How to Nail Your Next Skype Call

There is no question that technology has integrated itself so seamlessly in the world of business that almost no business transaction can be completed without its use. The need to keep up with the world of technology has never been so pronounced, especially when it comes to your career.

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A relatively recent technology that has proven extremely valuable in the world of business is Skype. If you are unfamiliar with it, it is a software application that allows two people who have access to a computer to contact each other via the Internet; the webcam is also frequently used for video calling. Skype has allowed people from around the world to video-call each other for free.

More and more, Skype is becoming a convenient way of conducting meetings and interviews when a face-to-face situation is not possible. An interview over the phone is one thing, but the ability to see the other person is invaluable (we all know how important body language can be, especially in an interview setting). Skype interviews and meetings can sometimes be unnerving, so here we offer you some tips for the preparation of your next Skype call, so you can be as prepared as possible and nail it!

It’s all in the preparation

  • Although you may be in the comfort of your own home or office, that does not mean that you do not have to adequately prepare because you may have access to notes or documents that might help you through the call. It’s good to have some notes jotted down, but do not rely on them to get you through.
  • Because the individual on the other end of the call can see your home/office, it is integral that you clean before the interview! What will a potential employer think when he sees the messy room behind you?
  • Be sure to always use the washroom before your call. This may seem silly, but it won’t when you’re in the middle of explaining why you are the best candidate for the job and you have to excuse yourself to visit the restroom. This can be easy to forget, as you are already in a familiar setting.
  • Be sure to have anything you foresee yourself needing during the call at your nearest disposal. For example, it is always a good idea to have a glass of water nearby.
  • Be sure to do a test call just before your scheduled call to ensure that the framing of your computer is right, and that the lighting in the room is perfect.

Because of the comfort often associated with a Skype call (you are often in your safe space), it can be easy to forget some basic principles of a traditional job interview, such as adequate preparation, and even your self-presentation. It is important to remember, however, that the stakes are always high, and that the way you prepare for and present during a Skype call has profound and lasting effects on your executive presence!

Is “best” the worst way to end an email?

You may or may not have stumbled upon the article in Bloomberg News which claims that “best” may in fact be the worst way to end an email. Email etiquette consultant Judith Kallos states that “…best is benign. […] It works when you apparently don’t know what else to use.” Others continue to bash the signoff, saying it is impersonal, abrupt and charmless, amongst other things.

Email on computer

The experts quoted in this article believe that the best way to end an email is by saying nothing at all. But is that really the case? Not saying anything at the end of an email can come off as curt, short, and even forgetful. It can possibly even come off as rude.

 

What’s the best way to sign off?

Well, that depends on the situation. The experts interviewed for the original piece discussed emails as if they were all the same. They did not make any distinctions in terms of whom the emails were sent to, who was doing the sending, or what the subject matter was.

The most important thing to think about when you’re signing off on an email is who you’re sending the email to, and what the email is about. It is important to know your audience and what they might expect to hear based on what was discussed in the email. If you’re sending a formal email complete with documents and a report to your superior, it is not appropriate to just say nothing. However, if you’re in an ongoing conversation with a colleague and are emailing back-and-forth throughout the course of the day, it may be acceptable to forgo a formal sign-off.

Some alternatives to “best”.

If you’re looking to switch up the routine a little, here are some suggestions on other signoff’s you can try out:

  1. Regards: simple, straight forward, to the point. Also, not too personal, such as “warmest regards” or “kindest regards”, which is fine if you’re emailing someone with whom you have a closer relationship.
  2. Thank you: this can be a great way to sign off with anyone, especially someone you may not know very well, or in an email in which something was asked of the receiver.
  3. A custom sentence: you don’t always have to sign off with one or two words. A short sentence of four to five words may suffice as well. For example, a signoff sentence could be: “Have a wonderful day,”, or “Thank you for your consideration,”.

Emails, as simple as they can be, are also quite complicated. They have become part of our daily lives and our identity as a career professional, and are a direct reflection of our professionalism and executive presence. You spend time and thought on the body of your email, and it’s important to do the same when it comes to your sign-off, as it is the last thing the receiver will read.

Etiquette for The Summer Barbecue

Summer is the long-awaited and much anticipated season; dresses, patios, and of course, summer barbecues. In recent years, barbeques have grown in popularity as an easy, fun, and delicious way of getting people together. They have also spilled over into the professional world and have become an informal setting for colleagues get together outside of the office

bbqOffice barbecues can be a great place to get to know your colleagues, and perhaps even your superiors, on a more personal level, given the informal and relaxed setting.

Although the term “barbecue” holds many connotations (such as informal, fun, relaxed, and beer), there are still some etiquette rules to abide by, especially when the barbecue in question is one filled with colleagues and/or superiors. Many of the same rules in effect at a holiday cocktail party still hold true at an informal barbecue.

Never arrive ravenous

 It is important to not show up to the barbeque on an empty stomach.

  • Think of the barbecue as an incredible opportunity to network in a new space – and a comfortable one at that – where others are likely feeling relaxed and happy. Can you say the same when you are trying to network in an office setting? Don’t focus all your time on the food!
  • Have a few snacks before you arrive, so that you’re not immediately drawn to the food. Of course, it is important to indulge in what is offered so as not to offend the host.
  • Start with a small portion of what is being offered (don’t bombard your plate with a mountain of BBQ’d ribs). If it was so delicious that you must have more, make sure others have eaten first before getting seconds.

Do not drink in excess

It is sometimes easy to drink one-too-many beers when you’re in someone’s backyard, on a bright and sunny afternoon. However, you must keep in mind that this is still a work function, and there are lots of important eyes on you.

  • Pace yourself with the alcohol. After each drink, switch to a glass of water, and try to limit yourself to two, maybe three drinks total.
  • Try to stick with one kind of alcohol throughout the barbecue. As the widely known rhyme goes: “beer before liquor, makes you sicker.”
  • Snack throughout the barbeque – if you’re going to be drinking for a few consecutive hours, it is imperative that you are also eating (which is also why it’s a good idea to have some snacks before you arrive!).

Try to reach everyone, at least once

Barbecues can be a gift for those who might struggle with the idea of networking. It is much easier to network, and get to know others, when everyone is in a wonderful mood, relaxing in the sunshine and drinking sangria.

  • Try to connect with everyone at the barbeque at least once. If you talk to the same group of people throughout the event, think of all the potential new contacts you didn’t
  • Although you likely work with most of the people at the party, colleagues may have brought guests. It’s always a good idea to bring business cards so that you’re prepared if and when someone asks you for your information.

Just like any other office party, barbecues can be a great place to relax, enjoy, and get to know your colleagues on a deeper level. Although they are often informal and casual, the same etiquette rules of a fancy Christmas party still apply! Remember, if you’re surrounded by colleagues and/or superiors, you’re still working!

Set Goals to Reach Executive Presence

 

Executive-PresenceAs we teach at Corporate Class Inc., Executive Presence is neither exclusive nor elusive – it can be learned. Still, a powerful presence is not something that you can acquire instantly without guidance or practice. You must take time to understand and incorporate Executive Presence into your life while building your reputation to go with it.

However, do not let this discourage you from pursuing Executive Presence. Instead, set achievable goals and identify stages on the path to developing an impressive presence – and suddenly it will seem easier than you think!

Here are a few helpful milestones on your path to Executive Presence:

  • Attend an Executive Presence Training Program or Seminar
    When you attend a half-day, one-day, or two-day intensive training program, you gain a solid foundation on which to build your Executive Presence. We provide you with knowledge of all the components of Executive Presence as well as opportunities to practice them in a small-group setting.

    With our training on all aspects of Executive Presence, including interpersonal and digital communication, non-verbal cues, executive dining, workplace best practices, professional image, and more, we set you well on your way to reaching your goal of developing Executive Presence.

  • Update your wardrobe
    Once you understand how to achieve your look of success, act upon it by updating your wardrobe, accessories, and makeup tools accordingly. For example, does your wardrobe match the workplace culture and dress code of your current position? Do your garments appropriately fit your body type and your personal style? However you answer these questions, swap out the items that do not put forth your best professional image. Even investing in 1 to 2 polished and appropriate pieces can go a long way for your image.
  • Attend networking sessions to sharpen communication skills
    Do not simply practice your interpersonal communication skills at random when the occasion arises. Instead, purposefully attend networking sessions so that you can sharpen these skills. Start by working a room – learn to enter a room while feeling at ease yet confident and strong. Also make a point to introduce yourself to several strangers and engage in small talk. The more often you do it, the more natural it will feel.
  • Practice conducting business over a meal
    Just as you can practice interpersonal skills at networking events, schedule a business meeting over lunch in order to refine your executive dining. Start by inviting a close colleague or friend to a meal, so that you can focus on best practices for business dining in a low-pressure situation. This way, when you are meeting an important client or contact over lunch or dinner, you will feel in control.

    Watch our video on 5 Business Dining Etiquette Tips to learn more.

After you develop your Executive Presence foundation at a training program or seminar and then apply your skills in real-life scenarios, your Executive Presence will become increasingly stronger over time.

Additionally, with these single initiatives working together, ultimately Executive Presence will come naturally to you and you will have built a winning reputation. Focusing on small, achievable goals makes the path to Executive Presence attainable for anyone!

 

Work Efficiently, Not Hastily

Have you ever heard the phrase “haste makes waste”? There is truth to this expression, especially in the workplace – as making decisions and producing work too quickly can have negative effects. However, getting caught up in a rush can be difficult to avoid: the fast-paced environments of many workplaces demand immediate results.

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How, then, do you reconcile the requirement for prompt action and production with high-quality work? There are a few strategies to take so that you can work efficiently but not hastily.

When Making Decisions

Especially for major decisions, a hasty choice made with poor judgement can have repercussions that carry far into the future.

  • Even if a decision requires a fast response, ensure that there is enough time for proper reflection and consideration of possible results. This not only includes your own reflection, but also implies that there is enough time to reach all other individuals who should be consulted in the process.
  • Ensure that everyone involved in the decision-making process agrees on an appropriate timeline to reach a conclusion. This will set expectations and clarify uncertainties. If you do not set a proper timeline, certain individuals may feel more urgency, stress, and anxiety when an answer isn’t reached within their expectations.

When Responding to Emails

The immediate nature of email sets the tone for constant and prompt communication. However, do not be tempted to send messages quickly that may require further contemplation.

  • For simple emails such as meeting requests, it is fine to respond promptly. But if a question or request over email demands a more lengthy response, don’t feel tempted to type as fast as you can to appear efficient to your contact. Under most normal circumstances, a good benchmark for responding to emails is within 24 hours. Use that time to think about how to convey just what you want to say.
  • Never send an angry email in the heat of the moment. If you are in the midst of a confrontation and type an emotional response, do not hit send – instead, save the email to your draft folder and revisit it a few hours later when you are calmer. Chances are, you will revise the email or start over from scratch.

When Producing Work

The quality of your work reflects directly on you as a professional. Ensure that it is a positive representation of your abilities.

  • Proofreading a document, spreadsheet, or report can take as little as 5 to 10 minutes. If a close colleague can spare a few minutes, ask him or her to look over your work as well. Taking even a small amount of time to ensure you have done a good job can make a huge difference. For more on this topic, see our previous post, “How the Little Details Matter for Executive Presence.”

Adding time for proper reflection and review of your work does not have to compromise your promptness and efficiency. Instead, it will prevent you from working in a hasty, thoughtless manner – and your conscientiousness will enhance your presence in and out of the office.

 

Accessing Employee Training: The Canada-Ontario Job Grant

If you own a business or are in a high-level position at your company, providing training for your employees can often enhance their natural skills and teach them invaluable new ones that will propel them forward, which in turn will enrich and strengthen your company. Executive training can help boost networking skills, communication skills and can enhance an employee’s ability to build authentic business relationships. In addition, executive training can help keep employees and employers up-to-date on current business best practices.

Four times a ythe-importance-of-further-training-and-education-for-employees1ear, Corporate Class runs an extremely comprehensive two-day seminar on executive presence for leaders and executives. Our program covers the A to Z’s of executive presence in two very packed days. During the first day, participants will learn the ins and outs of executive presence, discover the importance and power of first impressions, enhance their communication skills (including body language and interpersonal skills) and will learn how to do business over a meal (complete with a full dining tutorial). The second day includes training on virtual presence, professional appearance, and executive best practices.

Naturally, it would be wonderful to be able to put all of your employees through the program, however the cost of the program could be perceived as a barrier. There’s good news: on March 28th, 2014, the Ontario government signed the Canada-Ontario Fund Agreement with the federal government. This agreement is a meant to help Ontario’s employers develop their workforce through employer-led training. In essence, the grant provides financial support to individual employers who are seeking to purchase training for their employees. The grant will provide up to $10,000 in support per person, and will require employers to contribute only one-third of the total costs. The only stipulation is that your company must be incorporated. The application must also meet all requirements (which are listed on the website). The highest priority will be given to the applicants in Tier 1, seeking training support for new or better job and training for employees on notice of lay-off. For applicants in Tier 2, funding consideration will be given if there is available budget (training is for incumbent employees and employers who have received prior COJG funding in the last 6 months). Finally, for applicants in Tier 3, consideration will only be given if there are no pending applications in Tier 1 and 2.

The next two-day program that Corporate Class is holding will be August 13th and 14th. Here, you’ll find the link to our site with more information about the program, as well as a brochure you can download for a more comprehensive list of what will be covered over the two days.

If you’re interested in sending your employees to our two-day program, but would like more information about the Ontario Job Grant, please click here.

 

 

In Honour of National Etiquette Week – Back To The Basics


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This week, America is celebrating National Etiquette Week, which is a national recognition of etiquette and protocol in all areas of day-to-day life, including business, social, dining, travel, technology, and international protocol. There are various events being held across the country, but the focus is to raise awareness about etiquette and to encourage people to act with courtesy,
respect and dignity.

Unfortunately, Canada does not have an equivalent to National Etiquette Week, however that does not mean we can’t celebrate alongside our neighbors to the south! In honour of National Etiquette Week, this post will offer some back-to-the-basics reminders of a few very fundamental aspects of etiquette – the things we often forget or don’t deem necessary, but are in fact the building blocks of etiquette, and the foundation of our EP.

A few simple reminders:

  1. Handshakes: handshakes are often the first point of physical contact between you and a colleague or someone you’re meeting for the first time, and therefore they are of crucial importance. Remember to always offer your hand right away as a gesture of respect and acknowledgement. It is important to shake the other person’s hand firmly and to make full contact with their hand (no half handshakes, please!). Your handshake says a lot about you, so practice it with friends or colleagues.
  2. The dining table: of course there is enough here for many blog posts, however I will touch upon a few basics, things we may often forget are important. Never begin eating your meal until the host has started eating theirs; that is your cue to begin. This may go without saying, but no elbows on the table! Not only is it rude, but it also gives the impression that you have bad posture. Perhaps most importantly, don’t ever chew with your mouth open, no matter how informal the meal. It is rude, lazy, and not very appetizing! Lastly, don’t forget to place your knife and fork in the proper finishing position: knife on the right, blade facing in, and fork on the left, in a 10 and 4 position.
  3. Eye contact: one might not initially think that eye contact has much to do with etiquette at all, on the contrary, it has everything to do with it. When you hold eye contact with someone who’s talking, you are actually showing him or her that you are listening and paying attention. It shows respect, awareness, and that you’re interested in what they have to say. The same is true the other way around; if you are speaking, hold eye contact with your audience, no matter how big or small, as it shows that you care about what you’re talking about, and it will help engage your audience so that they begin to care as well.

National Etiquette Week should be celebrated everywhere; etiquette possess no boundaries. Take this week and challenge yourself to pay attention to your manners, etiquette, and overall presence. Don’t forget the little things, because it is those little things, such as basic table manners, which truly speak to your Executive Presence.

 

 

The (Often Dreaded) Conference Call: Survival Tips and Tricks

Conference calls are often an inevitable part of any major company’s management system, and they are, more often than not, a dreaded exercise for those involved. We live in an age where we expect instant gratification and in which we’ve developed short attention spans; we anticipate our questions being answered immediately, we expect those to whom we’re talking to listen effectively and react accordingly, and we hope (and often expect) that our problems will be solved promptly. This is due, in large part, to the age of technology. Technology, such as email, text messages and Internet on-the-go, has led to this sense of entitlement, this desire for instantaneity. During a conference call, the likelihood of instant gratification is slim, and your full attention is required to get the most out of the call. It is imperative that you take this into account and adjust your behaviour accordingly in order to protect your EP (executive presence).

conference call        The reason why instant gratification is unlikely during a conference call is simply due to the amount of people on the phone at the same time; there are many opinions on the line, many voices to be heard, and many questions to be asked and answered. Our egos can often get in the way and we may abandon what we know to be good, professional behaviour in order to get our thoughts heard. We may also think that our EP is protected because our colleagues can’t see our face, but that is not the case.

Of course, every conference call has a different purpose, however there are some simple tips and tricks that can help you make it through your conference call, all while protecting, and perhaps even enhancing, your EP.

Conference call tips and tricks:

  1. Keep excellent track of conference call dates and times, as missing a call due to disorganization definitely doesn’t enhance your EP. It is also often a good idea to call in a few minutes early to ensure you will be on time.
  2. Eliminate background noise! There is enough going on over the phone already without the need for those on the call to hear your Starbucks barista grinding coffee beans for ten minutes.
  3. Remember, you can’t read body language over the phone. That’s why it’s so important that you ask for clarification if you’re not sure what a colleague meant. We can often tell, by a person’s body language, if what they are saying is positive, negative, or neutral (or something else for that matter), but this gift is not available to us over the phone.
  4. It is important to always state your name before speaking. Because all attendees are not in the same room together, it is important for the effectiveness of the call that all members know who is speaking.
  5. Wait your turn to speak. Interrupting someone mid-sentence can be perceived as a huge EP blunder.
  6. If, however, you feel it necessary to interject because you have something integral to add, it is important, to protect your EP as well as your colleagues confidence and ego, to bring the conversation back to what they were saying before you broke into the conversation.

It can often be harder to protect and enhance your EP over the phone, mostly due to the lack of visual cues that are so integral to thorough and complete communication. That is why it is imperative that you take the necessary steps to adopting proper conference call etiquette – these manners and communication skills will serve you well over the course of your career, and can often translate into the physical workspace.

 

Complaining with Grace

complaints-buttonIt is important to be able to voice your opinion when issues or concerns arise. The main point to consider here is how you deliver your opinion or complaint. On one hand, a complaint can be constructive and help to solve a problem. But when poorly executed, a complaint can damage relationships, create tension, and reflect negatively on the person behind the opinion.

 

Here are some points to consider before lodging a complaint of your own.

Complaining on the Internet

  • Social Media
    If you are ready to launch into a tirade on a public forum on the web through a LinkedIn post, a tweet, or a Facebook status update, consider your motives first. Will a public complaint on social media reach its intended ears and solve the issue that bothers you? Or are you simply venting frustration, sending out your woes to anyone who will listen – whether or not they are your intended audience?

    Posting general complaints on social media always have the latter effect. This approach could lead to an array of negative impacts on the individual who posts directionless and unfiltered complaints. With such a wide audience, there are bound to be users who will see such thoughtless complaining as poor form. This will hinder the reputation of the individual who launched the criticism.

    Further, venting online means that other users in the future can see this negative attitude broadcast on social media. If this happens to be a prospective client or employer who hopes to connect with a positive, constructive individual, it could damage chances of future business or employment.

  • Private Email to Appropriate Contact
    If you hope to solve an issue using the Internet, an email to the right contact – whether that is the person at the root of the problem or an appropriate intermediary, like the HR department – is the safest way to go. Keep in mind, however, that an email also is never a completely private forum, as it can be forwarded, printed, or made public. In this case, write an email using facts – not feelings – to describe the issue, and send it with a goal in mind. Problem solving, not venting, is the objective.

Complaining in the Office

  • Loud Tirades in Public Spaces
    Just like posting woes recklessly on social media, loudly expressing frustration in an open area of the office or another public space will never have a constructive effect. This is a monologue that others will inevitably overhear – whether or not a complainer can see them in the vicinity.

    Especially if a complaint is about a person or a group of people, this usually will be perceived as gossip. This type of information is much more sensitive than technical or operational issues, as others’ feelings and reputations are at stake. If you have a complaint about an individual’s conduct or behaviour, do not express it in an open space for others to hear.

  • Private Meetings
    Instead of a monologue toward anyone who will listen, opt for a dialogue. Meet privately with the individual who is at the root of the issue. It also helps to have an unbiased third party, such as an HR professional, who can mediate the conversation and ensure that it does not escalate into petty arguing.

Even if someone or something distresses you, remember that how you express your frustration always reflects back on you. Protect your reputation and complain with grace.

Internal Communication and Respect: Just as Important As External Relations

article-new-thumbnail_ehow_images_a01_ur_gr_win-employees-respect-800x800Have you ever been to a shop or a restaurant and spoken with a friendly, helpful manager – only to watch that manager turn around and speak rudely to his or her employees? At that moment, did the store or restaurant suddenly lose its credibility? Think about this situation and apply it to your own company: does your organization respect its employees as much as its external clients and partners?

Even for companies that prioritize customer service and external relations, it is essential to foster positive internal communication and respect for employees. Without a strong internal foundation, external relations can’t follow suit – and external contacts will notice fissures in an organization that has weak internal relations. Also, an organization likely will have less focus and lower quality outputs if internal staff does not communicate well or feel appreciated.

Here are a few strategies to consider for improving your company’s internal communication:

  • Invite different forms of communication.
    While certain employees might feel that a face-to-face discussion is the most effective way to communicate, others may be more comfortable with email correspondence. As management, suggest different forms of communication through which employees can reach you or their supervisors directly. In addition, resources such as staff-wide forums (online or in-person) or informal monthly gatherings keep multiple communication channels open – and set the tone for a culture of communication.
  • Provide clear solutions for problem solving.
    It is important for employees to know where to go or whom to speak with when issues arise in the office. Otherwise, small problems occasionally can grow into job-threatening issues. The most obvious solution is having a strong and approachable Human Resources department. Ensure that HR employees are at the top of their game through professional development training and conference opportunities
  • Promote interdepartmental communication.
    In most companies, various departments rely on one another to complete their own work, whether directly or indirectly. However, many departments end up working in silos with little to no understanding of the objectives of other teams in the same company – even those working right down the hallway. Through team-building solutions and company-wide events, promote interdepartmental communication.

    It is important for staff to understand how their work fits within the work of the whole company as well as how it contributes to the efforts of others. With a better collective understanding of the overarching institutional objectives and strategies, employees will be able to pinpoint how their work contributes to the company as a whole – thereby finding more meaning in their own work.

  • As management, find ways to respond to employees directly.
    Simply because of the overwhelming number of responsibilities for executive-level staff, it is often necessary for an assistant to respond to emails and manage the bulk of the communications. Occasionally, however, it is important for employees to be able to reach company leaders directly. Employees should know that upper management is aware of the work and that it matters to the success of the company. Even a brief encouraging email to a department or an acknowledgment on a first-name basis can make a difference.