A Guide to Professional Communication...Continued
This is the fourth article in an ongoing series by Danielle Langdon about Self Identity.
In my last article I outlined a few tips for effective overall communication including the importance of listening, being specific and present, asking open-ended questions, considering your body language and adjusting according to your audience. In this article, I am going to continue that discussion by sharing best practices for four communication venues: email, video conferencing, formal presentations and interviews.
- Include a subject line, an introduction at the beginning of your message and your name at the bottom.
- Avoid including a long unnecessary email signature. Keep it as simple as you can.
- Before hitting send, check your grammar and spelling.
- Avoid using all-caps, bold or red font - these can be interpreted as signals of aggression in digital communication.
- It is difficult to read sarcasm in an email. Unless you know the receiver well, I would suggest avoiding sarcasm altogether. The same goes for abbreviations and slang terms.
- Make sure everything works ahead of time.
- Exchange phone numbers beforehand in case any issues arise.
- Set up your background. You should be seated in a clean, professional looking space.
- Be in a quiet location where you will not be disturbed.
- Don't look at yourself on the screen or your notes to the left of your screen - look at the people/person you're talking with.
- If at all possible, visit the room where you will be presenting ahead of time so you know how much you will need to project your voice, whether you will have a podium or not, etc.
- It is abundantly clear to the audience if you have not prepared. You should still remain flexible in case you need/want to adjust your talk as you go, but preparation ahead of time will help you adapt seamlessly in the moment.
- Avoid filler words. "Ummm" and "ahhh" do little to improve your speech, or your everyday conversations for that matter. Try to avoid using them in order to be more persuasive and appear confident.
- Organize your presentation with a clear beginning, middle and end. Well-organized speeches are easier to understand, easier to remember, more credible and more enjoyable.
- Perfect your presentation slides by:
- Using limited and large text.
- Choosing colors that make the text easier to read (high contrast).
- Making eye contact with the audience...not your slides or notes.
- Using bullet points on slides instead of full sentences.
- Keeping your graphics simple - don't have the text or graphics flying around too much.
- Avoiding charts and diagrams that are small or hard to see.
- Designing your PowerPoint to be a visual aid - not the entire show. Your slides should be justified by the content.
- Your body language is crucial. Try to be natural and have a good time connecting with your audience! For more comprehensive information, I recommend reading Toastmasters International "Gestures: Your Body Speaks, How to Become Skilled in Nonverbal Communication," 
- Don't be afraid to ask about a company's dress policy when you're invited for an interview. Consider saying, "I want to make sure I understand your company's culture and dress appropriately for the interview." This is not an uncommon question and it shows respect. However, when in doubt, overdressing is always better than underdressing.
- Be on time.
- Do your research ahead of time and come prepared with open-ended questions.
- Be honest, thoughtful and thorough in describing your goals, strengths and accomplishments.
- Conclude with a recap of your interests and inquire about any follow-up activities, communications and timelines.
The bottom line is, if you spend a little extra time on the front end of communication, you will likely reduce the number of problems you experience moving forward. You will feel more confident in your ability to connect with others and the result will be stronger, more effective professional and personal relationships.
 Toastmasters International, "Gestures: Your Body Speaks, How to Become Skilled in Nonverbal Communication," 2011. http://web.mst.edu/~toast/docs/Gestures.pdf
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