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.


The Importance of Creating Employee Respect with an Internal Communication Strategy


Understanding the impact of an internal communication strategy on your business is paramount. Have you ever seen a friendly manager treat their employees poorly? It can harm the company’s credibility. Similarly, if your organization doesn’t prioritize internal employee communication and respect for employees, it can affect external relations and overall quality.

The latest research on Executive Presence by the Centre for Talent Innovation reports that “respect for other” is one of the 6 top core traits of Executive Presence, mainly due to Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements.

A successful internal communication strategy is crucial. It ensures employees feel valued and empowered, leading to a more cohesive and productive workplace. By implementing strategic communication channels and tools, companies can foster engagement and align internal messaging with external communication.

Regular assessment ensures the strategy’s effectiveness and allows for necessary adjustments. Integrating new internal communication with broader strategies like engagement and content enhances consistency and supports organizational goals. Prioritizing an internal communication system ultimately boosts employee satisfaction and overall success.

Why Does Your Company Need Effective Internal Business Communication?

An effective internal communications strategy is the cornerstone of a thriving organization. It serves as the vital link between leadership and employees, fostering a culture of transparency, trust, and collaboration. Employees need clear communication strategies during their workday. Without clear channels for communication, employees may feel disconnected from the company’s mission and objectives, leading to decreased morale and productivity. Additionally, an effective communications strategy ensures that important information is disseminated efficiently, reducing the risk of misunderstandings and conflicts. By prioritizing internal communication, companies can cultivate a supportive work environment where every employee feels valued, heard, and empowered to contribute to the company’s success.

Developing a strong internal communication strategy and employee-to-employee communication strategy involves creating a template or action plan based on best practices. By understanding communication preferences and utilizing internal communication tools and channels, organizations can gauge the effectiveness of their internal communication program. This ensures that the strategy is working and supports the organization’s internal and external communication needs.

Strategies & Best Practices to Consider for Improving Your Company’s Internal Communication Plan:

Crafting an effective internal communication strategy is essential for fostering a cohesive and productive work environment. Incorporating communication best practices ensures that your organization’s communication goals are met, enhancing overall efficiency and employee satisfaction. Assess your current internal communication methods to identify areas for improvement and implement strategies to address them. Emphasize the importance of good internal communication by promoting transparency, active listening, psychological safety inclusiveness and regular feedback loops. By prioritizing clear and open communication channels, you can strengthen team collaboration, streamline processes and cultivate a culture of trust and accountability within your organization. The following are internal communications best practices to consider:

Encourage Diverse Communication Channels and Practices

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 and employee engagement. By embracing diverse communication practices, companies can ensure that every employee has the opportunity to engage in a way that suits their preferences and work style, fostering inclusivity and productivity across the organization.

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 can occasionally 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. Additionally, fostering a culture of open and successful internal communication and conflict resolution training throughout the organization can empower employees to address issues constructively and proactively, reducing the likelihood of conflicts escalating into larger problems. Patrick Lencione’s leadership model for teams encourages vulnerability-based- trust to avoid conflict and engage in healthy debate instead.

Promote Interdepartmental Communication in the Workplace

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, improving communication throughout departments. Encouraging the use of communication tools like instant messaging apps or shared document repositories can facilitate real-time communication and information sharing among teams.

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.

Establish Direct Lines of Communication from Management to Employees

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 improve internal communication. Moreover, establishing open-door sessions where employees can directly interact with leadership fosters transparency, trust, great internal communication and a sense of belonging within the organization.

Investing in an effective internal communication strategy is not just a matter of convenience—it’s a strategic imperative that lays the foundation for sustained growth and success. Our Breakthrough Point Certification Program offers communication training that will enable you to convey ideas and hold engagement in communication, enroll now to learn better communication practices.

Outstanding Professional Skills Training for Graduate Students & Post-Doctoral Fellows

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 7.46.24 PM Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 7.45.12 PMPost-graduate studies can provide an in-depth knowledge and expertise in a particular field. In any field, however, there is one common set of skills necessary for success: professional skills. Yet in many academic programs, there are few opportunities to refine these skills or enhance students’ abilities outside of the program requirements.

This is where the Mitacs Step program makes a difference. Mitacs Step provides professional skills development workshops for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows across Canada. The free workshops offered by Mitacs Step give students a competitive advantage as they launch their careers and enhance skills that will be necessary for a lifetime. Here at Corporate Class Inc., we excited to be part of this exceptional and accessible programming with our Business Etiquette and Networking Skills workshops in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces.

How Mitacs Step Lends a Competitive Advantage
The Mitacs Step program aims to build competencies for graduate and post-graduate students in four key areas that are recognized as essential for professional success. All of the Mitacs Step workshops address at least one of the following competencies; some address all four:

  • Leadership & Management
    From “big picture” management issues (such as influencing future outcomes, risks and impacts) to day-to-day organizational processes (such as planning, budgeting and performance management), participants learn skills necessary to lead and manage people and projects.
  • Communication & Relationship Building
    Working with people – and doing it well – is essential to success. Mitacs Step helps participants assess situations and communicate solutions, while fostering collaborative environments and offering constructive feedback to a team.
  • Personal & Professional Management
    For individual success, Mitacs Step aims to help students find self-management techniques to achieve their career and personal goals.
  • Entrepreneurialism
    Participants are encouraged to identify professional surroundings as a professional marketplace – then acquire the tools to take advantage of opportunities within that marketplace.

To address these four competencies, Mitacs Step offers a range of workshops that are hands-on and interactive and help students apply these skills to both academic and non-academic settings. Further, the workshops provide access to networking opportunities and industry expertise.

Corporate Class Inc. in the Mitacs Step Program
We are excited to be part of the Mitacs Step programming. With sessions on both Business Etiquette and Networking Skills, our team connects with graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in universities across Ontario and the Atlantic provinces.

  • Business Etiquette: This full-day workshop aims to increase awareness of how one’s actions and behaviours matter in building personal and professional relationships and reputation. The session begins with an overview on business etiquette. It then discusses the role of business etiquette in and out of the workplace environment, using technology appropriately, running and participating in effective meetings, and personal appearance.Click here to learn more about the learning objectives and key topic areas covered during the workshop.
  • Networking Skills: In the full-day Networking Skills session, participants gain insight on how to build and sustain professional relationships through effective networking. Participants then have the opportunity to try out the skills learned during the workshop during an in-session networking opportunity.

Click here to learn more about the learning objectives and key topic areas covered during the workshop.

We look forward to meeting you at one of the upcoming Mitacs Step workshops. For extraordinary skill development for emerging Canadian professionals, find a workshop here or share this link with a graduate student or post-doctoral fellow today!

Workplace Culture: What Defines it, Influences it and Why is it Important?

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Workplace culture: this general term is often used to describe the atmosphere of an office, and can be an indicator for workplace attire and other formalities of a company. However, workplace culture can encompass so much more than simply office attire – and can even influence the direction of your company. In this post we examine workplace culture, and what a good culture can do for your organization.

What defines workplace culture?

Workplace culture is influenced by the fundamentals of your company, as well as the daily behaviours of your employees.

  • The foundation of workplace culture is based on the foundation of your organization itself. The mission and vision of your company, its products and services, and the target audience or consumer of your company’s message all influence the way it is both projected to the public and reflected internally.
  • On a daily basis, your employees and colleagues also influence workplace culture. Their attitudes toward work, their behaviours and work habits, as well as their styles – in the broad sense of the term, which could include style of dress, character, communicating and more – all contribute to the overall environment.
  • Finally, the way in which the management team runs the company and treats its employees significantly influences the office culture.

What does workplace culture influence?

Workplace culture has an effect on both the internal employees and external stakeholders of an organization.

  • The feel of an office in turn affects how the employees feel – and function – on a daily basis. If a workplace culture is unwelcoming, overly formal, unreceptive, or any number of negative atmospheres, the employees will internalize these sentiments and perhaps even begin to reflect them. On the other hand, in an office that promotes good communication and strong but not rigid structure, staff usually will function well under these parameters.
  • Workplace culture also influences how clients and other external stakeholders perceive a company. On a superficial level, if a client steps in to a company on any given day, it should look professional and tidy. Additionally, workplace culture can indicate to a client or partner just how efficiently and effectively a team is working.

Why is a good workplace culture important?

Simply by reviewing the myriad components and effects of workplace culture, we can already see that the culture of an office can influence its success greatly.

  • In a good workplace culture, employees will thrive. An effective workplace culture will make employees feel comfortable, not only on a daily basis, but also in serious situations where a serious issue may arise and employees can trust that it will be handled appropriately.

For employees, an effective workplace culture also means that there is structure and professionalism, which will facilitate efficiency and structure in their own work. In turn, when employees thrive and feel valued, companies often see a higher retention rate and a greater value of work from its staff.

  • Also, no matter what the level of formality, from business casual to business formal, a good workplace culture means that a client or key stakeholder can walk in at any time and perceive the company as high-caliber and professional. Workplace culture is flexible and subjective, but good quality is not.

All employees influence the culture of their workplace, simply by their presence. Managers and other leaders of a company, however, have a truly significant influence by setting a precedent and creating a trusting and professional environment. If you are in a leadership role, reflect on how you influence your workplace culture – and if you have the power to make changes to improve it.

Learn more about workplace culture and Toronto workplace etiquette classes at Corporate Class Inc.


How To Facilitate Effective Meetings

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As a leader in your company, you will encounter various roles and responsibilities that will allow you to demonstrate your leadership. One example is in facilitating effective meetings. In a productive meeting, the organizer communicates their ideas while incorporating the valuable contributions from other participants, while simultaneously managing time and direction of the meeting to ensure efficiency. In doing so, the meeting facilitator demonstrates the ability to guide and contribute to the overall strategy of the organization.

Below are several tips on facilitating the most effective – and efficient – meetings.

Prepare in advance

It may seem obvious, but the universal motto to “be prepared” applies for several different components of a great meeting:

  • Write the itinerary ahead of time and email it to meeting participants. Seeing the schedule on paper and running through the length of the meeting in advance will help you to gauge whether the meeting time will run long and if you need to cut out any items from the itinerary.

Also, emailing the itinerary to participants will allow them to know what to expect. This will let them ruminate over discussion points in advance and likely better ensure the meeting stays on track.

  • Circulate any pre-reading at least two days in advance, if possible. Background reading, if relevant, is an excellent addition to a meeting in that it will facilitate a more robust and informed discussion. Just make sure you give participants enough time to review the materials.
  • Avoid technical difficulties during meeting time by testing any technical components – presentations, teleconference lines or otherwise – in advance.

During the meeting

During the meeting, a few tactics can help you to address the main points of discussion clearly and concisely:

  • Use materials to illustrate key concepts. Presentations, handouts, binders or other materials that lay out ideas visually for participants will help them to follow along and internalize the messages.
  • Incorporate discussion throughout the meeting. The primary difference between a meeting and a presentation is that the role of the meeting participant is essential in the outcome of meeting – so let their opinions play a part! To capture the points of discussion, ensure someone is designated to take notes during the meeting.

Follow up

The process is not over when a meeting concludes. Take the appropriate follow-up steps to ensure the effectiveness of your meeting:

  • By the end of the meeting, determine a list of action items and who is assigned to complete each task. Also, decide what will be addressed at the next meeting. Shortly after the meeting concludes, email these items to attendees while they are still present in your mind.

Running an effective meeting includes more than simply keeping the conversation on topic. A valuable meeting can influence the overall strategy of your organization – and show your leadership skills in doing so.

The New Job, Part 2: Helping a Colleague to Settle in

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The New Job, Part 2: Helping a Colleague Settle In

Last week, we blogged about the pressures of starting a new job and offered a few tips about putting your best foot forward in an unknown office environment. But what about the best practices when a colleague or employee is the new face in the company?

Those just starting off may feel under stress trying to find their place within the office culture. By offering your support, even through minor gestures, you are working to build solid relationships within your company – and you even may be fostering a connection that could prove strategic in the future.

Here are some methods for building great connections between colleagues, starting from the first day onward:

First Things First: Introductions

This may seem obvious, but if there is no organized introduction of the new staff member to the office, it can be easy to get distracted with work and completely miss a formal introduction! Take two minutes out of your routine to approach a new colleague and introduce yourself and your role within your organization. Learn about his or her work history and interests. Starting with an introduction beyond simply names will help the new colleague to get to know the staff faster.

Be Available to Help – But Don’t Overdo It

Make it clear to the new employee that you are available for questions and assistance if necessary. However, one of the best ways to learn is through experience, and in a new job we all learn from trial and error and on-the-spot training. So, don’t crowd your new colleague or impede on his or her learning process, but even knowing you are there to help will prove comforting to a new employee when an answer or process is not clear.

Extend an Invitation

Do you and your co-workers go out to dinner on Fridays, or do you occasionally leave the office for lunch off-site? If so, invite your new colleague along to one of these outings. Socializing with staff members in a more casual setting will help the new person to feel more comfortable in the office environment. If you don’t go out with colleagues on a regular basis, consider organizing a lunch date and provide an open invitation to the office as an opportunity to get to know your latest employee.

Office Culture and Environment

Helping a new colleague understand the office culture can be immensely useful as they are finding a place within the company. However, be wary of engaging in gossip; don’t share negative information about colleagues or behaviours in the office as a means to explain the office atmosphere.

Providing guidance on the office space will also be beneficial to a new member of the team. Help to orient, not only in the office itself but also in the surrounding area – such as where the best lunch spots are or the nearest bank and post office.

Mentorship: What’s in it for you

Reaching out to a new colleague from day one could develop into a mentor-mentee relationship. There are many benefits to becoming a mentor: as time passes, you could learn new things as your mentee shares his or her own perspective or an alternative generational outlook. This relationship will also allow you to refine and display your management skills, which may help you to advance in your company.

For more information: check out this great blog post from, which advises women in the workplace on how mentorship can boost a career.

Being “the new person” is an experience that everyone must undergo at some point. Make the most of this situation by lending a helping hand to a new colleague – and watch its benefits unfold for the both of you!

How business etiquette improve workplace culture

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Recently, The Globe and Mail released a report on the 50 most engaged workplaces in Canada. Engagement in the workplace, which, according to The Globe and Mail, is defined by “employees’ passion for their work and commitment to the company’s vision,” holds significant influence on a company’s success on so many levels: employee retention, customer relations and the ability to deliver on objectives, among countless others.

Business etiquette undeniably is a part of what creates an engaged workplace. The judging panel for this award evaluated companies based on the following eight elements: communication, leadership, culture, rewards and recognition, professional and personal growth, accountability and performance, vision and values, and corporate and social responsibility. How is business etiquette integral in certain elements of this criteria?

Business communication takes many forms: from internal to external, interpersonal to technological, everyday exchanges to larger issues management. For a business to be successful, all channels of communication must run smoothly, and business etiquette can facilitate this success.

  • Technological Communication ranges from email, texting, phone calls, voicemail, or conference calls – any form of communication that is not face-to-face. When you think about how often you use tech-based communication every day, mastering the nuances of these forms of communication – such as how to introduce yourself on a conference call or how to compose a respectful email in a difficult situation – becomes essential.
  •  Interpersonal Communication also can occur in various situations: casual meetings between colleagues, an important client or partner dinner, or a networking event. A gauge on properly handling communication in any one of these contexts is crucial to making professional connections.

Professional and Personal Growth
A company that provides its employees with the potential for growth and development is certainly on a path to success. Opportunities like seminars, trainings, lunch-and-learn sessions, or individual consulting can make a world of difference in an employee’s performance.

When business etiquette, professional image or executive presence are addressed in these contexts, an individual becomes more confident and self-aware, while simultaneously contributing the benefits and strengths of their newly sharpened traits to the rest of the team. Corporate Class Inc. provides a Executive Presence System, includes six core modules: interpersonal communication skills, techno-communication skills, workplace etiquette and best practices, presentation skills, business dress and executive dining skills.
A harmonious workplace culture functions on the respect that employees have for their colleagues, their company and for themselves. This respect is made manifest through good workplace etiquette – in essence, a necessary standard for how employees treat one another.

It’s no wonder that business etiquette and professional development are key to a company’s success – simply look no further than the role of business etiquette in the elements that define Canada’s top 50 most engaged companies!

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Setting the Stage in Your Company with Good Communication & Business Etiquette

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Directors, VPs, managers and other business leaders hold the keys to facilitating vital client and partner relationships, and so must present their best possible image and business etiquette skills when dealing with external contacts. Equally as important is for these company leaders to set the stage within their businesses and exhibit the same top-notch communication and conduct with their own employees. This is important not only for individual employee retention and morale, but also to keep the company as a whole running smoothly and cohesively.

Are you a business leader? Take note of these tips to project a top-notch image and facilitate good communication within your company.

  • Schedule occasional “check in” meetings with each individual on your team. Make an effort to connect with each individual in an informal setting (such as a coffee date or lunch), so that they can voice any concerns, discuss their current status, or simply catch up. Your willingness to set aside dedicated time for individuals will show your staff that you value each team member’s contributions and that you treat all levels of employees with the same respect.How often you meet and with whom depends on the size of your company: if you run a smaller organization, be sure to set aside time for everyone from colleagues on the management team to members of the support staff. If you are in a larger company, ensure you connect with everyone within your department, and advise managers of other departments to do the same.
  • Facilitate team-building or strategy exercises.
    With the fast pace of day-to-day obligations and minutiae, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture and where the organization is headed. It is up to the company leaders to arrange for the group to take a step back and remind the team of the overall and cohesive objectives of the business. Organizing group sessions that invite all employees to review larger perspectives and long-term strategies are beneficial for keeping the team on the same path.Team-building activities unrelated to business objectives are also advantageous; fun and casual sessions that sharpen collaborative skills will be a refreshing exercise to most employees. Also, this will once again positively display your willingness as a manager to take extra time to focus on staff development and morale.
  • Invite anonymous feedback and criticism.
    Even providing the option for members of staff to voice their criticism shows that you are willing to grow and change as a leader to fit your employees’ needs. Staff will appreciate your readiness to listen and to incorporate feedback, whether or not they have any criticism of your management style.
  • Set an example with your best professional image.
    As a business leader, you must project the best professional image, not only to represent your own and your company’s professionalism, but also to set the tone and expectations for your own employees.A refined image will demonstrate to your staff that you are a serious, hardworking and confident leader. It will also encourage them to follow the same level of professionalism, so that your whole team represents the caliber of your company as you define it.


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