Aim for simplicity, brevity and clarity


These three 'beacons' of effective writing will sharpen your content and make it compelling.


Learn how to do it right. 



III) Proofread thoroughly and edit ruthlessly


Here, your (hopefully) improved grammar will become invaluable to your finished product. Proofread your work thoroughly. Read your piece audibly and slowly. You'd catch mistakes that the spell-check won't flag.


For your editing, eliminate redundancies and jargon. Be ruthless in pruning clutter, (words or phrases that add no value). Your writing would then become crisp and succinct. 



3) Become familiar with the structures of different types of business content



For report writing, the  six components of the RBCB Communications Strategy are useful to ensure clarity in your document. Consider incorporating them in your next report for speedier results.










To write  powerful emails that get results, ensure that your elements are clearly defined and that your call-to-action is undeniable.




Don't dread mastering formal writing. When you know the structure to use and the required 'protocol', you’d be able to write convincingly.
 



Conclusion 


I ended the business writing sessions by making what many might have considered a bold statement.


"Once you know the rules, there’s no one on this planet you wouldn't be able to write to".






And I meant every word.


I assured the participants that even though we were not all gifted with superb writing skills, we could always improve if we did the work.


But change we must because business writing skills are too important to leave to chance. Powerful writing skills advance our careers and businesses, just as ineffective writing stalls our progress.



Let's choose wisely.


Over to you:




Have your writing skills helped your career/business or deprived you of opportunities?




Share your experiences in the comments below.
 



If you enjoyed this post don't rush off just yet. Please remember to:
 

Ø  Share this article in your social networks by clicking on the icons at the top or below.



Ø  Sign up for updates in the blog's right sidebar so that you are immediately notified via email when a new blog post is published. Don’t miss any more articles!



Need help with improving your communication skills?

Hire me for: 


v  Communication training sessions for  your staff and executives;

 v  Writing assignments (content creation, executive speeches, etc.);

 v  Speeches and keynote presentations at your corporate events.


Let me help you get results. 


Contact me:  

A) Send an email to: Lucilleossai@gmail.com.

B) Call for a free consultation:  

Nigeria:            0704 631 0592
International:  +234 704 631 0592    



--------------------------------------------- 


N.B:   First image is courtesy of Zirconicusso, from freedigitalphotos.net. Second image is courtesy of Cooldesign, from freedigitalphotos.net. Third, fourth, fifth and sixth images are courtesy of Stuart Miles, from freedigitalphotos.net.